2/27/2008 3:58:00 PM   

Photo by Courtney Oakes/The Aurora Sentinel

Aurora Central senior Daniel Armijo, right, gets a pat from Trojans' coach Conrad Parra after a 135-pound consolation match on Feb. 23 at the Class 5A state wrestling tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Armijo placed fourth.

Photo by Courtney Oakes/The Aurora Sentinel

Smoky Hill senior Nolan Myers, right, gets a hug from Buffaloes' coach Jim Opperman after a 125-pound consolation semifinal victory at the Class 5A state wrestling tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Myers placed fourth.
Wrestling: Suffering wrestlers earn some state satisfaction
Myers, Armijo end wait to climb medal podium

By Courtney Oakes
The Aurora Sentinel

Redemption was bittersweet for Smoky Hill's Nolan Myers and Aurora Central's Daniel Armijo at the Class 5A state wrestling tournament.

Both finally ended their previous disappointment by earning their way onto the medal stand - each taking fourth at 125 pounds and 135 pounds, respectively - but they also couldn't help but think what could have been if things had gone slightly different at the Pepsi Center.

Myers lost a 4-3 nailbiter to Ponderosa sophomore Zeke Hofer in the semifinals to keep him out of the championship, a match he dominated save for the final score, while Armijo suffered two close losses to Ponderosa freshman Austin Gabel.

"It was pretty intense, but you get some and you lose some," said Myers, who finished with a 43-7 record after losing a 10-6 decision to Standley Lake's Gavin Peters in the third-place match. "There's always room where I could have done better, but I'm pretty happy."

Myers underwent a transformation this season with the help of new coach Jim Opperman and proved himself a member of the state's elite group of wrestlers. He finished with more than 100 wins in the past three seasons.

Opperman could tell his standout enjoyed making his way on the podium, but felt he could have been a lot higher.

"When you come down here, you are coming to win the whole thing," Opperman said. "Nolan had a match in the semis that we felt could have gone the other way. He's happy with where he finished, but he's also disappointed. He wrestled his best stuff this weekend."

Armijo also held his own against some powerhouses after a disappointing result last year. He lost 4-1 to Gabel in the quarterfinals and lost to him again 2-1 in the 135-pound third-place match

"After I lost, I was upset, but now it's hit me," said Armijo, who hopes to wrestle at the Colorado School of Mines next year. "I placed at the biggest tournament of the year. I was looking forward to this and I did it."

Overland junior Joshua Christopher returned to the state tournament, where he went 1-2 while wrestling for Montbello.

Christopher sat out half the season after transferring, so he came into state with a record of just 13-7. He nearly stunned eventual finalist Tino Laureles of Rocky Mountain in the first round before getting pinned, but won three of his last five matches - two by way of pin - to take sixth.

"There were some matches I know I should have won," said Christopher, who lost to Ponderosa sophomore Steven Kelly in the fifth-place match. "Next year, I know I'm going to push myself to the limits and try to take first or second. I'm not going to be satisfied with third or fourth, not in my senior year."

Grandview senior Bryce Lucherini came into the tournament determined to better the fourth-place finish his brother Matt had at 160 pounds in 2006, but he ended up in sixth at 152.

Lucherini won his first match against Northglenn's Derek Stearns before a 7-0 quarterfinal loss to eventual finalist Stephone Kling of Ponderosa. He picked up big wins over Poudre's Zach Bekkedahl and ThunderRidge's Garrett Stowall in the consolation round before he was stopped by Lewis-Palmer's Chad Stich in the consolation semifinals.

Douglas County's Ryan Swanson pinned Lucherini in the fifth-place match.