DENVER — Coronado senior Jess Hankin has run the gamut of emotion at the Class 5A state wrestling tournament.
Hankin has experienced failing to place on the podium, winning a state championship and then suffering a one-point loss in a title bout.
“I don’t think about my losses all the time,” Hankin said Thursday night after opening up his final prep state tournament with a 9-1 victory at 132 pounds against Thornton junior Wendell Berry. “I do think about what I did wrong and what I need to improve on. I use that to get me better in this situation and atmosphere. There is a lot more pressure involved then usual.”
Living in the now keeps Hankin focused on the task at hand as the lone wrestler in 5A attempting to win his second individual state championship after falling short his junior season.
“It’s pretty motivating,” Hankin said looking back on last year’s championship bout loss. “It’s nice to go out on a win.”
As a freshman, Hankin got a taste winning on at mats at Pepsi Center. He finished with a 1-2 record at 103 pounds before a loss in a second-round consolation match ended his tournament.
Hankin’s sophomore season ended with the ultimate prize, a state championship at 113 pounds. Hankin upset top-seed Kyndall Rutz of ThunderRidge in the final 6-2 to end his remarkable three-day run.
Coming in as a returning state champion in 2014, Hankin advanced to the 126-pound champion bout but suffered a 1-0 loss to Cherry Creek’s Mitch Finesilver.
“I haven’t changed anything as far as my warm ups or routine,” Hankin said of his fourth trip down to Pepsi Center. “I just get focused on my match and think about what I’m going to do.”
Hankin’s four takedowns and escape against Berry on Thursday night was enough to earn the victory. However, the senior admitted he was a little frustrated about his first-round performance.
“My attitude is always to be dominate, no matter what and no matter who the opponent is,” Hankin said. “I felt like I didn’t wrestle to my full ability this round.”
Hankin faces Lakewood freshman Gabriel Dinette in the quarterfinals at 132 on Friday afternoon. An interesting twist could face Hankin if he advances to the final Saturday night. Cherry Creek junior Matt Finesilver, younger brother of Mitch who defeated Hankin last year in the 126-pound final, could be Hankin’s opponent.
“Everybody is going out to win this thing,” Hankin said about how he respects all his opponents. “Nobody is going to just sit down and let you win. You just have to keep going.”
Denver East senior Maya Nelson’s goal is to be the first female to place in the top six at the state tournament. Nelson will have an uphill climb after losing to Prairie View senior Keynan Davis in the opening round at 120 pounds.
Davis had a key two-point takedown of Nelson at the close of the first period. He eventually held a 5-0 lead before Nelson got a takedown late to make the final score 5-2.
“Honestly, even though she is a girl I would say she is the second strongest person I’ve ever wrestled,” Davis said. “She is really strong.”
Nelson made history last 5A state tournament becoming the first female wrestler to win a first-round match. Two close two-point losses in the quarterfinals and second round of consolations prevented Nelson from standing on the podium.
It was actually the fourth meeting between Davis and Nelson over the past two years. Davis was able to even his record to 2-2 against Nelson with Thursday’s win.
“I knew that was how it was going to be because everyone loves Maya,” Davis said of hearing plenty of cheers for Nelson during the match. “She is a great wrestler. I knew everyone would be watching our match. I was just mentally prepared to go out there and be aggressive with her.”
There were no major first-round upsets in the 5A tournament. All six returning state champions from last season were victorious, including Grand Junction senior Jacob Trujillo who is attempting to become a three-time state champion.
Last year's runner-up Pomona took a slight edge on Jeffco rival and defending state champion Arvada West in the team standings after Day 1. The Panthers racked up 24.5 points. A-West (24) stands in second and Pine Creek (18.5) sits in third. Grand Junction (18) is close behind in fourth with Chaparral (17.5) is fifth.