They celebrated, whooped it up and posed for pictures with the championship plaque awarded to the winner of Saturdayâ€™s Westside Classic wrestling tournament. It may be early January, but to Woodland Parkâ€™s rebuilding wrestling program, any bit of success does plenty.
â€œWe really wanted to win this and set the standard here,â€ said first-year coach Keith Sieracki, a two-time U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman team trials champion who recently retired from the U.S. Army as a sergeant first class. â€œThis is the first first-place trophy in a long time. Things are starting to come together for us.â€
Two years ago, the Panthers placed a respectable 14th at the 4A state meet, scoring 40.5 points on the strength of three top-six finishes. One season later, Woodland Park had just one entry and did not register a team point for the first time since 2008.
The Panthers were hardly challenged Saturday, winning their five duals by an average score of 64-15. Former judo champion Thomas Chisholm led the charge by going 5-0 at 160 pounds, three of his bouts not making it into the second minute. The senior and gold medalist at the 2011 Junior Olympics has won all 17 of his matches this season.
â€œMy coach (Jeff Laurell) told me about Coach Sieracki and how he could help me as a wrestler and in judo,â€ Chisholm said. â€œHeâ€™s a top guy. I also know there are more opportunities in wrestling than judo, and Iâ€™m hoping to get a scholarship in wrestling.â€
The Westside Classic welcomed five other area teams: Manitou Springs, Peyton and St. Maryâ€™s, along with junior varsity squads from Discovery Canyon and Widefield.
Of the more than 120 individual dual matches that took place on the two mats at Manitou Springs High School, not many reunited longtime foes, the exception when St. Maryâ€™s senior Cannon Wille and Manitou Springs senior Nate Titcomb shook hands before the latest edition in a rivalry that spans two sports.
â€œI donâ€™t think either of us is counting, but it goes back and forth,â€ said Wille, a Dartmouth football commitment. â€œItâ€™s always a tough match. The last time, he won.â€
Wille turned the tables Saturday, earning a 7-3 decision over Titcomb, a 3A state qualifier at 195 pounds last season.
â€œWeâ€™re gone up against each other since our freshman year in football and wrestling,â€ Titcomb said. â€œHeâ€™s a great competitor, and weâ€™ve become friends, too. When he wins, it motivates me to beat him. Beating someone you donâ€™t know is no big deal, but beating one of your friends is a bigger deal. Weâ€™ll definitely see each other again before too long.â€