Ultimately, the pushbacks during this past pandemic-infused high school sports season saw athletics stretch to late June, leaving a small window for a summer break. Fortunately, that was still plenty of time for some local standouts to squeeze in a few more accolades before the turn of the next school calendar.
Since the last day of the 2020-21 season on June 26, former Monarch wrestler Vince Cornella, who won four straight state titles in high school, and Broomfield’s Reagan Kotschau, fresh off the Eagles’ 5A girls soccer championship, kept their momentum rolling as both of them received national awards this summer.
Cornella, after becoming the 29th wrestler in Colorado history to win four state golds, was awarded the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award for a Colorado wrestler by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame late last month. Kotschau, meanwhile, was the only girl from the state to be named to the All-American list by the United Soccer Coaches.
“I was really shocked,” Kotschau said, “really surprised.”
Kotschau’s All-American designation was just the latest commendation bestowed upon the now-junior. After helping lead the Eagles to the 5A soccer title, the midfielder was named to BoCoPreps.com all-region list, as well as CHSAA’s 5A all-state team.
She said she was stunned when receiving the news via text from Broomfield coach Jim Davidson.
“I told my family right away,” she said. “It was just like a rush. It was a good feeling.”
As a sophomore, Kotschau rose up in the biggest moments of the shortened soccer season, scoring several equalizers and game-winning goals throughout the Eagles’ undefeated season. Her big-time play lasted through Broomfield’s 3-1 win over Rock Canyon in the 5A state finals.
As a USC association All-American, she was also highlighted as a top national player by USA TODAY.
“Winning the state championship was an amazing experience because I couldn’t play soccer for my high school my freshman year,” Kotschau said due to her freshman year getting canceled due to the pandemic. “I thought it was a really fun experience these past couple months.”
Cornella’s latest achievement, meanwhile, comes on the backend of a high school career for the ages.
The Schultz award, named after the former Olympic and world champ, is awarded to each state’s top wrestler based on their performance on and off the mat. (The national winner will be awarded Tuesday).
During a decorated final high school season, the Coyotes’ star — who some feared wouldn’t get the chance to go for state title No. 4 due to the ongoing question mark surrounding wrestling’s viability during the height of the pandemic — looked sharp throughout abbreviated appearances as a senior, pinning all three of his opponents at the state tournament to claim gold.
In his career, Cornella won at 5A 106s, 113s, 126s and 138s, going 123-9 in high school matches. He also excelled in the classroom — notable, as he will next wrestle at Cornell.
The award will be presented to him at the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame banquet Sept. 11.
“It’s an amazing feeling to have won such a prestigious award,” Cornella said. “Many great Colorado wrestlers have won before and it’s an honor to be among that group of people now. I couldn’t have asked for a better state and place to grow up, so I’m grateful that I’m able to represent that state well.”
Among a few other prep summer highlights:
— Holy Family shortstop Ava Kuszak, playing with the Nebraska Gold Under-18 team, won the Premier Girls Fastpitch national softball tournament in California late last month.
Kuszak is also a two-time state champion for the Tigers and is committed to Wisconsin.
— Jess Mason of Holy Family won the Colorado Junior PGA Championship in early July, shortly after winning her first state title. She and former Jefferson Academy golfer Aubri Braecklein qualified for the Girls Junior PGA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky.
— Ben Harding of Silver Creek won the Colorado Junior Match Play title a week ago. A 45-foot, pitch-in on an extra hole in the finals sealed the victory.
— Tajon Buchanan, a Legacy graduate, played strong minutes for the Canada men’s national team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He had 12 shots in the tournament and played alongside mid-tournament call-up Tesho Akindele, who played at Northglenn.
The Canadians were bounced in the semifinals by Mexico.
— Former Fairview quarterback Liam O’Brien was named to the 2021 National Football Foundation/College Hall of Fame’s Team of Distinction. The list included 65 athletes who shined on and off the field, playing their final season of high school in 2020-21. The winners will be part of a permanent digital display at the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
O’Brien, per his Twitter, has offers to play football at the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth and Holy Cross.