DENVER — When he finally walks away, Kyle Couch will forever be known throughout the halls of Mead High School as the one who started it all.
In his four-year career, Kyle Couch has risen rapidly from a no-name freshman representing fledgling Mead High School to one of Colorado’s most feared wrestlers. He was his school’s first state placer as a freshman and won the school’s first state title in 2013.
After topping it all with his last hurrah, Couch strode quietly out of the Pepsi Center on Saturday night as a two-time state champion. In an arena saturated with noise and excitement, Couch was his usual humble self.
“It means a lot to me and I’m so proud of my teammates for working as hard as they do,” Couch said. “I don’t think I could have done it without my coaching staff and all the kids going in there to help us, especially my partner Jorge (Cortez). I couldn’t done it without him. It means a lot to our school.”
Couch (49-1) defeated Discovery Canyon’s David Traynor 7-2 in the 4A 195-pound championship match. He finished his Mavericks wrestling career with a 165-19 record.
Though he wouldn’t admit it himself, Mavericks head coach Ty Tatham said Couch’s second title conquest was tougher since he got every opponent’s best shot. Scoring early and dictating the action against Traynor (38-5), Couch wrestled as every inch the battle-tested defending champion.
“I’ve been here before and I knew what it was like so it really wasn’t that different at all,” Couch said. “I wasn’t even nervous, maybe a little bit. But I knew what it was going to be like and they atmosphere so that really helped.”
Couch moved up in weight to 195 pounds this season and won his second title largely against new competition. Moving up each season since he was a freshman, Couch has now placed top three in each of his four high school seasons.
A three-sport varsity athlete, Couch will play football for Colorado Mesa University next season. He will always be his school’s first wrestling state champion.
On Saturday night, however, Mead High School added a second champion.
After upsetting his way to the 126-pound finals, Mavericks junior Sage Budd defeated Broomfield junior Darek Huff 8-4 in the championship match to claim his first state title.
“It’s my first one and I worked hard for it. It feels great,” Budd said. “It doesn’t feel real, I can tell you that. It feels like I’m still dreaming. Everyone says hard work pays off and it does. It just takes time. I hope next year we can get a third.”
Just one week prior, Huff won a 6-3 decision over Budd in the Region 1 championship match. But Budd and his coaches picked up a couple tips during the defeat.
Thinking he could wear the Eagles junior out and avoid his big-move ability, Budd kept the pace high against Huff. In his title-match victory, Budd took the lead early and wrestled a controlled match. It was a strategy that propelled him through the bracket with three decisions and a pin.
“As the end of the first I started to feel it,” Budd said. “When I got that second takedown in the second, I felt him starting to break. I knew he wanted to ride the legs so I worked real hard on leg defense. I didn’t let him latch on and I tried to keep a good pace.”
With two state champions for the young school, Tatham said he couldn’t have asked for more in his fifth season with the Mavericks.
“It’s pretty special,” Tatham said. “I’m not going to forget this night for a long time. It would be pretty silly to think that this will ever be the norm but it’s really exciting. I’m going to really enjoy this tonight and spend some time with these kids. Sage’s win was huge and Kyle just has a way of preparing and being ready to go and he’s just so darn humble.
“They’re great kids and they deserve it, both of them.”