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Hats off to champ Kardas

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By Brian Forbes

You got your Indiana Jones hat, the Panama Jack hat, your hats of leather, straw, silk and fur. And don’t forget the gambler hat, golf hat, cowboy hat, pith helmet and Napoleon’s iconic bicorn hat.

Stas Kardas has grandma’s hat.

It’s a warm hat, complete with nice wool, striking colors, ear flaps and tassles for tying around the chin, but more for flapping in the wind.

If you’re Kardas, they’re more for flapping in the win.

The Dakota Ridge senior punched his ticket to the Class 5A state wrestling tournament for the fourth time on Feb. 16 by winning the 119-pound bracket in the Region 4 tournament at Columbine.

Kardas improved his record this season to 35-1 and is one of three Eagles to advance to the double-elimination tournament which begins Feb. 21 at the Pepsi Center. And he did it in his typical style, which has him wearing his favorite hat before and after his time on the mat.

“My grandma made me the hat. It’s probably a good luck charm,” Kardas said. “She made a couple kids on the team a hat.”

Kardas, whose only loss this season was against a 130-pound foe, went the distance against Centaurus’ Graham Hebert during his 8-6 victory. Kardas was up 4-0 in the first period with a takedown and nearfall points and extended it to 6-2 with a takedown late in the second.

But a reverse at the buzzer cut the lead to 6-4 and Kardas would need a reversal in the third period to get enough points for the victory.

Kardas will be joined at state by junior Steve Martinez (third place, 171 pounds) and sophomore Jason Marts (fourth place, 189).

“I proud of my teammates,” Kardas said. “They actually came back and I had a few people come to state with me. I’m very proud of them for that.”

On the verge of his fourth trip to arguably the state’s most anticipated state finale, Kardas said the anticipation remains the same.

“It’s still kind of energetic, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Martinez endured two close matches to advance to the consolation final. Martinez dropped out of the championship bracket with a 11-8 loss to Tolan Durrant of Heritage before edging Enos Ozekin of Grandview 11-10 to get in the third-place match.

Taking on Daniel Peters of Lakewood for the final, Martinez trailed early and was tied 2-2 entering the third period. Martinez scored two points with 45 seconds remaining and picked up crucial nearfall points with 32 seconds left to score a 6-2 decision.

Marts’ final three matches were arguably some of the most stunning and gutiest of the tournament.

It started with a 7-4, double-overtime loss to Justin Whirlow of Durango, which knocked Marts out of the championship bracket.

Marts’ next match was against Bill VanHorn of Heritage and was a 0-0 stalemate through the first two periods. Marts fell behind 3-0 but fought back to tie the score before pinning VanHorn with 12 seconds remaining before overtime.

Overtime came again for Marts in the consolation final against Jacob Bomareto of Grandview. The two battled through two overtimes before Bomareto prevailed with a 3-2 decision.

Columbine junior R.J. Gaither knows the excited feeling of advancing and nothing else as he earned his first trip to state by placing second in the 130-pound weight class. Gaither is a former cross country runner and is in his first season wrestling.

Gaither met a familiar foe in the final when he took on Daryl Jackson of Mitchell, whom he had lost to in the final of Columbine’s tournament. Jackson, a senior who improved to 31-4 this season, showed off his experience with a thorough display of takedowns and technique in the 11-4 decision.

Gaither, however, was proud.

“I lost to him better this time,” he said. “He beat me 14-1 last time.”

Dakota Ridge scored 67 points to place 11th in the 16-team tournament. The Rebels earned 27 points to finish 14th.

The Chatfield Chargers did not advance any wrestlers to state after their Region 3 meet held at Northglenn.

Chatfield scored 20.5 points to place 15th in the 16-team tournament.