About three weeks before empty arenas and a lack of sports became the norm in society, a pair of Grand Junction High School wrestlers cemented themselves in Colorado prep history in a mostly full Pepsi Center.
Senior Dawson Collins and junior Kieran Thompson were among the few in 2020 who got to achieve their dreams in front of a cheering crowd.
Collins, in his final prep match, won a 3-2 decision over Denver East’s Armando Garcia to claim the Class 5A 120-pound title, his second state championship in his four years as a Tiger.
“Honestly, I’m just going to think about all the fans I’ve had here supporting me, the wrestling partners I’ve had and the coaches,” Collins said after his victory in February. “I can’t stop thinking about how amazing this feeling is, what it feels like to be at the top and wrestle at the Pepsi Center in a sold-out arena like this.”
Collins came up short of the state title in 2019, but after the 2020 title, he ended his career with two titles, one second and another third-place finish. After the disappointment of 2019, he would accept nothing short of a state title before moving on to college.
Once Collins secured the winning point over Garcia, he remained poised for the remaining 1 minute, 30 seconds, never relinquishing his control of a tight match.
“I was strong mentally the whole match,” Collins said. “I was getting frustrated, but I kept my cool. The old me would’ve gotten frustrated and started doing freaky stuff, but I kept my cool and wrestled my match. I did what I know to do.”
Collins’ senior season got off to a great start as well. In December 2019, the became only the third wrestler to be a four-time champ at the prestigious Warrior Classic.
Tiger teammate Kieran Thompson also returned to the Western Slope with a state title, his first, after winning his first match against Ponderosa’s Jaron Mahler in three tries throughout the season. Thompson took Mahler down in overtime for a 3-1 win and the 132-pound state championship.
“He’s a long, lengthy opponent,” Thompson said. “He’s a very good opponent. He’s good at keeping his distance. So it was about making him uncomfortable, reeling him in close, blocking shots and keeping my feet moving.”
Collins now wrestles for Utah Valley University, which just began its season before Christmas. That leaves Thompson, now a senior, as the top wrestler in the program who will look to end his career as a back-to-back champion this winter.
Three other local wrestlers came home with third-place finishes at state.
Grand Junction senior Christian Hafey claimed third at 160 pounds in 5A. In 4A, Central’s Luke Pleasant (132) Palisade’s Judah Guajardo (120) both finished third.
Other Western Slope wrestlers came away from the state tournament with success and disappointment.
One of the biggest storylines of the Class 2A state tournament was with Cedaredge’s Trey Geyer.
The junior had won state titles in his first two seasons and was on track to join the elite group of four-time state champions.
But it wasn’t to be.
Lyon’s Oran Huff dominated the 126-pound state title match, beating Geyer 13-6 to win the title with a 50-1 record.
The only other Western Slope wrestler to a win a state title was Paonia senior Grey Neal, who won the 2A 160-pound title. It was Paonia’s first individual state title since 2017.