Brady Hankin wasn’t nervous. Not in the least bit. But the Woodland Park freshman could sense that people in his corner were tense.
“Everyone was freaking out,” Hankin said. “My dad. My coach. My teammates.
“So I told myself it was best get the pin sooner than later.”
Hankin’s pin of Alamosa’s Davian Chavez — the defending state champion — 83 seconds into the second period of their state championship match Feb. 23 at the Pepsi Center in Denver capped what might be the best season of a Panthers wrestler in school history.
By winning the Class 3A 106-pound title, Hankin becomes the first Woodland Park wrestler in 30 years (Jason Roshek in 1989) to win the top prize, and only the third Panther in history (Rick Stennett in 1975) to win a state championship.
“It’s awesome to be the first one in such a long time,” said Hankin, who went 4-0 at the state tournament to finish 34-1 on the season. “I just wish someone else could have done it with me – Cole (Gray) – but it feels great.”
Gray, a 160-pounder, is one of Hankin’s main wrestling partners during practices. The Woodland Park junior went 5-1 at the state tournament and captured third place. Gray was making his third state tournament appearance.
Hankin was supported in his finals match by Gray and four of his other teammates who also qualified for state. That list included Colton Simonis (132, 1-2 at state), Zach Dooley (113, 2-2), Jacob Garner (170, 0-2) and Brad Conlin (138, 0-2).
Jason Roshek was also in attendance.
There was more than a 24-hour buildup to Hankin’s title match showdown with the sophomore Chavez. Hankin won his semifinals match over Weld County’s Robert Estrada (8-3) about 5:30 p.m. on Friday and didn’t wrestle his title match until about 7 p.m. on Saturday.
“I told Brady, ‘Just be smart with the food you put in your body and when you go back out there leave it all on the mat,’” said Woodland Park coach Keith Sieracki.
Shortly after the referee raised Hankin’s arm and proclaimed him state champion, Hankin hugged his father, Casey – a Woodland Park assistant coach – Sieracki and his teammates, who were close by in the stands.
By winning a state title as a freshman, Hankin puts himself in position to achieve a rare feat in the annals of Colorado wrestling. Only 24 grapplers in history have won four state championships.
“I have to win two more times and then I can start to think about it,” Hankin said with a smile.
Hankin said he will move up in weight class next year.
“I won’t be able to stay at 106 pounds; it will be too hard,” he said. “I’ll go to 113 or 120.”
Sieracki said Hankin’s achievement is “awesome.”
“They don’t come along all the time,” Sieracki said.