DENVER — The brutal reality of the state wrestling tournament is the same reason high school grapplers dream so big: Nothing is given.
Legacy and Monarch toed between bliss and anguish in the matter of minutes on Friday night, each watching one of its wrestlers claim a spot in the finals and one come up just short.
The Coyotes had back-to-back matches to start the round and saw a defeat from Dillon Roman in 106s and a win by Vince Cornella in 113s. Legacy, meanwhile, got a win from Joey Joiner in 145s and loss by Grady Funk in 160s. And Boulder watched Joey Airola punch his ticket in 106s.
A quick walk around the Pepsi Center tunnels, where wrestlers warmed up and cooled down, said it all. Some were busy bear hugging the next coach or teammate who walked up; others were slumped alongside the nearest wall.
"That's what wrestling is," Legacy coach Mike Thompson explained. "There's highs and lows throughout wrestling tournaments for teams, coaches and individuals. It's a sport that develops a lot of character and you find out who has the heart."
Cornella will look for his second straight state title when he faces Denver East's Armando Garcia on Saturday night, while Joiner and Airola will search for title No. 1.
Legacy currently sits seventh in the standings with eight wrestlers still in the mix for a podium spot. Monarch is 10th and will have six go.
"When you get to this stage everyone's good," Monarch coach Ezra Paddock smiled. "... Just ups and downs."
The longtime coach stood up from his foldout chair following Roman's 5-1 loss and gave his freshman a few encouraging words. He sat back down and watched Cornella pick apart and finish Pomona's Jacob Judd with a pin early in the second round.
Afterward, the sophomore said he is trying to enjoy things more the second time around.
"I felt like last year I was nervous coming into this new situation," Cornella said. "It's a phenomenal place to wrestle and the crowd is huge and it's where all my family comes to see me one time a year. Last year I didn't feel like I savored the moments like I should. So, taking in every moment this year was big for me."
Joiner is embracing it.
The junior was sick for this tournament a year ago and bowed out after an 0-2 showing. In what he calls his "Redemption Tour", he had pins in his opening two rounds and then beat a kid he'd lost to twice during the season in the semifinals.
After his 7-5 win over Fossil Ridge's Cody Ginther, he jumped into the arms of his two coaches and then hopped over the makeshift barrier at the arena for another hug from his dad.
Two and out, one year. One more to gold, the next. Joiner will face Regis Jesuit's Antonio Segura, who pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament with a pin over three-time champ Theorius Robison of Pomona.
"Anything is possible," Joiner said. "When you think about it wrestling is so simple. Even the worst can beat the best on any given day. I'm just going out there wrestling everyone like they're even."
Seven local wrestlers will head to the finals, which begins at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Brent W. New: firstname.lastname@example.org and @brentwnew