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Wrestling: Engelking overcomes dislocated thumb to win state title

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Longmont senior Drake Engelking, left, ended his prep career on top once again as a state champion, this time at 170 pounds as he edged Windsor's Cody Eaton 3-2 at the Pepsi Center.

  • Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer

    Even with a dislocated thumb, Longmont's Drake Engelking, right, stuck out the final few seconds against Windsor's Cody Eaton to win his second state title.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Lyons sophomore Oran Huff, right, reacts to beating Centauri's Eyan Chavez at 126 pounds for the Class 2A state title in February.

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DENVER — With 21 seconds remaining Saturday night, Longmont senior wrestler Drake Engelking had to stop the match to deal with a hand injury. His coaches and doctors on staff took a look and tended to him.

It turns out, his thumb popped out of place and was sticking straight up in a grizzly position.

“It was dislocated pretty badly,” Engelking said. “My thumb was pointing upwards. It was nasty. I couldn’t bare looking at it.”

Even with a grizzly thumb, he wasn’t going to let it deter him from his second state championship. Not with 21 seconds to go.

“I had to fight it out,” Engelking said.

Using one hand to fend off multiple takedown attempts from Windsor’s Cody Eaton in the final seconds of their Class 4A 170-pound state championship match, Engelking was able to stay up long enough to earn a 3-2 decision win at the Pepsi Center, giving him back-to-back state titles to close out his high school career.

“It’s my senior year, the last time ever wrestling in high school, and with the state title (on the line), you have to do anything you can to get to that state title,” Engelking said.

Before the injury, Engelking worked his way to a 2-0 lead in the first period with the only takedown of the match. Eaton escaped to neutral position late in the first period and early in the second to tie it up. The two worked on their feet until the second period ended, and Engelking went down to start the third and escaped to his feet for the final point.

The takedown proved to be the biggest difference in the tightly-contested match.

“Usually when you get the first takedown in wrestling, you win the match,” Engelking said. “You get that first takedown, you feel almost set to win your match.”

After getting his thumb popped back into place, he was able to properly embrace his father, Longmont coach Matt Engelking. The two shared a special moment last February after Drake won his first state title at 160 pounds his junior season. This one, though, was even more memorable to close out his high school career.

“Even after a tough win like that, it’s the exact same,” Drake Engelking said. “It’s all love and the same for us.”

Engelking was more than prepared to repeat as a state champion. From the times training with his father and younger brother Brayden — who finished fourth at 152 pounds for the Trojans — to the trips across the state and country to compete in some of the biggest wrestling tournaments. His future college, the University of Northern Colorado, also worked with him, letting him compete in drills with other college athletes at their training center.

All of the work paid off on the biggest stage for him, even with a thumb out of place.

“It’s awesome being the first one in Longmont history to win multiple state championships. It’s huge,” Engelking said.

Huff wins 2A 126-pound title

Lyons sophomore Oran Huff defeated Centauri’s Eyan Chavez by decision 5-3 to win his first state championship.

“If you asked me last year if I could do this, I would have said I couldn’t,” Huff said. “It’s hard work and never doubting yourself … I came out there tonight with full confidence.”

Huff and Chavez were looking to head into the second period still scoreless, but Huff found a way to get to the back and scored two points with less than five seconds remaining. The move shifted the momentum going into the second, where he escaped from bottom for another point.

Chavez got back into the match early in the third period with a reversal, but the mental toughness from Huff came through as he got back on top with his own reversal and stayed in control the rest of the match.

“I’ve always wanted this, ever since Keegan (Bean) got it last year,” Huff said. “I wanted to match him, and now I finally did. There’s no other emotion but joy and excitement.”

With his teammates and coaches by his side in the hallways after, Huff expressed his love and gratitude to all of them. He also delivered a message on the direction the program was heading after his state title.

“The future is very bright … We’re going to keep building off of each other,” Huff said.

Brandon Boles: bboles@prairiemountainmedia.com or twitter.com/BrandonBoles