In front of a packed crowd at the Pepsi Center last month, Coronado wrestler Angel Flores achieved the ultimate prize.
A state title.
But his story doesn't start there. It started with heartbreak at the Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament in Greeley, considered annually one of the toughest, biggest tournaments of the high school season. He lost to a nationally ranked wrestler, Daniel Cardenas of Pomona, at 138 pounds and finished in third place.
Not long after, Flores did some soul-searching and decided to drop two weight classes to up his chances of a state title. That sacrifice resulted in a memorable celebration with his coaches, family and friends after he won the 126-pound state title in the Class 4A tournament Feb. 22.
His efforts landed him The Gazette Preps 2019-20 Lower Weights Wrestling Peak Performer of the Year honor.
Flores started the season heavy and determined. But after the loss to Cardenas, he and his coach Matt Brickell decided to drop a couple of weight classes. Why two? Because they were stacked. Take, for example, at 132, where Windsor's Dominick Serrano ending up winning it all to cap off his prep career with four state titles.
"It was definitely one of the hardest things I've ever done," Flores said. "I never want to cut weight but I wanted that title my senior year. You gotta do what you gotta do. Looking back, it was all worth it."
He dominated early on in his state tournament run with pins in his first two matches. "Before every match, I was thinking nobody worked harder than me. Nobody deserved it more than I do. That pushed me through the tournament," he said.
Then, came the semifinals. To Flores and his coaches, this was the championship match. His opponent, Loveland's Cody Thompson, was the top-ranked wrestler before Flores dropped to 126. The competitiveness showed, as Flores survived with an 8-6 decision.
In the title match, Flores triumphed over Mountain View's Malachi Contreras with an 11-1 major decision and finished his senior season with a 41-1 record.
"His senior year was all about doing everything right," Brickell said. "Eating right, training right and competing right. He wrestled to win. It is great to see a kid stay disciplined and everything works out in the end."