When the ref slapped his hand down on the mat to conclude Jake Glade’s Class 4A state championship match at Ball Arena last month, Glade wasn’t quite sure what to do at first.
The Mead junior had pinned Pueblo County’s Tony Macaluso with just 27 seconds to spare to earn his 144-pound crown, but it hadn’t quite hit him yet that everything he had worked toward his whole life had come to fruition.
It still hasn’t.
“A lot of those kids celebrate, but I’m not a big celebrator,” Glade said. “I also don’t have a lot of emotion, but it was a lot. I didn’t know what to do, so I just stood up and went to the center (of the mat).”
His mother and sister, who he immediately hugged following the match, took care of the emotional piece for him as his mom cried in elation — not just for what he had accomplished, but for what he overcame to get there.
A year earlier, Glade very nearly missed out on the state tournament when he tore the meniscus in his right knee, but decided to forego surgery to extend his season a little longer. A few months after repairing the meniscus, he underwent the knife again for a back injury.
Then he tore his meniscus — this time in the left knee — in January, just a few weeks before the state tournament rolled around again. This time around, he wouldn’t let that pesky cartilage stop him from his mission.
So he pushed off the surgery again.
“Last year, I just didn’t really know what to expect with it, I think,” he explained. “But this year, I knew what was going on and that it wasn’t going to bother me this year. Then it ended up driving me farther than I thought it would.”
At this season’s competition at Ball Arena, Glade systematically eliminated his four opponents by fall and by major decisions, all but tearing a path through the bracket en route to his title. He finished his season with a 43-9 record, which was good enough to earn him the Times-Call wrestler of the year.
Another early obstacle, this time without the need for a surgeon, helped him succeed in a way he never expected.
“I was sick the whole beginning of the year, basically,” Glade said. “At the (Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament), I had to forfeit out. I had a bad ear infection. So then we decided, after that, just to bump up to 144s to stay hydrated, so I wouldn’t be sick.”
In elevating his weight, and eliminating the need to cut before tournaments, he elevated his game as well.
Glade served as one of two Mavericks to take home a state title. Later that evening, junior Dalton Berg secured his own gold with a thrilling sudden victory. With both boys returning for 2024, Mead wrestling — led by Glade — should concern every opponent it faces.
“Now everybody else in the room gets to see what a state champion looks like, as far as effort in practice and off the mat and in the classroom, and all that kind of stuff,” head coach Ty Tatham said. “It just helps set up the next kid to get in that position. When you have multiple people in your room like that, it does a lot for the program as far as giving the other kids the opportunity.
“Whether these guys know it or or not, the little kids that are wrestling in the area look up to them and so when they see someone that’s as good of a role model as Jake and not only how he conducts himself on the mat but off the mat, it’s somebody that people can point to and say, ‘I want to be like that.’”