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State wrestling: Erie’s Bunker rolls in semis to improve to 42-0

Erie's Brandon Wetsch, left, is caught in a cradle by Montrose's Jeremiah Banuelos during their 120-pounds semifinal match at Pepsi Center on Friday night.
Matthew Jonas
Erie’s Brandon Wetsch, left, is caught in a cradle by Montrose’s Jeremiah Banuelos during their 120-pounds semifinal match at Pepsi Center on Friday night.


DENVER — Erie senior Clay Bunker does not want to hear about his quest for perfection, or his opportunity to win a state title.

Right now, the only mark that means anything to Bunker is 4-0. That’s the state tournament record the Tigers senior will have if all goes well in his state title bout on Saturday night.

Bunker secured an opportunity to cap a perfect season with a championship crown by recording a semifinal round pin during the Class 4A state tournament at the Pepsi Center on Friday.

Bunker improved to 42-0 and will take on Broomfield’s Nick Babcock on Saturday in the title bout of the 152-pound bracket. Bunker will be the lone Tigers athlete in the finals, as sophomore Brandon Wetsch suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss in the 120-pound semifinals.

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Bunker said of his quest for perfection. “It’s great to have that confidence behind you knowing that you can go against the best, but it means absolutely nothing when you come here. Anything can happen and anything will happen.”

Bunker took on Thompson Valley junior Francisco Marquez in the semifinal, and the duo battled to a scoreless tie after the first period. But Bunker quickly got the upper hand in the second frame, recording a pin at the 3:11 mark to earn his berth in the final.

“He’s got great focus and a great mentally tough attitude,” Erie coach Steve Gratton said. “He’s put the time in over this last year, and he’s been really focused. That’s all I can say. A 4-0 is better than a 40-0. You want to be 4-0 here. He’s going to have a tough one (Saturday) against a great opponent.”

Bunker will take on a familiar, and friendly, foe in Saturday’s finale. Babcock defeated Bunker in the consolation semifinals a year ago, and after the season the pair struck up a friendship, becoming workout partners and travel companions to several club tournaments.

The pair has not squared off this season, and Bunker promised there will be no brotherly love on display when they collide Saturday night.

“We’re pretty good friends,” Bunker said. “It’s been fun, but when you’re on the mat, no one is your friend. Absolutely no one. It could be your brother you’re wrestling, it doesn’t matter.”

Wetsch very nearly joined Bunker in the championship round but wound up on the short end of a frantic exchange during overtime of his 120-pound semifinal.

Wetsch took an early 2-0 lead but was unable to pad the advantage against the defensive strategy employed by Montrose sophomore Jeremiah Banuelos. The duo took a 2-2 tie into the third period and they remained deadlocked going into the extra session.

Wetsch believed he earned the win with a takedown, but Banuelos managed to stave the blow and reverse the advantage on Wetsch. Just moments after Wetsch thought he’d earned a win, he was dealing with a disheartening 4-2 loss.

“He was a very good defensive wrestler,” Wetsch said. “Going into overtime, I needed to pick it up. I thought I had it for a split second when I got behind him, but the ref didn’t call two (points) and he started rolling on me and I stopped for a couple seconds. That’s all it took.”

Pat Rooney can be reached at


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