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Wrestling: Broomfield to test mettle against nation’s best at Ironman invitational

Broomfield's Darek Huff, seen here competing at Fairview's Mike Stanley Invitational on Saturday, is one of several Eagles athletes hoping to place on the national stage at the Ironman tournament in Ohio.
David R. Jennings
Broomfield’s Darek Huff, seen here competing at Fairview’s Mike Stanley Invitational on Saturday, is one of several Eagles athletes hoping to place on the national stage at the Ironman tournament in Ohio.

It’s one thing to flex your muscle in Colorado, like the Broomfield wrestling team has done the past few years. It is quite another to do it on the national stage.

The Eagles will hop on a flight Wednesday morning, bound for Ohio and the prestigious Ironman Tournament at Walsh Jesuit High School.

“I don’t think you can ever quite warm up for what is coming next weekend,” said first-year Broomfield coach Pat DeCamillis after his team blitzed the field at Saturday’s Mike Stanley Invitational at Fairview. “I’m looking forward to watching these kids compete and watching these higher level kids like Phil (Downing), and Zach (Stodden), and Jared (Albo) and Darek (Huff) compete on this national stage and see what they can do.”

The wrestling gets underway on Friday at 11 a.m. (MST) and concludes with the finals on Saturday at 4 p.m. (MST). The action can be caught on the official website of the event Broomfield will be joined at the tournament by 5A powerhouse Arvada West.

The atmosphere, which a lot of the guys said was similar to the state tournament at the Pepsi Center, is something that a majority of the kids are familiar with but will be something new to DeCamillis. The Eagles have been a regular at the tournament the last few seasons and are eager to wrestle their way on to the podiums.

Downing went 2-2 at the Ironman last season and it was a knee injury in his final match during the Saturday finals that kept him from placing. Downing’s impressive run on at the Mike Stanley Invite that ended with a frustrating 17-1 technical fall victory at 160 pounds over Niwot’s Jessie Slepicka served as the confidence booster the three-time state champion needed going into the toughest tournament the season for the Eagles.

“”It got me some mat time in and gets me in little bit better shape,” said Downing, who may face Slepicka again on Tuesday night when the Eagles have a dual meet scheduled in Niwot against the Cougars. “I’ll be ready for the Ironman.”

Downing will compete at the 152-pound weight class in Ohio and if form holds could find himself going head-to-head with Jacob Danishek. Danishek (53-1), who was a runner-up at the Ironman last season and is a three-time champion from Dayton Christian High in Ohio.

Stodden, who got three matches in at the Stanley Invite in a round robin form, will not be overwhelmed by the environment.

“It’s going to be so exciting and it’s just a step up from any tournament in Colorado and it’s definitely going to be tough,” said Stodden, who signed last month to wrestle collegiately at Nebraska-Kearney. “It’s a step up from state too. All the best in the country are there, kids you see in the FLO rankings are right in your face wrestling you.”

Stodden just missed the podium last year and while he has to tame his expectations a little bit heading in — knowing the level of competition — he still has a goal to place.

“I want to place top four, that’s my goal,” he said. “I was close last year and I was just too small, I was about four pounds under the whole tournament.”

Huff was in a similar position to Stodden last year and just missed the podium t 106 pounds. His impressive start to the season, including three pins and a technical fall en route to the championship at the Mike Stanley Invite, could very well be a prelude of bigger things this week.

“It’s just a totally different style of wrestling and they are just go, go, go,” Huff said. “That’s why I like going out there. You go out there and get your eyes open and come back and work that much harder.”

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