DENVER • AJ Rees didn’t strut, dance or show much emotion, even after he won his third 4A state wrestling championship Saturday at the Pepsi Center.
Unfortunately, none of his teammates did, as the Thunder’s dream of claiming its first team title fell short with a second-place finish, the highest in school history.
“It’s bittersweet,” Thunder coach Ron Sukle said. “We came in with expectations of coming home with first. The boys wrestled hard, and we came home with a trophy. I’m proud of what they did.”
Broomfield rallied to take the state 4A title with 140.5 points. Discovery Canyon, which ended Friday with a slim, five-point lead but entered Saturday’s championship matches down by five, finished the three-day tournament second with 129.5 points. Windsor, which had won the previous two team crowns, finished third with 129 points.
“We’ve got to enjoy this moment,” Sukle said. “We’re going to take some time off and get back to work. We have four placers coming back. Good things are going to happen.”
Rees, an Iowa State commit, gave Discovery Canyon its only win of its four finalists, defeating Pueblo South’s Marcus Martinez, 11-5. Rees improved to 35-1 but couldn’t put away Martinez as he had with other opponents to the tune of two pins and a runaway 16-3 major decision.
“That showed me I’m not perfect. No one is in the sport,” said Rees, who won previous titles as a sophomore and junior after narrowly missing as a freshman. “This sport is my life, and I treat it like a job. I shouldn’t celebrate what I feel like I’m supposed to do. I’m not going to let this be the pinnacle of my career.”
Martinez, who lost to Rees two weeks ago in the region final at Discovery Canyon, applauded Rees’ ability.
“He’s at a whole different level, from skills to conditioning,” Martinez said. “He’s amazing. He’s always coming at you 100 percent and out-wrestled me again. He never stops.”
Freshman Sam Turner started things off for the Thunder in the 106-pound final, facing off against undefeated Dalton Robertson of Weld County. Turner, the younger brother of Steve Turner, who won a state title last year, took a 5-3 lead early in the second period after recording a reversal and a takedown while holding his ground.
But Robertson struck back with a takedown and reversal, scoring eight unanswered points in taking an 11-5 lead. Four quick points at the end weren’t enough this time for Turner, who earned three points with 3 seconds remaining in his semifinal Friday.
At 145 pounds, Thunder junior Tyler Oberg faced a tough task in opponent Phil Downing, a two-time 4A state champion. Downing took a quick 2-0 lead in the first on a reversal, then took over in the second two-minute session with an escape point, reversal, three-point near fall and another reversal. By then, it was 10-0.
By the time junior David Traynor took to the mat at 195, the Thunder’s chase for the team title was mathematically out of reach. Traynor, facing nationally ranked, unbeaten and two-time defending state champion Garet Krohn of Arvada, suffered a loss by tech fall, 24-9.
“I can only get better from wrestling a guy like him,” Traynor said. “It shows me what I need to work on. We’re all coming back to win the state title next year.”