BROOMFIELD — Athletes are trained to expect the unexpected.
Sure, Fairview’s Cito Balsells wanted to win every match at Saturday’s Front Range League championships at Legacy High School, but when all was said and done, the senior even surprised himself.
“This is a bit of a surprise,” said Balsells, who moved up to 182 pounds for the league meet after wrestling a weight below just two days ago in the Knights’ final home dual against Legacy. “I’m really glad that all my hard work is paying off.”
Balsells pinned Poudre’s Austin Brost just 1 minute, 59 seconds into their title match and was the only Knights grappler to stand on top of the podium.
After giving up an early takedown to Brost, Balsells quickly turned the tables and evened the match with a reversal.
“Once he got me there, I felt the cradle and I was like ‘Uh-oh,’ but I was working to keep a solid base,” said Balsells, who credits his morning practices with assistant coach and former Penn State wrestler Adam Shepler twice a week to his success. “When he went, I just shifted the other way and he didn’t take me over.”
Balsells took advantage, squeezing Brost and hanging on to get the pin just before the first 2 minutes elapsed.
It was just what Balsells, who admitted to not having the season he envisioned, needed going into the home stretch of the year with both the regional and state tournaments on the horizon.
“Now is the perfect time,” he said. “It’s nice to know I can wrestle with these guys and that I’m getting there now.”
Boulder’s Martin Selby advanced to the 152-pound final against top-ranked Roman Ortiz of Rocky Mountain and put up a valiant effort, losing 3-1.
After giving up a takedown in the first, it stayed 2-0 until the third period, when Ortiz scored and escape to go up 3-0. Selby was awarded a stalling point with under 30 seconds to go, but couldn’t take down his opponent to force overtime.
“The main thing that makes him tough to deal with is that overall his whole body is strong and he has fantastic balance which makes him hard to get off center,” Selby said. “He wrestles a similar style to me, he doesn’t overexpose himself and is extremely adept at scoring from any position. He is smart about doing it to with the lowest risk possible.”
Monarch’s Braden Pape took up the sport two months ago and found himself in the championship match of the 195-pound bracket against Fossil Ridge’s Payton Tapia. The SaberCats standout, ranked No. 3 by On the Mat, pinned Pape at the 4:50 mark.
“I wasn’t really expecting that,” Pape said. “I came in two months ago with zero minutes on the mat, my coaches have been great about teaching me some big man moves and I have great drill partners, so it has been a quick learning curve.”
Legacy’s Ryan Deakin improved to 37-0 with his victory over Horizon’s Aaron Beltran at 113pounds. His lightning teammate, Adam Otterson, was pinned by Fossil Ridge’s Payton Killion in the 145 pound final.
Rocky Mountain won the team title with 182 points, well ahead of both Mountain Range and Poudre’s 134.5. Legacy was sixth with 99, Fairview ninth with 71, Monarch 10th with 58 and Boulder 12th with 35.5.
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FRONT RANGE LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Legacy HS
Team scores — Rocky Mountain 182, Mountain Range 134.5, Poudre 134.5, Fossil Ridge 111.5, Horizon 104.5, Legacy 99, Greeley West 98.5, Fort Collins 74, Fairview 71, Monarch 58, Loveland 47, Boulder 35.5.
106 — Louie Romero, Mountain Range maj. dec. Owen Lamb, Poudre, 9-0.
113 — Ryan Deakin, Legacy pinned Aaron Beltran, Horizon, 3:07.
120 — Jackson Huffman, Horizon dec. Xavier Vasquez, Greeley West, 6-1.
126 — Dylan West, Greeley West, dec. Zach Martinez, Mountain Range, 5-0.
132 — Adrian DeLaCruz, Greeley West pinned Riley Thomas, Fort Collins, 5:31.
138 — Danny Murphy, Rocky Mountain, dec. Michael Herman, Horizon, 3-1.
145 — Payton Killion, Fossil Ridge pinned Adam Otterson, Legacy, 3:00.
152 — Roman Ortiz, Rocky Mountain dec. Martin Selby, Boulder, 3-1.
160 — Brandon Dunnum, Fort Collins dec. Emery Lee, Poudre, 3-2.
170 — Alex Klaer, Rocky Mountain maj. dec. Braydon Hubbard, Poudre, 10-1.
182 — Cito Balsells, Fairview pinned Austin Brost, Poudre, 1:59.
195 — Payton Tapia, Fossil Ridge pinned Braden Pape, Monarch, 4:50.
220 — Dan Macoubrie, Rocky Mountain dec. Kody Kleman, Mountain Range, 5-1.
285 — Jorge Rodriguez, Mountain Range (4-0); Logan Lyons, Legacy (3-1).
Local third-place matches
132 — Keegan Lecher, Fossil Ridge dec. Cliff Lester, Fairview, 4-2 OT.
138 — Melvin Gutierrez, Fairview pinned Ronnie Kahler, Mountain Range, 2:42.
160 — Matt Hebel, Legacy dec. Jimmy Preciado, Loveland, 7-3.
170 — Charles Dunkelman, Loveland dec. Nolan Funk, Legacy, 5-2.
182 — Ernesto Plascencia, Greeley West pinned Matt Paluch, Monarch, 1:38.