DENVER — Getting to the state wrestling tournament takes plenty of hard work, sacrifice and dedication.
Legacy's Aron Baugh had his own battles, trials and tribulations to go through. But for him, he overcame his obstacles to reach the state tournament for his senior year.
"It's been something that I've worked for and I've wanted, especially after recent events of my own through my family," Baugh said. "It feels really good."
His run in the state tournament started with a huge obstacle: undefeated top seed Cohlton Schultz of Ponderosa, a wrestler who has competed on the national stage and is in the discussion for being the best high school wrestler to come from Colorado. The meeting between the two would be the second in Baugh's high school career, as he had faced him before in a regional tournament.
The plan was to stay focused and to try and wrestle his game.
"No one wants to go into a match knowing they're going to lose, and going against him, it's hard not to think that," Baugh said. "You have to have that little sliver of hope."
Baugh would lose by fall in the first period and moved to the consolation bracket. Facing elimination Friday, he bounced back with wins by decision 4-3 and in a tiebreaker period 5-2 to reach the third consolation round.
With one win standing in his way of getting to the podium, Baugh got a pin in the second period over Fruita Monument's Casey Hudson to guarantee a spot on the podium. Another pin in the consolation semifinals put him in the third-place match, where he would lose by pin to finish fourth.
"You can hang your head as much as you want," Baugh said. "You come for the whole tournament, so you have to look past (the opening loss)."
Baugh was one of two local wrestlers to reach the podium after losing their first-round match. Lyons' David Gardner lost at 2A 145 but went on to win his next three matches by pin and took fifth place in his weight class. Teammate Karson Bean finished fourth at 195.
Grady Funk also wrestled for third place for Legacy and lost by fall in the final seconds at 5A 160. Erie's Rudy Lopez reached the third-place match at 113 in 4A and lost a close decision 5-3. For Longmont's Brayden Engelking, he was pinned in the final seconds of the second period in the third-place match at 4A 152.
Winning their fifth-place matches were Monarch's Dillon Roman at 5A 106, Mead's Emilio Chavez at 4A 152, Skyline's Ricky Childers at 4A 285 and Holy Family's Hunter Branson at 3A 170, all coming by decision. Longmont's John Nicholas lost an 11-5 decision in his fifth-place match at 4A 120.
Broomfield finishes strong
Presley Madril had his arm raised for the last time in the third-place match at 4A 120 after winning a 6-0 decision.
The emotions poured over in the hallway for the senior, who made it a goal to leave everything on the mats this week.
"All of the hard work I put in and everyone surrounding me, pushing me to be the greatest, it's overwhelming of enjoyment," Madril said.
Bryant Walker would lose in a tiebreaker period 3-2 to finish fourth at 195 and Antonio Welch-Soto won by injury default at 170 for fifth place. With the three of them placing, coupled with Darren Green and Tyler Carpenter reaching the championship finals, the Eagles were sitting at 99 points entering the championship round, ensuring a top-five finish in the team standings.
"Words can't explain the hard work we put in," Madril said. "I can't explain the joy we're all feeling right now. We came here to compete, and I hope we proved that this weekend."
History for the ladies
This year marked the 84th state wrestling tournament in Colorado. This one, however, became a historic event.
For the first time ever, two female wrestlers would end up reaching the medal podium. In 3A, Angel Rios of Valley and Jaslynn Gallegos of Skyview entered Saturday needing a win to reach the consolation semifinals and to secure their medal spot. Rios drew a forfeit from The Classical Academy's Brendan Johnston — he also forfeited to Gallegos for their first-round matchup, citing personal and religious beliefs, as reported by The Denver Post — to move on. Gallegos earned her way to the consolation semifinals by pinning Moffat County's Hunter Fredrickson in 59 seconds.
Their wins not only set up for them being the first two females to medal at state, but their roads could potentially meet head-on in the third or fifth-place match. While it would be fitting for the two historic wrestlers to face each other, their paths would not cross as Rios won in sudden victory to reach the third-place match and Gallegos lost a 4-2 decision to move to the fifth-place match. Rios would lose a close 3-2 decision to finish fourth and Gallegos was fifth by pinning Trevor Torrez of Pagosa Springs in their final match.
Their performance will garner plenty of attention and the respect of the masses in attendance when the final medal podium order is announced. The applause for them may be just as loud, if not louder, as the ones that will reign for any of the three wrestlers that are successful in getting their fourth state title.
Reaching the medal podium this year comes at a time when the Colorado High School Activities Association held its pilot season of girls wrestling. Two weeks ago at Thornton High School, more than 70 wrestlers took part in the first-ever girls state wrestling tournament. Two of those wrestlers were local products Kassandra Reyes, who finished in fourth place, and Clarissa Batrez.
Girls that wrestle get to choose which tournament they will take part in during the season. Some will choose to compete in the girls state tournament, sending them to a girls-only regional tournament to try and qualify for the state meet. Others, like Rios and Gallegos, can choose to compete in the traditional wrestling season and compete with the boys at regionals and state.
While more paths have been formed for female wrestlers in Colorado with the girls wrestling program, the performance from Rios and Gallegos is the moment that will stand out the most this season and could serve as motivation for others to stay in the traditional season for their quest to join them at the medal podium in the future.
Looking to become four-time state champs
Three wrestlers came into Saturday looking to become the next trio to join the list of four-time state champions in Colorado.
Brendon Garcia qualified for the championship match at 4A 113 for Pueblo County, but not before getting pushed by Lopez in the semifinals Friday night. Lopez held his own in the first period and trailed 2-1 going into the second. An escape to neutral position and a takedown looked to be what he needed to get rolling to a solid win, but Lopez answered to pull within three points late in the third. Garcia prevented a late takedown to get the 7-4 decision win to move on.
Schultz was the man drawing the most attention coming into the state tournament this week. His run started with a win over Legacy's Baugh in the first period Thursday. The win over Baugh lasted 52 seconds, the longest of his three matches entering Saturday.
The final wrestler going for his fourth state title is Greeley Central's Andrew Alirez. In the 152-pound bracket in 4A, Alirez won by fall in the first period in the first two matches and won by fall in the third period in the semifinals to move on.
Pomona's Theoruis Robison was the fourth wrestler looking to win his fourth state title this week, but his run came to a surprising end in the semifinals. The upset of the tournament came from Regis Jesuit's Antonio Seguar, who pinned Robinson in an overtime period to advance to the finals.