LAFAYETTE — For the top wrestlers in the state, getting the best matches possible at this point in time are at a premium with regionals and state only a month away.
Perhaps the best chance for many of those wrestlers to get a good look at the competition they’ll face in the postseason comes at the annual Top of the Rockies wrestling tournament at Centaurus High School. The tournament brings some of the best teams and wrestlers from the state together, as well as some strong out-of-state competition. Many of the top-ranked teams and wrestlers from Colorado made the trip and were in the field again this weekend.
“Going against the best guys is the best way to improve,” Monarch’s Vince Cornella said. “They will be the ones to show the chinks in the armor, per se. They are the only ones that can do that. You have to go get them in order to be the best.”
With plenty of tough matches to get there, six local wrestlers made it to the finals Saturday evening and drew big names they would face for the championship.
Rudy Lopez, a fourth-place finisher at 113 pounds for Erie in Class 4A at state last season, made it to the finals to face Kenny Sailas of Brighton, the defending state champion in Class 5A at 106 pounds who moved up weight classes this season. Another state qualifier last year, Nathan Fitzpatrick of Monarch, made it to the finals to face Trey Hardy of Rocky Mountain at 170. The two faced each other in the second consolation round at state a year ago and Hardy won a close 6-5 decision.
Then there were the three wrestlers who competed for a state title last year that looked to send a message as one of the guys to beat again this season.
Cornella showed off his reputation as a two-time state champion pinning his way to the finals where he faced Dawson Collins, an undefeated wrestler from Grand Junction and the No. 2 ranked wrestler behind him, according to the latest On the Mat rankings compiled by Tim Yount. Darren Green, a state champion for Broomfield last year, went up against Max Fredricksmeyer of Monarch, a state qualifier himself. For Green to get to the finals, he had to beat Aaden Valdez of Pueblo East in the semifinal round. In the rematch of last year’s state championship final, Green scored a takedown in sudden victory to win 3-1.
“I get the experience that I need and the nerves going a bit before state,” Green said. “It feels great to wrestle some good competition.”
But perhaps the biggest match of the entire final round Saturday came at heavyweight. Tyler Carpenter of Broomfield got three first-round pins to make it to the finals to face Andy Garcia of Pueblo East. Garcia is a three-time state champion who earned his third title at state last season by winning a 4-3 decision over Carpenter in the finals.
Cornella was the first to take home a title for Monarch in his battle of top-two ranked wrestlers at 126. He was able to score a variety of takedowns throughout the match to go on and win by major decision 15-3.
“It goes back to what I’ve improved on the most, and that’s moving my feet and hands together,” Cornella said. “I was looking to work from those short offense scenarios.”
Later in the evening, his teammate Fitzpatrick was able to win over Hardy. Fitzpatrick scored a takedown in the first period and kept Hardy from escaping bottom position in the second. Controlling him from top, he was finally able to roll Hardy on his back and win by fall late in the second period for title at Top of the Rockies.
“It felt great,” Fitzpatrick said. “I really wanted to win this tournament. It was really great, especially since I’ll be wrestling some of these guys at state. It was a really good tournament for me.”
Broomfield got a title from Green in his match with Fredricksmeyer at 145. Also putting in the work on his feet, Green was able to score takedowns and control the match from neutral position. Though he was unable to get a pin in the first period when he locked the body of Fredricksmeyer, he would score multiple takedowns after and won by major decision 18-4.
“It feels good to finally take it this year,” Green said. “I wrestled a lot of higher-level guys that helped take me to another level. It’s got my positioning, set-ups and really everything working well. That’s my biggest asset right now.”
Lopez would lose by fall to Sailas late in the first period after getting caught in the cradle. Carpenter and Garcia were tied at one and looked to be heading to sudden victory, but a late takedown from Garcia saw him score two points with four seconds remaining to win the 3-1 decision.
With the Top of the Rockies now in the books, the pressure is on for many wrestlers to perform and get ready for the postseason push coming up.
“I’m just going to finalize some things now,” Cornella said. “The first half of the season is a chance to try some new things that can elevate your game. At this point, we’re still learning and adding some smaller pieces to finalize the product you’re going to have at state.”