DENVER — New year. New emotions.
As the 2008 Class 5A state wrestling tournament began Feb. 21 at the Pepsi Center, Dakota Ridge senior Stas Kardas was hoping to improve upon 2007’s sixth-place finish.
Compiling a regional title and a 35-1 regular season record, Kardas appeared to have the capability to do just that as the 2008 tournament got underway.
But, Rampart’s Logan Burch threw up a pair of roadblocks, keeping Kardas stuck in a familiar position, as he took home the sixth-place medal in the 119-pound weight class.
Earning a spot on the medal stand two consecutive years is nothing to bat your eyes at, but it left Kardas feeling like he could’ve done a little bit more.
“I’m a little disappointed,” said Kardas, who finished the year with an impressive 38-4 record. “I don’t think I wrestled as well as I could have this weekend. I should’ve won my second match, and my last two matches, for sure.”
Kardas and Burch first met up in the quarterfinal round. Burch jumped out to a 7-2 lead after two periods. Kardas quickly scored a takedown in the third to draw within three, but wound up being reversed and couldn’t get off the mat before the buzzer sounded. The 9-4 decision loss sent Kardas to the consolation bracket.
There, Kardas seemed to regain his momentum. He scored a 14-5 major decision over Derek Garcia of Palmer and pinned Geronimo Gemoya of Grand Junction in 1 minute, 47 seconds to advance to the consolation semifinals.
In the semifinal, Kardas lost to eventual third-place finisher Carter McElhany of Coronado, 10-1, setting up a rematch with Burch for fifth-place.
The score was a little bit closer but the result was still the same as Kardas dropped a decision to finish in the sixth spot.
“I was hoping to improve a little more,” Kardas said. “It just didn’t work out that way.”
One thing Kardas was excited about was the fact that this year, he wasn’t the only Dakota Ridge wrestler to compete at state.
Joining Kardas on the mat were Steve Martinez (171 pounds) and Jason Marts (189).
“I think Dakota wrestling is only going to keep improving,” Kardas said. “We had a great year and it was a lot of fun being a part of this team.”
Neither Martinez or Marts were able to pick up a win at state, but both wrestled hard in their two matches.
Martinez dropped a razor-thin 2-1 decision to Loveland’s Julian Cota. Cota scored a first period takedown, and that proved to be enough for the victory. Marts also had a close match on Feb. 22, battling Jeremy Kimball of Doherty to a 5-2 decision.
After a scoreless first period, Kimball took the lead 2-1 with a takedown late in the period. In the third and decisive period, Kimball scored a point for returning to a neutral base, then nailed a takedown to lock up the win.
Columbine’s R.J. Gaither also was shutout at state, but he didn’t go down without a fight. Gaither forced overtime with 30 seconds remaining in his 130-pound consolation bout against Joshua Christopher of Overland by getting to a neutral base.
With the score knotted at 6-6, the match went into a 1-minute sudden-victory overtime period. Christopher shot in on Gaither and finished the takedown, earning a 8-6 decision in the process.
First-round action, which resembles a cross between a rodeo and mosh pit, saw one victory and three losses for the local quartet on Feb. 21.
As a regional champion, Kardas got the favorable matchup he deserved and made quick work of it. Facing off against Standley Lake sophomore Joe Solano (27-18), Kardas needed just 50 seconds to notch a pin and scoot off the mat for the evening.
Martinez and Marts would not be so fortunate, as both labored in their first matches and were defeated.
Martinez drew Arapahoe junior Nate Johnson and fell behind 4-0 before scoring a reversal to cut the deficit to 4-2. Martinez was down 6-2 entering the second period but escaped from the bottom position to cut Johnson’s lead in half.
But Johnson would take over the second period, extending his lead to 12-5 before settling for a 14-9 decision to improve to 31-7 on the season.
Marts’ slugfest style gave Loveland senior – and eventual 189 champion – Luke Vandenburg fits. Marts – sporting red-dyed hair – was patient and tough, keeping the score close or tied until the third period when the longer Vandenburg was able to score enough for an 8-4 victory.
Vandenburg finished the season 43-1 after defeating ThunderRidge’s James Breidel with a 5-2 decision.
Gaither’s first trip to state began with Lewis-Palmer junior Sean Stoneham, who got an early lead and was able to grind out a 7-4 decision.
Staff writer Brian Forbes contributed to this report.