A long journey
DENVER — It was a long journey back to the Colorado state wrestling championships for Ian Konrad, but he made it.
The Fruita Monument High School junior qualified for state as a freshman, but he missed his sophomore season with a back injury.
“When I first walked in, I felt really happy to be back,” Konrad said. “It’s been the hardest journey of my life. When I walked in here after weigh-ins, I took a second to take it in, then it was time to focus.
“I’m not letting the crowd or anything get to me. I think that’s the only way you can be successful. You can’t be star-struck.”
Konrad tuned in to his match, defeating Mountain Range’s Zach Martinez 8-6 at 120 pounds in Thursday’s first round at the Pepsi Center.
“He did great,” Van Hoose said. “The first one is always tough. You’ve got to get the first one under your belt.”
Konrad has his sights set on placing this year. He was one round shy of placing as a freshman.
“I didn’t wrestle my best, but I got the job done,” Konrad said. “The first round is always the hardest for me, especially at state. There’s a little bit of pressure.”
Konrad was one of four Wildcats to advance to the quarterfinals. The others were Isaac Rodriguez (145), Jared Seely (170) and Colt Chatfield (220).
Fruita Monument is in 11th place with 11.5 points. Pomona is first with 22.5 points. Greeley West is second with 19.5.
Central and Grand Junction each had two wrestlers advance to the quarterfinals. The Tigers are 19th with 7.5 points. Central is 21st with seven.
Central’s Jacob Rubalcaba defeated Lucas Rivas of ThunderRidge 14-3 in the first round at 126 pounds.
“It’s important to make sure you go out in your first match like it’s a championship match,” Rubalcaba said. “You want to go out there and give it all you’ve got. You don’t want to hold anything back. If you go out with jitters, you’ve got to get them out by going hard and don’t let up.”
After his match, Rubalcaba hugged Denver East’s Devon Zavala, who was coming on to wrestle on the same mat.
“What helped me was I got to drill with Bubba (Zavala on Wednesday),” Rubalacaba said. “We’ve been friends since I met him my freshman year at the Warrior Classic.”
Rubalcaba wasn’t so confident he’d be in contention to place after a slow start to the season. Rubalcaba dislocated an ankle in the first tournament of the season and missed the first month of the season, including the Warrior Classic. He returned in January for the Jackpot Duals.
“Missing part of my season, I was skeptical that I would do as good as I did last year,” Rubalcaba said. “I told myself to give it everything you had. I had nothing to lose.”
Teammate Caleb Hendricks pinned Westminster’s Gabe Grimaldo in the third period at 170 pounds.
“Usually I look ahead to who’s next in my bracket,” Hendricks said. “This time, I concentrated on my first match.”
Grand Junction’s Jacob Trujillo (145) and Cody Lacy (106) won their first-round matches.