DENVER – Rye’s wrestling program has always come up just short in its bid to crown an individual state wrestling champion.
So you can imagine the excitement the team – and coach Dean Decker – were feeling just mere minutes into Friday night’s Class 2A semifinal round at Pepsi Center. The Thunderbolts had two wrestlers kick things off in 2A with victories, as freshman Cole Miller (106 pounds) and sophomore Michael Atencio (113) advanced to Saturday’s finals.
They will be looking to become the first individuals at Rye to win a state title.
“We’ve had several in the finals – several seconds, but never a champion,” Decker said. “We’re hoping (Saturday) will be our first.
“As a Rye wrestler myself, coaching now, it’s kind of hard to explain that feeling we’ll get.”
Miller posted a 13-0 major decision over Trinidad’s Albert Felthager. He will face defending state champion Seth McFall of Fowler in the championship match.
Atencio, who is undefeated, followed that up with a 6-1 decision over Hayden’s Dylan Zimmerman. Atencio draws Wray junior Cade Rockwell – also a defending champion.
“I’ve been going to Rye since I was like in preschool,” Atencio said. “Knowing there hasn’t been a state champ at Rye yet – I want to do it, me and Cole.”
Atencio lost in the second round as a freshman, only to fight his way back through the consolation bracket. He won four matches to place third.
“It fired me up a lot,” Atencio said. “We worked all summer, going to camps and getting the best partners I can just for this moment right now.”
Rye brought just four wrestlers to state, and was sitting in 11th place overall with 43.5 points after Friday. The Thunderbolts were 19th a year ago with only 32 points.
“It’s just excellent wrestlers coming up,” Decker said. “Young kids that worked hard their whole lives, starting in the pee-wees and working their way up. It’s just exciting to have that good competition now.”
Other programs will be looking to break a state-title drought Saturday night as well.
In 5A, Prairie View’s Austin McFadden will be looking to give the Thunderhawks their first champion. McFadden won his semifinal match 6-4 at 152 pounds and will face Doherty’s Tyson Beauperthuy on Saturday night.
Beauperthuy is looking to give Doherty its first title since 1997 and only the sixth overall.
In 3A, Woodland Park Brady Hankin posted an 8-3 decision at 106 pounds to move into the final against Alamosa’s Davion Chavez. Woodland Park hasn’t had an individual state champion since 1989.
Elizabeth’s Abe Leonard pinned Bayfield’s John Foutz in the 3A 195-pound bracket to advance to Saturday’s finals against Salida’s Holt Brashears. Elizabeth is looking for its first champion since 1993.