DENVER — Jonathan Stelling entered his second Class 4A state wrestling tournament a much more confident and experienced wrestler. It showed immediately Thursday night, at the Pepsi Center.
The 126-pounder made quick work of his first-round match, relentlessly out-maneuvering Tyler Thalhammer. Stelling delivered a convincing 8-1 win against the Palmer Ridge junior, with strong work on his feet.
Stelling came up with three takedowns in the bout to set Thalhammer on his heels. And immediately after his win, the eager Eagle had his talons sharpened for the rest of his state competition.
“Every step that ends in a win is a right step,” Stelling said. “I just have to do it three more times at this tournament.”
Broomfield came up with an impressive run to open its 2012 tournament, leaving itself in good position in the individual and team competitions. The Eagles advanced all seven of their wrestlers through the championship brackets, finishing the opening day in seventh place. But the team still has its work cut out in reclaiming a state title for the first time since 2010.
Even with the Eagles’ strong run, scoring 17 points, it was way behind defending state champion Windsor. The Wizards advanced eight wrestlers to score 28.5 points, seven more than its next closest competition.
Broomfield has a long road to catch up, but after Thursday’s round Joe Pereira was heartened with what he saw out of his team.
“You can’t ask for more than going 7-0,” the Broomfield coach said. “I’m happy with where I’m at, but we’ve got a long day tomorrow.”
Broomfield’s undefeated run put wind in the team’s sails, but it required some nail-bitting matches to put the Eagles in their solid position.
Nick Babcock had an uncharacteristic showing in his opening match, having to battle hard for a 7-5 decision over Anthony Sandoval. The Eagle senior had to come up with a strong showing in the third to finally put the Arvada wrestler away.
The most dramatic bout of the evening came from D.J. Zissimos. Broomfield’s 182-pounder trailed 5-0 after the first period. He had his match tied with a last-second effort in the third. And he proved his sense of urgency in the waning moments of overtime.
Zissimos won a 7-5 overtime decision, taking Roosevelt’s Steve Frank down with 2 seconds on the clock.
“I got the final takedown of regulation to tie the match and all I could think was, ‘I have to get another one’,” the Broomfield sophomore said. “I was just thing how I needed to get the job done.”
The Eagles set the tone early in the evening with Drew Romero kicking off the tournament with one of his team’s biggest wins. The 106-pound junior won a 13-0 major decision over Collin Williams of Thompson Valley. The defending 3A champion — wrestling last year for La Junta — said the move up in classification was a challenge, but well worth it.
“It was a challenge,” Romero said. “But I still have three more matches I have to prove myself.”