Wrestling: Monarch’s Vince Cornella starts historical chase at regionals

Three-time state champ has not competed this season due to injuries and COVID-19 risks

LOUISVILLE, CO - MARCH 2: Monarch High School senior wrestler Vince Cornella poses for a portrait on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, at Monarch High School in Louisville, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)
LOUISVILLE, CO – MARCH 2: Monarch High School senior wrestler Vince Cornella poses for a portrait on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, at Monarch High School in Louisville, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

LOUISVILLE – When Monarch senior Vince Cornella takes the mat at regionals this weekend, it will be the first time he wrestles during the Season B high school season.

You read that correctly. Colorado’s highest-profile prep wrestler has a 0-0 record.

That is not something you would expect from an elite grappler like Cornella, who is aiming to complete the rare “four-peat” and become the 29th wrestler in Colorado preps history to win four state championships. But this is unlike any other season, so there probably should have been no expectation that Cornella’s pursuit of history should follow a typical path.

In January, Boulder County Public Health did not approve variances that would allow wrestling to compete in Boulder Valley School District schools, which left Cornella wondering what school, if not Monarch, he would wrestle for. Even after the decision was overturned, Cornella dealt with injuries all season long and once he was healthy heading into the final two weeks, it seemed pointless to compete and risk COVID-19 exposure and quarantine so close to regionals.

It’s finally time for Cornella to simultaneously kick off his 2021 season and launch his long-awaited assault on postseason history.

“This whole season has definitely been something else to deal with,” Cornella said. “In terms of getting ready for the regional and state tournaments, I’ll just do everything within my control: train right, eat right, sleep right and stay on top of my homework. I’m just focusing on myself and making sure I’m ready to wrestle.”

Though he hasn’t competed in an official match since October, Cornella has continued his training while rehabbing several injuries. He has also been practicing with Monarch throughout Season B, staying sharp in a room with plenty of talented wrestling partners.

If he’s in his usual state tournament condition, it seems like a good bet Cornella will capture a fourth state championship.

Cornella, who has not lost to a wrestler from the state of Colorado in two years, won the Class 5A state championship at 106 pounds as a freshman, 113s as a sophomore and 126s as a junior. Last winter, he won all four of his state tournament matches via technical fall, including a 15-0 victory over Pomona’s Jakob Romero in the finals.

Expected to be at 138 pounds this postseason, Cornella will also lead a Monarch team that finished seventh in the Class 5A team competition last winter and believes it has a shot to be a contender once again at the Southwest Motors Events Center in Pueblo on March 13.

“It’s definitely a unique season and a unique situation,” Cornella said of this year’s one-day state tournament format. “I haven’t gotten to compete but the team is looking pretty good and I think we’re going to have a good regionals and state.”

The Coyotes have over a half dozen wrestlers listed among the best in their respective divisions, according to Tim Yount’s On the Mat Rankings. As a team, they are ranked third in 5A, trailing top-ranked defending state champion Pomona and No. 2 Ponderosa.

Veteran wrestling coach Ezra Paddock has coached the Coyotes for over a decade and certainly has not seen any season akin to this one before. It’s been a trying and exhausting one in ways past seasons could not approach. But in the face of the past year’s unprecedented difficulties and uncertainties, Paddock said he is thrilled that Cornella and the Coyotes will at least have a chance to accomplish their goals.

“I’m just excited for Vince and his teammates,” Paddock said. “This is a group of kids that has wrestled together since they were little kids. They talk about all the little-league things and what they’ve experienced through this window in high school. They sit down and break down positions to figure out the best areas to score and the best areas to defend. They’re all really smart guys and they know wrestling.

“It’s unique to have someone like Vince who worries as much about the group as his own success. It’s really a unique group and we’re really excited for regionals and state.”