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Eagles make statement

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By Brian Forbes

It’s hard to look tough holding an oversized teddy bear.

Steve Martinez pulled it off Jan. 31.

After wrestling up a weight, notching a pin and helping Dakota Ridge seal the Class 5A Jefferson County League south title for the first time since 2002, Martinez had earned the right to celebrate however he chose.

And he chose a teddy bear.

OK, so the bear was for the upcoming Sweethearts Dance, but the scene was quite a contrast to the toughness the Eagles showed as they rolled through Columbine for a 57-22 victory.

Martinez was just one of several examples. The 171-pounder rallied from an early takedown to pin Brandon Morris in 2 minutes, 48 seconds to win the 189-pound weight class.

“I was a little intimidated at first, just going up a weight class, but then I was just confident in doing what I can do,” said Martinez, a junior. “I knew I could get out from the bottom, and once I got on top I just worked my stuff.”

It was one of seven pins for the Eagles, who also won two weight classes via forfeit and got a 7-1 decision by Jason Marts – also wrestling up a weight – to win at 215.

The depleted Rebels, who were down seven varsity wrestlers from the start of the season, won four weights via two pins, a major decision and forfeit.

It was a carnival atmosphere at Dakota Ridge. There was a big crowd, someone dressed up in a giant cow costume from Chick-fil-A that was slinging T-shirts into the stands, and there was first-year Eagles coach Larry May enthusiastically hanging – and twisting – on every point.

“It’s been a few years, but we’re turning the program around, getting more and more kids out and I’m excited,” May said.

The excitement came fast and furious, beginning with the dramatic opener at 140 pounds.

Dakota Ridge’s Jeremy Gibson trailed Columbine’s Austin Velasquez 6-3 at the start of the second period but scored a takedown and looked in control. Velasquez was inches from a crucial reverse but Gibson didn’t let up and got the pin.

The Rebels answered with an 18-6 major decision victory by Tony Valensa at 145 pounds before the Eagles won the next five weights to surge ahead.

Four of Dakota Ridge’s pins came in the first period. The fastest went to 119-pound Stas Kardas who needed just 23 seconds to stick Cole Hogan.

“I’m proud of my team,” Kardas said. “I didn’t think they would do this good. I didn’t think they would grow this much.”

Andrew Lombardi got the Rebels their first pin when he took the heavyweight contest over Roman Fentinelli at the 1:58 mark.

Teammate R.J. Gaither wasone second faster in his 130-pound match, where he took care of Kyle Reichenbach.

“They had a lot of emotion out here,” Rebels coach Coe Branch said of the Eagles. “It’s been a while since they beat us, so I give it to them for wrestling hard.”