DENVER — The end of the high school season featured Monarch sophomore Vince Cornella atop his podium for a second straight year and Boulder freshman Joey Airola just below that.
It's hard not to wonder ... what's next?
Cornella became the all-time leader at Monarch with two wrestling titles after he pinned Denver East's Armando Garcia in the 113-pound final at the Pepsi Center on Saturday night, while Airola had his remarkable run in 106s end in defeat to Brighton's Kenny Sailas.
For Cornella, it's early — but it's hard not to think about the sophomore's potential at joining the state's selective four-time champion list in the next two years. As for Airola, following a cool run through his bracket, it's hard to see how he'd been anything but a state contender for years to come.
"I'm not too bummed — well, I am bummed," Airola said. "But I want to make this a learning experience and see what I can do better next time."
Cornella's second title was a far less dramatic than his 6-4 win in extra time over Pomona's Wyatt Yapoujian last season. Admittedly more calm in his second stint at state, the Coyotes sophomore breezed through the 113 bracket as he posted a pair of pins and a major decision leading up to 64-second pin in the finale.
Afterward, he said his two wins in two years felt amazing and was then asked about the idea of going 4-for-4.
"It's always the goal but I want to win every tournament I go to," Cornella said. "But (winning four) is a great accomplishment. I grew up watching and learning from others who did it."
Even before the finals, Cornella had been exuding the confidence of a savvy vet. While other wrestlers pounded their chests and pointed to the seats after semifinals wins Friday night, Cornella simply shook the hands of the opposition and his coaches before jogging to the tunnels for a cool down.
"I go into every match just looking to put everything I have out there," Cornella said. "I know what I'm capable of, so there's no reason to celebrate the fact that I won. Or even if I lost, there's no reason to put my head down. I'm going to go out there and do the same thing every time and put my best stuff forward."
After his latest win, he gave a tame fist pump and pointed to his family in the stands.
It was a fitting end for a wrestler who'd already proven to be one of the top high school wrestlers in the state, regardless of weight class.
Cornella did well in some of the top national tournaments in the country over the winter, including the Super 32 Challenge (North Carolina), the Walsh Jesuit Ironman (Ohio) and Doc Buchanan (California). He did not lose a match in Colorado.
"He's just special," Monarch coach Ezra Paddock said.
Airola, who said he lives in Jamestown (a town named after a guy who discovered gold), came close to finding a bit of his own at his first state tournament.
The freshman came into the finals after a pair of pins and a 6-2 semifinals win over Douglas County's Justin Kelchen. But his road finally closed at the hands of top-seeded Sailas, who scored on a pair of takedowns and a three-point near-fall and won 7-0.