Almost appropriately, the final match of the 4A Region 1 wrestling tournament Saturday went into overtime, heavyweights Tuli Laulu of Sand Creek and Air Academy’s Justin Petrash even at 2 after six grueling minutes.
By the time Petrash scored an escape point to win the match and regional title over the previously undefeated Laulu, an entire day’s worth of drama had played out on the mats at Discovery Canyon.
“I had lost to him four times and had never beaten him, until today,” Petrash said. “He’s the hardest person I’ve ever wrestled. I had to stand up to get that point, and I told my dad a week ago I was going to do that. I got my color on the coin flip and I chose down right away. You really want to be down.”
Discovery Canyon won the team title with 252.5 points, powered by five individual titles. Pueblo South (183), Mesa Ridge (173.5), Air Academy (157.5) and Cañon City (100.5) rounded out the top five.
Sure, the final bouts in the 14 weight classes served up drama to see who would stand highest on the podium, but both combatants had already secured berths in next week’s state tournament in Denver.
To find the real drama, wind the clock back a few hours to the winner-take-all wrestleback round. Here, the fourth and final spot for state in several weight classes came down to one match, an entire season of sweat and hours after school in the wrestling room reduced to three 2-minute periods.
In the case of Lewis-Palmer’s Brad Kadlubowski, his season and potential first state berth took more than three periods. But it was worth it. His quick takedown of Discovery Canyon’s Tanner Reynolds in the first 30 seconds of overtime sent the Rangers junior to his first state tournament, which starts Thursday at Pepsi Center in Denver.
Upon breaking the tie, his expression of triumph and joy told the story.
“I thought it was a dream,” Kadlubowski said. “Everything had prepared me for this moment, and I had to take advantage of it. It was the greatest feeling once I heard the ref blow that whistle. I couldn’t believe what happened. If you win, you keep going. If you lose, you stop. I wanted something to show for all my work.”
Cheyenne Mountain heavyweight Billy Dabney had two chances to advance to his first state tournament. After dropping a 5-3 decision in the third-place match, he had little time to look back. Instead, he prepared for a wrestleback with Mesa Ridge’s Thomas Rydzynski, a match the Indians junior won by pin early in the second period.
“Coming back was rough, I’m not going to lie,” Dabney said. “I realized it was a life-or-death situation. I go or I stay. This was my first wrestleback, and I was glad to come out victorious.”
Of course, where there's ecstasy, feelings of agony lurk right around the corner.
Air Academy junior Colson Egli was deadlocked in a scoreless draw with Pueblo West’s Caleb Smith deep into the third period of their 160-pound wrestleback. A tactical error followed by a three-point near fall provided the margin between qualifying for state and wondering what might have been.
Egli, on the wrong end of a 3-0 decision for the final spot, already is thinking about next year.
“I was physically there, but I just need to get my might right,” Egli said. “I psyched myself out with the wrestleback. This was my first opportunity to get to state, but I take this as a learning opportunity. Sometimes you have a brain freeze and I regret making it. But there’s always hope for next year, most definitely.”