DENVER — For most who lose a state championship wrestling match, it takes a few days to grasp the positives.
Not for Boulder’s Axel Wessell.
Sure, the junior was clearly disappointed with his 9-2 loss to unbeaten, top-ranked Josh Schoenberger of Fountain-Fort Carson in the Class 5A 182-pound final Saturday night. But after dealing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder that derailed his entire sophomore season and half of this one, Wessell was initially pleased to be wrestling at all — particularly at the Pepsi Center.
“That part has already sunk in. I accomplished my goal,” Wessell said. “After the setback with my shoulder and missing a year and a half, the fact that I was even able to compete this year was a victory for me.”
A victory might have been awaiting in the finals, too, if it was against anyone other than Schoenberger. Wessell didn’t make many tactical mistakes against the senior. He was simply facing a beast.
“I think that’s most of it,” Wessell said. “I know I went out there for six minutes and wrestled as hard as I could. I gave it everything I had and he just beat me.”
Wessell was trying to become only the second Boulder wrestler since 1997 to capture a title. The other was his brother, Max, who went 41-0 at 189 two seasons ago and now wrestles at Lehigh.
Schoenberger had beaten Wessell in a major decision in the regional final last week and jumped to a 6-1 lead entering the third period Saturday. Cat-like and strong, Schoenberger is on the national map and finished the season 39-0.
“You don’t go undefeated in this state and not be good,” Boulder coach Glenn Kingsley said. “We did some things right, cleaned some stuff up from the first time we wrestled him.
“I’ll tell you what — Schoenberger knew he was in a wrestling match, and he’s had a lot wider victories against a lot of other good kids.”
Wessell (18-3) initially had the labrum repaired in November of 2010, then tore it again over the summer. After that ordeal, the second spot on the podium didn’t seem that bad.
“There’s not a wrestler who is going to be happy with second place,” Kingsley said. “There are three-time champions who are mad they didn’t win four. There’s nothing you can do right now, but you go back to work and you persist.”
Wessell has not yet begun the process of selecting a college as his senior year awaits. He is considered a late-bloomer of sorts because he missed so much time and has made most of his headway in the past few months.
VALENTINE REBOUNDS FOR THIRD
Monarch senior Christian Valentine had his ultimate hopes dashed Friday night when he lost in the semifinals, but there was no time to sulk.
The 113-pounder came back Saturday morning and defeated J.T. Stancil of Chaparral 3-1 in the consolation semifinals, earning a berth in the third-place match.
There, Valentine edged Pomona’s Josh Rosales 6-5.
“It was just a matter of being smart with my tie-ups,” Valentine said. “He was looking for a carry and I just had to defend that.”
Valentine improved on his fifth-place finish last season (at 112) and concluded the season 40-6.