DENVER • The Coronado wrestling program sent coach Matt Brickell out in style.
After 25 years in the program, the last 23 as head coach, Brickell is calling it a career. Whether his wrestlers knew it was coming or not they gave him a grand send-off, winning two individual titles Saturday to finish fourth in the team race.
Sophomores Trent Watson and Jess Hankin won the first two Class 5A championship bouts, making it four straight years with a state champion for the Cougars and giving them a total of 13 in school history.
Watson led off the night by defending his 106-pound state title with a 3-2 decision over Greeley West’s Anthony Garza at the Pepsi Center.
Using his usual patient approach, Watson scored first with an escape to start the second period and hit on a takedown in the third to make it 3-1, before hanging on for a 3-2 decision and pushing his record to 47-0.
He maintained that calm demeanor afterward, despite the stress of gutting of out a one-point win.
“I feel pretty good, not really tired,” Watson said. “I just controlled the pace of the match. That’s my style. You’re facing tough opponents so you expect the matches to be close.”
Brickell wasn’t quite as calm as the match unfolded.
“I can’t believe how close he kept that match,” Brickell said. “He’s just a consistent, solid wrestler. He just doesn’t make mistakes, stays right in position. He’s a fun little wrestler to watch wrestle.”
Hankin (38-7) got a rematch with ThunderRidge’s Kyndall Rutz, who beat him in the regional semifinal a week ago. Rutz (42-2) scored a takedown in the first period, but Hankin got the escape — something he wasn’t able to do in their previous encounter. He followed with another escape in the second and two takedowns of his own for a 6-2 victory.
“It just shows it doesn’t matter, all the rankings and stuff,” Hankin said. “I feel that I was more prepared and I felt like I was going to win that match the whole time.”
“He’s always so tight, we’re just always trying to keep him loose, you know,” Brickell said. “He came up after the match and he said ‘Was that loose enough, coach?’”
Senior Adrian Cordova (30-3) missed out on a chance to capture his third state title, dropping a 3-0 decision to Cherry Creek’s Mitch Finesilver (44-2) in the 120 final.
Senior Devan Cruz (126, 40-7) and junior Sam Smith (195, 25-14) finished fifth for the Cougars.
“I just hope nobody says to me ‘Hey, can you show me how to do this,’” Brickell said. “That’s how you get sucked back in.”