Denver Soroco's Josh Iacovetto might have had one less month to prepare than last year, but he returned to the Pepsi Center equally as ready to earn a top finish.
The 103-pound wrestler, who captured third at last year's state tournament and started this season in January, easily advanced to the second round of the state tournament Thursday.
In a series of takedowns, reversals and near falls, Iacovetto worked his way to a third period technical fall over Akron's Brian Sampson.
"I kept taking it to him. I didn't let up and that is what I needed to do to win it," Iacovetto said. "I wanted to get out there and win the first match."
Iacovetto had a late start to the season, returning to the mat in early January after hernia surgery. But he said he is back at 100 percent and is looking to improve on his performance at last year's state meet.
"I still got a long row to hoe," Iacovetto said after his 18-2 win. "I'm trying to go all the way. I got a pretty good chance at it if I just wrestle the way I know how to wrestle."
Today, Iacovetto will take on Limon's Shane Richie, who upset Center's A.J. Martinez in an 18-6 match.
Iacovetto was one of six area wrestlers to capture a win in the preliminary round of the 2A state tournament Thursday.
In 4A action, Steamboat's Will Zimmerer was pinned in his first match to the third-ranked heavyweight in the state, Broomfield's Vinnie Palone.
It did not take long for Hayden's 152-pounder Kelly Bruchez and 215-pounder Tanner Copeland to calm state tournament nerves as they recorded falls early in the first period of their matches.
Bruchez, who entered the tournament with a 25-3 record, quickly caught Anton's Justin Trujillo in a headlock for a near fall. He finished the match by working in a cradle to pin Trujillo with 1:16 left in the first period.
"(Starting with a pin) was perfect. I just wanted to stay calm," Bruchez said.
With a quick pin, Bruchez had time to watch the wrestlers that could become potential threats in the next two days. He kept his eye on Peyton's Lee Fairbanks, a wrestler that sent him out of the tournament last year.
With a win in overtime, Fairbanks goes on to wrestle Bruchez in the second round of the tournament today.
"I watched the match with Fairbanks," Bruchez said. "If I just come out and wrestle aggressively and with no mistakes, I think I can (win)."
It took just 32 seconds for Copeland to pin South Park's James Brennan. Copeland quickly took Brennan down and put him in a reverse half nelson, a pinning combination that worked.
"It was a nice easy match to start out with, to get warmed up," Copeland said. "I'm taking it one match at a time."
Copeland will start today off with a match against Peyton's Eddie Borgen, who also recorded a fall Thursday.
In the closest match of the tournament for area wrestlers, Tiger Kevin Miller beat Fowler's Luke Baldwin 8-4. Going into the second period up two points, Miller gained anther two when he went in for a takedown and gained control of Baldwin to put the match 0-4 at the end of the second. Baldwin came out strong in the final period tacking on three points, but Miller got in another takedown for a 6-3 lead.
With less than a minute left in the match, Baldwin escaped to close the gap to two points. But Miller ended the match in control by taking down Baldwin and finish with a 8-4 win.
For the Rams, freshmen Matt Iacovetto and Whittier Gates also advance to the second round today.
Iacovetto had a 15-6 win over Holly's Cooper Hayes and Gates pinned Anton's Ryan Trujillo in the second period.
Eight of the 14 area wrestlers who traveled to Denver lost in the preliminary round, but will get the chance to wrestle back for third place.