Wrestlers get first taste of state tourney

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By Michael Hicks

For Chatfield’s Jake Thayer and Columbine’s Karl Breidenbach it was their first time wrestling at the 5A state tournament at Denver’s Pepsi Center. As the three-day tournament began Feb. 21 they were in the same boat — looking for victories and that elusive state title. The Columbine Courier takes you for the ride, looking at their quest for championship gold.


Being at the 5A state tournament isn’t all that unusual for Jake Thayer. He’s been there quite a few times, mostly watching his teammates, including older brother Dakota, wrestle. But 2013 was his chance to take the mat.
“It’s unbelievable. Just looking up and seeing everybody it’s unreal,” the Chatfield senior 132-pounder said. “You definitely don’t realize it when you’re watching it just how big it is. I can’t think of the words. It’s amazing. I try not to think so much about it because it is so unreal.”
But it didn’t faze the veteran wrestler and Region 1 runner-up. He made his state debut with a 5-2 decision over Chaparral’s Ben Trygstad, scoring three near-fall points late in the third period. It was one of four victories en route to a fifth-place finish.
“I was just trying to work anything that he’d give me,” Thayer said of his victory over Trygstad. “I saw an opportunity for the cradle and thought I’d might as well throw it now. It worked out for me in the end.”
Thayer (43-10) reached the state quarterfinals, losing by a 6-2 decision to Jeffco rival P.T. Garcia of Bear Creek. But that did little to slow him down. Back-to-back wins put him in the consolation semifinals. A loss there dropped him into the fifth-place match where he scored an 8-5 decision over another Jeffco foe in Bennie Pachello of Arvada West.
His 8-5 win in the third round of consolations over Downey Wood of Fountain-Fort Carson assured Thayer of a medal. There were few words to describe his feelings.
“Oh my gosh, I can’t even describe it. It feels so good,” Thayer said.
Now there’s no questioning Thayer’s athletic ability, but he only wrestles during the high school season. Still, he proved his worth on the mat last weekend.
“I only get him for three months. He’s a three-sport athlete. He’s one of the best athletes here,” Chatfield Senior head coach Robert Routh said.
Thayer started the season at 138 pounds, but the decision was made to drop back to 132 because it was more manageable and gave him a better shot at success.
“We made that decision and it worked out for us,” Thayer said.
So what would older brother Dakota think? After all he came close twice to earning a medal, but fell just short.
“He’ll be happy for me, but he could still come back and kick my butt,” Thayer said.
Dakota Thayer is a freshman 133-pounder at California Baptist University, but little brother is a state medalist.

Karl Breidenbach had mixed feelings when the pairings for the 5A state tournament at 152 pounds came out last week and rightfully so. His opponent was a familiar foe in Pomona’s Ethan Wright.
“He’d beaten me, and I’d beaten him. I knew it was going to be a dogfight. He wasn’t going to turn over, and I knew I wasn’t going to give up,” the Columbine junior said. “Ultimately, it came down to the intangibles. Rather or not he could finish would show. Honestly, last time he didn’t do too good of a job of that.”
That was at the 5A Jeffco League championships two weeks earlier where Breidenbach, a regional runner-up, won in overtime. That avenged Wright’s victory at the University of Northern Colorado Christmas tournament in December. Wright, a state champion who transferred in from Fowler, won the rubber match on Feb. 21 at Denver’s Pepsi Center, scoring a 10-4 decision. The Pomona wrestler led 8-1 early in the third period before holding on.
“What can I say he’s a really good wrestler. His technique is really good,” Breidenbach said. “The last time we wrestled I beat him. A lot of that may have been him having a bad day and I was having a good day. Really it’s the subtle things that make a difference.”
The setback, though, didn’t slow Breidenbach (38-11). Far from it. He came back to win four consecutive times in the consolation bracket en route to a fourth-place finish.
“This is huge for him as far as seeding for those early tournaments (next year) being a returning state placer,” Columbine head coach Mark Baltazar said.
While being at state was a whole new experience, Breidenbach said, it didn’t seem to faze him.
“He is mature for his age, and it shows on the mat,” Baltazar said.
That was especially true in his 5-3 medal-deciding victory over Fruita Monument’s Kaden Fife. Breidenbach defeated Fife last week in the regional tournament. Beating him a second time can sometimes be a difficult task.
“Wrestling a kid like that is always dangerous. They can always come back and beat you. He wrestled well,” Baltazar said.
In the third-place bout, Ponderosa’s Kelton Good edged Breidenbach 6-5.
The state tournament is a totally different beast than what wrestlers are used to during the regular season, Breidenbach said.
“It’s different. It’s a lot bigger, much bigger than any atmosphere we’ve wrestled at thus far,” Breidenbach said. “It’s something completely new and different.”
But considering how he fared at this year’s state tournament he handled it well. Quite well in fact.

Contact Michael Hicks at sports@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.