DENVER — Cody Weitzel has wrestled numerous times in tournaments much bigger and arguably more illustrious than the Class 5A state wrestling championships at the Pepsi Center.
But that didn’t stop the butterflies from coming to the Columbine freshman.
“I’ve been to a lot of really big national tournaments and I thought I wasn’t going to be affected,” Weitzel said.
Weitzel overcame his nerves, rebounding from one defeat to place third in the 103-pound weight class on Feb. 21.
Weitzel, one of just three Rebels to advance to state, finished his season with a 40-3 record. After notching two victories, Weitzel was defeated in the semifinals by Pine Creek sophomore Josh Martinez.
“I really wrestled as hard as I could,” Weitzel said of his loss to Martinez. “I gave it my all. He was a good kid.”
Weitzel would win his next two matches after losing to Martinez, including a victorious rematch over first-round opponent Keegan Gavaldon of Fort Collins.
The nerves began for Weitzel in the first round. He needed just 29 seconds to score a takedown against Gavaldon, and he would extend his lead to 4-0 on a reversal in the second period.
But Gavaldon would cut it to 4-2 in the third and Weitzel appeared on the brink of something bad as he admits he was wrestling not to lose, rather than win.
“I was really nervous,” said Weitzel, who did hold on to win his first match by two points.
Weitzel advanced to the semifinals after he scored a 7-4 decision over Cherry Creek freshman Brady Tellis. In the semifinal, Weitzel was unable to score as Martinez notched an 8-0 major decision.
Weitzel was again paired with Gavaldon, whom he dominated throughout a 9-0 major decision to book a spot in the consolation final. Against Loveland’s Chance Leingang, Weitzel was in enough control to score a nifty 7-3 decision.
It was a perfect ending for an athlete that made a goal of placing in the top three when the season began.
“I have nothing to be disappointed about,” he said.
Weitzel was the highlight for area wrestling. Columbine teammates R.J. Gaither and Jeremy Todd both went 1-2 at state, as did Chatfield’s Dakota Thayer. Dakota Ridge senior Justin Jackson went 0-2.
Gaither drew Rocky Mountain senior and eventual state champion Tino Laureles in their 135-pound opener. Gaither did manage get Laureles on his back, but was soundly beaten via a 19-3 technical fall.
Gaither, who finished his season 41-11, defeated Andrew Onorato of Regis via a 10-0 major decision before being eliminated by Grand Junction’s Jessie Hoffschneider on a major decision.
Todd flat ran out of gas in his first-round match against Cherry Creek junior Trey Kirk. Todd was up early before slipped to a 16-9 decision.
Todd pinned Logan Steppan of Heritage at the 4:09 mark in the consolation bracket, before he was eliminated on a 7-5 decision in favor of Joey Schoenberger of Fountain-Fort Carson.
Thayer lost his 119-pound opener via a 10-5 decision. Thayer got off to a poor start against Pomona sophomore Sam Jones and could not claw his way back, despite wrestling a much better second and third periods. In consolations, Thayer scored a 7-1 victory in his first match, before going out on a 13-3 major decision.
Jackson, a senior, suffered a pair of 17-2 technical fall losses. Jackson first lost to Max Wessell of Boulder.