LONGMONT — From the moment Mead’s Kyle Couch won his first state title, he knew winning a second would be tougher than the first. That never bothered him much. Couch likes a challenge.
The Mavericks senior took everyone’s best shot throughout the 2013-14 season and at the end of the year, he was the Class 4A 195-pound state champion. At the end of his career, he was the best in his school’s history and probably will be for some time.
Since he likely won’t be relinquishing the title of best to ever do it at Mead, Couch has been named this season’s Times-Call Wrestler of the Year.
“I just needed the will to want it,” Couch said. “People knew who I was this year and everybody was giving me their best match so I had to go out there and put in the extra work and the time. Especially at the harder tournaments, it was definitely more of a challenge.”
Moving up in weight each year, Couch has been steadily building towards joining the ranks of the state’s few multiple-title winners. He placed third (35-11) in 3A at 145 pounds in 2011. He placed third (37-6) in 3A again in 2012, this time at 152 pounds.
With a 47-1 mark his junior season in 2013, and with his school moving up to Class 4A, Couch finally broke through the third-place ceiling to bring Mead High School its first individual state title at 182 pounds. Repeating as state champion in 2014, Couch was this year’s best 4A 195-pounder and proved it with a similar 46-1 mark.
After capping his stellar career with a 7-2 win over Discovery Canyon’s David Traynor for the title, the best wrestler in Mavericks history ended up 165-19 in his career and 17-2 all-time at the state tournament. His only two losses at the state tournament, the first coming in the state semifinals as a freshman and the second in the quarterfinals as a sophomore, were to eventual state champions.
Though he said he hasn’t adjusted to his newly-minted title of best in school history, Couch said he was happy to accomplish the goal he shared with Mavericks head coach Ty Tatham to continue to help the program rise.
“I don’t know if it’s sunken in quite yet. But it’s nice,” Couch said. “It’s good for the school, especially with me and Sage (Budd) winning this year. Winning the first time was great but having me and Sage win one is really special, and really special for Tatham.”
Entering the vaunted Top of the Rockies tournament in late January with a 30-0 record, losing a 7-3 decision to Arvada West’s Devin Rothrock, the eventual 5A state champion, in the semifinals gave Couch new life. In many ways, it was the wake-up call he needed and the boost that helped him go undefeated the rest of the way.
“I wasn’t pushed like that the whole year and I didn’t wrestle well at all,” Couch said. “Tatham put it to me to use it and it definitely helped me get my head on straight, train harder and wrestle better.”
Tatham said he was most impressed by Couch’s natural ability to rise to the occasion each time he stepped on a wrestling mat. Despite his competition increasing in difficulty and the pressure mounting, Tatham said Couch’s win-loss record on the biggest stages is what makes him special.
“One of the things that’s impressive, is that he only lost two matches in the state tournament his whole career and those were both to the guy that went on to win the whole thing,” Tatham said. “He’s a three-time regional champion and he was second as a freshman so he only lost one match ever at regionals. He’s one of those kids that, when it’s match time he’s ready to go. He’s probably one of the most competitive people I’ve ever been around.”
A four-year, three-sport varsity athlete, Couch will play baseball for Mead in the spring and will play football at Colorado Mesa next season, and he may end up wrestling depending on how the first fall goes. Before he departs, Couch might want to impart his secret to an effective title defense to junior teammate Budd, who won his first 126-pound title in February.
Though he’s been handed big shoes to fill, Couch said Budd is ready to take the reins once he’s gone. Budd said he’s seen incredible growth in the program as a result of the Mavericks’ winning ways and is looking forward to keeping it going.
“Our previous year, during the summer, not a lot of kids showed up. But this year it seamed like there are a lot more kids and they are a lot more focused,” Budd said. “For me, everyone’s going to be giving me their best shot. Just making it back to state would be another great accomplishment. Then, it’s up to me to win one match at a time and hopefully take it again.”
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