The push for the podium
February 22, 2014
DENVER — Jose Prado was running on fumes by the time his fifth-place heavyweight wrestling match at the Class 4A State Championships had reached overtime. Luckily for him, the Rifle High School junior found enough fuel to make one last move.
"By the time I got there I didn't care how tired I was," Prado said. "I just told myself I needed to go out there and win it."
That's what Prado was able to do, netting a takedown in the first half of overtime to earn a 3-1 victory over Montrose's Jesus Casillas to take fifth place in the tournament.
"He had this chip on his shoulder, kind of a cocky strut," Rifle coach John Wisniewski said. "I can tell when he's on his game because he's strutting his stuff right before a match. He was doing that before today, and he was ready for that."
“By the time I got there I didn’t care how tired I was. I just told myself I needed to go out there and win it.”
Prado is one of many Garfield County wrestlers who wound up placing on the final say of the three-day tournament at the Pepsi Center. In all, four area wrestlers placed in the 4A tournament, and two others placed in the 3A tourney.
What made it harder for them was the fight back through the consolation bracket, earning a spot on the podium after a loss dropped them out of the running for a state championship. That said, there were very few regrets after the tournament and, in some cases, their high school wrestling careers, were over.
"The guys who are in the consolation round, they're the ones who lost and felt like the world just dropped on them," said Grand Valley senior Will Hinkle, who lost the Class 3A third-place match to Buena Vista's John Lopez, 6-2. "It takes a lot of heart to come back and fight after having to deal with something like that."
Hinkle made it to the third-place match thanks to a 21-second pin of Centauri's James Richardson in the consolation semifinals. And he wasn't the only Grand Valley wrestler to fight his way through the consolation bracket to earn a place, as 182-pounder Bryan Hegwood took fourth in his weight class after a loss by pin to Moffat County's Jesse DeMoor.
"You always come into the state tournament with high expectations, and when you lose right off the bat it crushes you," said Hegwood, whose fourth-place finish improved upon his sixth-place finish from his junior year. "This was my last run, and I don't want to go out a quitter. When you quit, it lasts forever."
Both Rifle and Glenwood also had a pair of placers in the 4A state tournament, and both had wrestlers who were on the verge of wrestling for a state championship.
Rifle's Dallas Rohrig bounced back from a loss in the semifinal round of the 132-pound weight class with a 1-0 victory in the consolation semifinals against Lewis Palmer' Joey Newmann. He ended up finishing fourth, however, when Conifer's Bronson Speis won the third-place match, 7-3, after maintaining an early lead.
Rohrig spent 20 minutes being consoled by friends and coaches in the hallways outside the Pepsi Center arena.
"You have that goal you set even as a little kid that you're going to be a state champion, so it's hard especially for the seniors," Wisniewski said.
Another senior, Glenwood's Justin Barham, bounced back from Friday's semifinal loss to Broomfield's Phil Downing at 160 pounds to make Saturday's third-place match. He began with a 4-1 decision over Pueblo Centennial's Brian Roberts. Berthoud's Chad Ellis, however, took control of the scoreboard halfway through the first period of the third-place match to beat Barham, 13-3.
Unlike Barham, Glenwood Springs freshman Myles Wilson has three more years of high school wrestling remaining. Like Barham, however, he lost his semifinal match on Friday to drop into the consolation bracket.
Wilson lost his consolation semifinal, 2-0, to Pueblo South's Isaac Naro, who came into the tournament as the top overall seed. Wilson recovered in the fifth-place match, though, beating Roosevelt's Dustin Hayden 2-1 to win the fifth-place match.
"When you get to the semis, a lot of pressure comes off of kids because they know that they've already placed," Glenwood assistant coach Miles Cook said. "Meanwhile, there's a lot of kids who are wrestling their tails off to get back to you. So much of it is mental as far as the approach kids take after a loss."
Then there's Prado, who managed to recover for a fifth-place finish after losing in the quarterfinals on Friday. In his mind, there was no way he was going to leave Denver without stepping foot on the podium.
"When I lost, I said to myself, 'I'm gonna make it,'" Prado said. "I wanted to make sure I could fight my way back and place. I just took the stance of going one match at a time. I knew I was going to make it."