DENVER — The Boulder wrestling team was amped to advance five wrestlers to the state tournament. The sobering reality for the Panthers after Thursday’s first round is that only two are still alive for Class 5A state titles.
One is Jack Sober at 220 pounds. The other is Axel Wessell, who moved on at 182.
Not so fortunate at the Pepsi Center were Babalu Jones (106), Connor Murtha (132) and heavyweight Hans Lehndorff, who will try to work their way to a spot on the podium via the consolation bracket.
Sober (32-8) pinned Legend’s Dalton Porter in 2 minutes, 18 seconds and will take on Thomas Holman of Grand Junction Central in today’s quarterfinals.
Wessell topped G.J. Central’s Caleb Brown in an 8-3 decision and will take on Poudre’s Kutter Corley.
“It’s awesome for the team to qualify five guys, and our first two guys wrestled tough kids and they wrestled hard,” Wessell said. “But yeah, I just wanted to go out there and get some wins rolling for the team.”
Wessell enjoyed being at a higher weight because he could take in the atmosphere of his first trip to state to settle the nerves a bit.
“I felt nervous warming up actually before the tournament even started,” he said. “Getting that time to help settle down helped a lot. But it took me about a minute to get out of that mindset that, wow, I’m at state.”
Jones lost a first-round decision to Kevin Nguyen (33-2) of Aurora Central, but the senior felt vindicated after missing state with a knee injury last season.
“I guess it’s bittersweet, but my knee was good,” Jones said. “I can walk on it, take shots. But it’s very awesome when you put the time and effort into it and actually get something.”
Murtha gave title hopeful Raymond Robledo of Pomona all he could handle in a 16-11 loss. Lehndorff was pinned in the third round by Chaparral’s Dane Drimmer.
Monarch splits on Day 1
Valentine’s Day was Tuesday. And Thursday.
While the holiday was earlier in the week, Monarch’s Christian Valentine had his own night in Thursday’s opening round of the state tournament.
The Monarch senior, who had toyed with wrestling at 120 this season before deciding 113 was a better fit, pinned Liberty’s Chris Fuller in 5:14. Valentine improved to 37-5 and earned a quarterfinals matchup today with Danny Murphy (32-8) of Rocky Mountain.
“Pretty good start, but there’s still a lot to look forward to,” Valentine said. “But I’m feeling a lot better. My body is getting used to this new weight.”
Valentine finished fifth at 112 last season, and now feels like a seasoned veteran. The butterflies were virtually absent.
“I definitely had a much better idea of what to expect,” he said.
Teammate Michael Hattel did the opposite of Valentine, settling in at 220 after toying with 182 and 195. Although Hattel weighs only about 190, he helped the team win dual meets at 220 and avoided the logjam of his region at 195.
But Thursday, he felt pretty thin against Overland’s burly Amer Tipura in a 10-3 loss.
“I know those guys are a lot bigger, I was just hoping to be a little faster,” Hattel said. “But I’m really good about not hanging my head on a loss. I was just expecting to win one match here and I’m still within reach of that goal.”
Aragon moves on
Centaurus lone qualifier Andre Aragon scored a 20-8 major decision against Kris Thomsen of Heritage to advance to the quarterfinals.
Aragon improved to 34-11 and will take on Brighton’s Eric Yamaguchi (30-8).
“It’s the same thing I’ve been saying — just give it your heart,” Aragon said. “I went out there like it was my last match.”
Fairview’s lone entrant, heavyweight Conner McGraw, lost a 9-3 decision to Douglas County’s Jacob Schwartz.