Hotchkiss’ Mendoza wins in final seconds

Hotchkiss 160-pounder Joe Boyle, top, defeated Highland’s Chris Villalobos on Thursday with a pin during the first round of the Class 3A state wrestling tournament in Denver.

Olathe 106-pounder Austin Shank wins his match Thursday over Trinidad’s Justin Maldonado during the Class 3A state wrestling tournament in Denver.

DENVER­ — First he used his elbow to winch his 195-pound frame off a Pepsi Center mat, just enough to raise a shoulder blade and avoid being pinned late in the third period.

Then with 3 seconds left Thursday, Hotchkiss’s David Mendoza did it again, pushing the back of his head with enough strength to arc his back and break the pin hold of Trinidad’s Oscar Marez before flipping over Marez and scoring a reversal for a 12-9 win in the first round of the Class 3A state wrestling tournament.

Mendoza (17-10), had a 10-5 lead and hung on to advance to face Berthoud’s Kagen Hennig in today’s quarterfinals, beginning at 10 a.m.

“You just have to believe you can get out of any move,” Mendoza said. “And technique is more important than strength.”

Thursday was all about wrestlers trying to get out of the first round, any way possible.

Olathe, in particular, advanced seven of nine wrestlers, including two-time state champion Zach Shank, a 132-pounder looking to become a four-time state finalist. Shank pinned Highland’s Nathan White in 34 seconds.

Some tried to shake off their nerves, the intimidation of such a large arena, and others clung to wins, refusing to lose on opening day.

That was Olathe 126-pounder Jacob Solseth, who held his opponent’s ankle as time ran out.

In the third period, as time was ticking close to zero, there was Solseth, squeezing the ankle of Berthoud’s Alex Kingsley, who was on his feet, trying to score an escape point and tie the match at 1-1.

But Solseth, with Kingsley’s hand smashing his forehead into the mat, for nearly a minute did not lose grip of the ankle, and took the 1-0 win into the quarterfinals, where he will face Lamar senior Darrick Adame (35-2).

Solseth, moments after the match, still was showing some jitters, prodding his fingers with one hand, and then switching to squeeze the others, as he spoke.

“I wrestled smooth,” Solseth said, “instead of getting in there and butting heads and wrestling hard. Instead of going after him and taking him down, I just held on to win 1-0.”

Austin Shank (106 pounds), Trenton Piatt (113), Wyatt Yarnell (45), Ronnie Mumm (152), and Casey Childs (285) also advanced for Olathe.

Also for Hotchkiss, 220-pounder Connor Beard (22-2) pinned Clear Creek’s Walter Michnier in 41 seconds and 160-pounder Joe Boyle advanced with a 2:32 pin over Highland’s Chris Villalobos.


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