Brady Hankin garnered headlines around the state when he won the 106-pound Class 3A wrestling title Feb. 23 at the Pepsi Center.
By capturing gold, the Woodland Park freshman established himself as a serious force to be reckoned with for years. His ultimate high school wrestling goal is to become a four-time state champ, something accomplished just 24 times in Colorado.
Five of Hankin’s teammates joined him in Denver for the memorable three days.
Earlier on Feb. 23, Panthers junior Cole Gray (160) pinned Bennett’s Mac Copeland two minutes and 51 seconds into their match to capture third place. Gray, a three-time state qualifier, went 5-1 at the state tournament to finish his season with a 39-5 record.
Gray fell into the consolation finals after losing his quarterfinals match to Platte Valley’s Josh Yancey, 7-5. Yancey lost in the finals to Valley’s Josiah Whaley, 7-0.
“Cole was crushed for two hours after that match, if not longer,” said Woodland Park coach Keith Sieracki. “But he knew he had to endure and overcome the situation. The whole thing was a great learning lesson for him. He made it a point to let everyone know that he should have been there.”
At the time Gray captured third place, it was the highest finish by a Woodland Park wrestler in the seven years Sieracki has been coach of the team. Prior to Gray, the best Woodland Park finishers under Sieracki were then-sophomore Zach Dooley (fourth, 2018), senior Garrick Arias (fifth, 2013) and senior Thomas Chisholm (sixth, 2012).
Gray’s finish was also the best by a Woodland Park wrestler since Andy Moore took second in 2005 in the 275-pound 4A division. Moore finished third in 2004.
Hankin was supported in his finals match by Gray, junior Colton Simonis (132, 1-2 at state), Dooley (113, 2-2), senior Jacob Garner (170, 0-2) and senior Brad Conlin (138, 0-2).
Sieracki believes the future looks bright for Woodland Park wrestlers.
“I hope we become a dynasty,” he said. “We return four state qualifiers next year, and we have a bunch of quality wrestlers coming through our program in the next few years. We could become a powerhouse for the next 10 to 12 years.”
On another note, former Woodland Park wrestler Holt Brashears finished second in 3A at 195 pounds representing Salida. Brashears, a senior, wrestled for Woodland Park as a freshman and sophomore before moving to Salida with his family.
“Holt and I talked at the state tournament, and I am very happy for him,” Sieracki said.
As for Hankin, he wrestles year-round, traveling to tournaments around the country.
“Brady is very fundamentally sound and has an amazing work ethic,” Sieracki said. “He understands he has to put in a lot of work to improve.”
Sieracki, a former two-time national champion as a member of the Army’s World-Class program, said Hankin has the talent to become a superstar in the sport.
“I see no reason why he can’t be the next Henry Cejudo,” Sieracki said.
Cejudo was a two-time state champion at Coronado and won a Gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.