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Wrestling: Broomfield’s Babcock aiming to break through with title

Broomfield's Nick Babcock, right, takes a shot on teammate Phil Downing during practice on Wednesday. Babcock is gunning for his first state title, while Downing has a shot to win his second in a row.
MARK LEFFINGWELL
Broomfield’s Nick Babcock, right, takes a shot on teammate Phil Downing during practice on Wednesday. Babcock is gunning for his first state title, while Downing has a shot to win his second in a row.

BROOMFIELD — What happens to a dream deferred? The question is one Nick Babcock has continually been confronted with throughout his wrestling career.

The senior 152-pounder for third-ranked Broomfield has proven since his freshman year that he has the chops to be considered among the best in the state. The top-ranked wrestler has collected a pair of second-place finishes and a third in his previous trips to the Class 4A state meet.

Impressive as Babcock’s postseason record has been, the top places have an ominous side. Each year the talented grappler was expected to pin down a title, only to be knocked down when he was closest to the top.

The near misses have weighed on Babcock as if Denver’s Pepsi Center itself crashed down on him after each state tournament.

“(Missing the titles) brings you down,” Babcock said. “It makes you think you can’t finish what you started and everything you’ve worked for.”

Babcock again enters the state meet — which runs Thursday to Saturday — a favorite to take down the title. And there is reason to believe the powerful and cagey middleweight has made the adjustments to leave Denver on top.

Much of what the 152-pounder has done to prep for a title run has happened between his ears. And it can be summed up by two images: Babcock crying in one of the Pepsi Center tunnels after his freshman loss; and Babcock projecting to the future, the end of this season, where his high school career finishes with his arm raised for the title.

“I’m trying to focus on success,” Babcock said. “And it’s been a relief.”

Much of Babcock’s challenges in the past revolved in pushing himself too hard to his goals. That’s where the whole crying image comes from. It was a picture that ran in the newspaper after he lost 3-2, in the final 24 seconds of his freshman championship match.

He clipped the picture as motivation his sophomore year, concentrating on never feeling as hollow as he did in that tunnel. And, in retrospect, the tactic might have cost him his mental edge.

As Broomfield coach Joe Pereira describes it, Babcock is at his best when he allows himself to get into the flow of a match and keeps his style simple and reactive to the situation. The wrestler gets into trouble when he forces the issue. And it was not until this season that Pereira believes Babcock became truly cognizant of the chink in his armor.

The coach can point out the tournament and match where the wrestler recognized and met this challenge head on.

“Nick’s turning point was his match in the UNC Tournament against (Legacy’s) Jesse Carlson,” Pereira said.

Babcock led the entire match against the defending 5A 152-pound state champion, at one time by as much as seven points. But he won the match 9-8, after over extending himself at one point and getting thrown to his back.

“He forced things,” Pereira said. “But at that point things clicked for him. He began to understand about not trying to do too much on the mat and about going with what is working at the time.”

The realization has apparently sunk in to Babcock’s psyche. The win at the Dec. 16-17, Greeley-based tournament was the start of a string of high-profile victories and the wrestler remaining undefeated against in-state competition.

The wrestler’s biggest win to date came at the Jan. 20-21 Top of the Rockies Tournament at Centaurus.

Babcock won what is considered the toughest Colorado high school tournament with a heady 3-2 decision against JaVaughn Perkins. Babcock beat the national freestyle and Nebraska state champion, fending off what would have been a decisive single-leg takedown in the waning seconds from the Omaha North wrestler.

Babcock did not push for a pin or aim for big points in the match. He acted on opportunities and limited Perkins’ chances.

“He proved he was a different wrestler,” Pereira said.

Wins such as Babcock’s Top of the Rockies title have created an important mental foundation for the wrestler. The 152-pounder has flushed the thoughts of missed championships. He has replaced them with images of his wins this season. And he has projected that positive motivation to his ultimate goal — having his arm raised in his last high school match as a state champion.

The only challenge for Babcock now, is making his dream of winning a state title a reality.

“I ready to let my work pay off,” Babcock said. “I’m ready to prove myself against the best.”

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