LOVELAND - With fatigue weighing in the 152-pound class, Discovery Canyon wrestler Tyler Oberg thought back to his defeat in last year's state finals match, and knew exactly what to do.
Saturday, he kept attacking, scored early and coasted by Cheyenne (Wyo.) South's Daniel Hammond in the 152 finals at the 2013 Old Chicago Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament.
The senior's 3-1 decision proved to be the only tournament title for any Colorado Springs wrestler in the midst of what was called by more than a handful of coaches and wrestlers as the "toughest competition so far" this season.
Cherry Creek won the two-day competition while Discovery Canyon led the Pikes Peak region with a 12th-place finish out of 67 teams. Coronado (16th), Lewis-Palmer (20th), Doherty (41st), Liberty (47th), Woodland Park (56th) and Palmer Ridge (59th) followed.
Afterward, Oberg - the only area wrestler to make the finals match besides Cougars junior Jess Hankin, who lost in a 6-4 decision to Pueblo County's Hunter Willits) - said if this tournament didn't get you ready for state, nothing will.
"You have the best wrestlers here, and you have to beat one great kid after another to stay in the hunt," said Oberg, alluding to the 64 wrestlers in his weight class and the some 750 in the entire tournament. "This is the best test before state. You start to feel it a little bit once you get to the later rounds, and that's when you have to find a way to keep your intensity up."
He finds his when he thinks about his 10-1 loss to Broomfield's Phil Downing at state in February. He tried to take a defensive approach in that match, he remembers, and realized that could never be his mentality if he wanted to win a state title.
"I need to always be attacking, and find ways to keep scoring," said Oberg, who was ranked Colorado's preseason No. 1 in 152s after Downing moved up to 160. "If I can keep doing that and keep doing the extra work, I see a light at the end of the tunnel."
Oberg was one of three Thunder wrestlers to take second at state last season. The other two, Sam Turner (113) and David Traynor (195), took fifth and third, respectively, at the NCCT.
"I don't think we wrestled close to our potential," Thunder coach Ron Sukle said by phone after he missed Saturday's competition to attend a funeral. "We have to get better, but it's not February yet so we're OK."
Now, however, it's time for a break.
The tournament marked the halfway point to the high school wrestling season as school lets out for winter break. And for teams like Coronado, which had multiple kids who went straight from a state championship in football to wrestling, it's a much needed one at that.
"We're a little banged up right now," said Cougars coach Matt Brickell, who sat out a number of his wrestlers at the NCCT, including two-time state champion Trent Watson. "We'll be ready to get back out here though."
Sanctioned high school wrestling practice can resume on Dec. 28th.