DENVER — Columbine wrestling coach Ray Barron was a popular person during the 3-day 2020 state wrestling tournament.
Wrestlers, coaches, referees and officials gave the legendary Colorado wrestling coach plenty of handshakes, hugs and well wishes. Barrow was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer less than two months ago.
“It’s nice. It’s real nice,” Barron said of all the support he has got from the Colorado wrestling community.
Barron has spent the past five years — the last four as the head coach — at Columbine High School. Before coming to Columbine the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and National High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame member spent 45 years coaching wrestling.
The majority of that time at Heritage High School in Littleton.
While just spending the past handful of years at Columbine, Barron has clearly touched many. Juniors Jack Forbes (182-pounder) and Zach Schraeder (285-pounder) — the lone state qualifiers for the Rebels — made it a point to give Barron the longest ride possible at what could be his final state tournament.
“After we first heard about it I just kept it in my mind to keep grinding and keep getting better,” Forbes said about his motivation after learning about Barron’s cancer. “When I got to hop into his arms it was one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt.”
Forbes jumped into Barron’s arms after taking a 13-8 victory over Grandview senior Joe Renner, who had defeated Forbes in their pervious two meeting this season.
“Knowing that he (Barron) is fighting through something helped me push through things even harder,” Forbes said.
Schraeder was the favorite in the heavyweight final and didn’t disappoint. The junior took a 5-2 win over Cherokee Trail senior Julian Williams.
“They are both special,” Barron said of Forbes and Schraeder. “I’m so happy for both of them.”
It was clear both wrestlers were just at thrilled to give their coach a few more state championship victories to his long and impressive coaching career.
“It just means so much. It meant the world to me,” Schraeder said after winning what will likely be Barron’s final match he’ll ever coach. “When I looked at the scoreboard and was up with 1 second left I knew my hard work in the wrestling room for him had paid off.”
The 5A coaches saluted Barron in voting him the 2019-20 5A Coach of the Year. He we presented the award shortly after Barron set a pair of his wrestling shoes on the center of the mat at the end of Schraeder’s match that concluded the state tournament late Saturday night.
“It’s going,” Barron said of his battle. “It’s not good, but I will make it as far as I can.”