Photo by Tamie Meck Delta senior 182-pounder Alfredo Rosales wrestles fourth-seeded Dillon Tussey of Conifer at the state 4A wrestling tournament. Rosales, who upset Tussey by a 6-5 decision, was one of six Delta wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament.After losing to sixth-seeded Ian Cheatum of Golden Friday night, Delta's 182-pound state qualifier, Alfredo Rosales, walked off the mat with his head held high and sat down alone in the dark hallway where wrestlers await their call. It's also where they return after their match, either to celebrate with teammates or to try to figure out just what went wrong.
Rosales was one of six Panther wrestlers to qualify for state. All six lost in the opening round of competition. He was the Panthers' last hope for a medal at this year's state 4A wrestling tournament.
"It's my first time being here. I won a match," said Rosales. "I'm not that disappointed. I mean, I was disappointed when I lost my first round. But a teammate told me, 'Consider it this way. You're in a state tournament, you're one of the 16 best guys in Colorado.' So that brought me back up. No regrets."
Rosales, one of four Delta wrestlers seeded 12th going into the tournament, opened Thursday's competition with a 10-5 loss to Tremell Stanley, a 34-4 junior and No. 5 seed from Mesa Ridge. In Friday morning's first-round consolation, he upset fourth-seeded Dillon Tussey, a 20-3 junior from Conifer, by a 6-5 decision. On Friday night, he lost to Cheatum.
Rosales was one of three Panther wrestlers to win a match at state. Fellow seniors Shane Anderson (126) and Hunter Brasfield (152) also won in first-round consolation, and all three ended the tournament with one win and two losses.
"It was a rough tournament for us," said head coach Clayton Curtis while waiting for Saturday night's Parade of Champions and final matches to begin.
Photo by Tamie Meck Delta sophomore David Brown wrestled to an 8-0 win over Brad Kadlubowski of Lewis Palmer in the 113-pound division at the state 4A wrestling tournament in Denver.The team stayed to watch the spectacle of Saturday night's Parade of Champions and the championship matches. "This is what it's all about," said Curtis before the pageantry began. "We want them to see it and get that experience and make it their goal. This is why we wrestle in the state tournament. This is what the season's all about. This is what we should be shooting for every time we wrestle."
Despite opening with losses, the team was still upbeat Friday morning, said Curtis. He told them that it was going to be a rough day, "And that they needed to wrestle each match like it was going to be their last."
For Rosales and fellow seniors Hunter Brasfield, Shane Anderson and Kyle Collins, Friday's matches were their last. By Friday night Delta was finished wrestling. They ended with three points, ahead of 11 teams in the 58-team tournament.
"That first round, it's hard to get going, get the jitters out," said sophomore David Brown, a second-year varsity sophomore who placed third at regionals to qualify for his first state tournament. He was in unfamiliar territory and had never seen, let alone faced, most of the wrestlers in his bracket. But once the jitters had calmed, Brown squeezed out a 6-3 win over a 15th-ranked wrestler from Lewis-Palmer. He lost his final match by major decision to Sage Budd, a 36-7 sophomore from Mead.
"It's pretty cool," he said after his win. "I'm definitely going to make it back next year." Brown finished the season with a 32-12 record.
This was Anderson's third and final trip to state. He was Delta's only returning qualifier.
Anderson was seeded 12th at 126 pounds, and after opening with a loss, won by a 6-1 decision over Tranton Fair of Pueblo East. Anderson was up 2-0 when he glanced at the score and knew he could win. "I tried not to give up any points," said Anderson, "but that happens sometimes."
Anderson finished the season with a 34-11 record and said he was happy to be back at state. His younger brother, freshman Luke Anderson, also wrestles. Shane said he tells Luke "he needs to be tough and work hard at it to be good."
Sophomore heavyweight Marcus Garcia opened with a loss to 34-2 senior Tuli Laulu of Sand Creek, who placed third. Garcia ended the season at 28-15.
Curtis said he's confident that next season will be better. The team is young, and the middle school program is going strong. This season, Delta had nine freshmen, eight sophomores and four juniors out for the team. Curtis said he's looking into scheduling more summer camps, and trying to get into some of the bigger tournaments next season to minimize the shock of wrestling at the Pepsi Center, where this year's tournament was expected to draw upwards of 40,000 spectators over three days. "There's a big change from wrestling at a high school gym to wrestling at the Pepsi Center," he said.
He took this year's team to the Tournament of Champions wrestling tournament in Vernal, Utah, which drew 48 teams, and is hoping for a spot at the Top of the Rockies. "That's a big tournament," he said. "We need to get used to wrestling that type of schedule if we're going to do well here at the state tournament."
Despite only three wins, Curtis said he hopes his two sophomores will go back to school and "spread the fever around a little bit" by encouraging their teammates, one of whom is Brown's twin brother, Daniel Brown, to make state their goal. Daniel Brown wrestles at 152 pounds and is first in line to take Brasfield's place next season. "We're glad we made it," said Curtis. "This is an amazing experience. There's not another high school event like this."
Rosales almost didn't wrestle his senior year. He competed for Delta his freshman year before moving to North Dakota for a year, where he also wrestled. He had a tough season last year, said Curtis, and missed the first four weeks of this season. After the Panthers' first dual win in 12 years over Palisade in January, where Rosales won his match in third-round overtime, he said he returned because he didn't want to have any regrets.
"I lost, yeah. I wish I didn't," said Rosales, sitting in the hallway of the Pepsi Center after losing the final match of his high school career. "But, you know, it happens. I'm not going to regret it because I lost. I'm gonna say, you know, I made it here. This is one of the things I'm going to be proud of."
Rosales said he believes in his school and in his coach. "He's a good coach, a good guy. I know he'll do something with this team." He hopes to give back to a program that has given him so much. "I know I'll be back in the wrestling room helping the younger guys get here," he said, holding his arms high above his head. "It's an experience. Pepsi Center."