Disappointment is a great motivator, which may explain in part why Soroco's Matt Iacovetto heads to the 69th annual State Wrestling Championships with something to prove.
After qualifying for state as a freshman, Iacovetto was forced to watch last year's tournament from the Pepsi Center stands in street clothes because he failed to finish in the top four at regionals as a sophomore.
"It was pretty upsetting," Iacovetto said before practice Tuesday. "It made me work a lot harder. I don't really take it for granted."
All season, Iacovetto (31-7) and Whit Gates (31-3), teammates since Pee Wee wrestling, have competed at a higher level. Both are juniors, but they are wrestling as if they have one more week left in their high school careers.
In other words, they are wrestling the way they have to if they want to win at two of the toughest weight classes that will be contested at this weekend's state tournament that begins Thursday afternoon.
Iacovetto won the Region 2 140-pound championship, defeating Hayden's Jake Doolin, 5-4, in the finals. Gates picked up a regional championship at 152 pounds, upsetting Nucla's Wade Garvey, 5-3, in the finals.
Garvey was ranked second by Tim Yount, editor of On the Mat. The rankings are as of Feb. 10. Gates was ranked third.
If Iacovetto thought getting past Doolin and Mancos' Anthony Mestos was tough at regionals, he is in for a treat with three of the state's top 140-pounders in his half of the 16-man bracket at state.
"I see a determination in both going in that I've never seen in either one of them before," said Soroco coach Doug Gates, who also is Whit's father. "What we try to tell them is don't look ahead. Wrestle each match as if it's your last."
Iacovetto is taking the right approach, though he thought his draw would be more favorable considering he won his region.
"I'm going to have to beat them all anyway," he said.
Whit Gates, on the other hand, is no longer able to hide behind his year in school.
As a junior, Gates is a favorite to win, assuming he -- or anyone -- can topple Hilltop Baptist junior Andy Nicodin, who is a combined 118-4 since his freshman year. Nicodin defeated Hayden's Kelly Bruchez easily to win the 152-pound title last year.
"My confidence is up," Gates said. "I think I got seeded really well."
Last year, Gates admitted after the state tournament, in which he placed sixth, that he wrestled injured. The junior said this year he has felt much better, particularly heading into this weekend.
Gates will face Simla's Jeff Markle in Thursday's opening round match. Iacovetto will meet Antonito's Alfonso Casias. If Iacovetto wins, the fun begins, as he will either square off against defending state champion Rob Marshall or Wiggins' ranked wrestler Craig Potthoff in the next round. A meeting with Doolin won't occur until the finals.
Should Gates win, he will see either Kyle Trautwein of Wiggins or Ryan Trujillo of Antonito.
It certainly would be an even match.
"Matt and I talked even during the season that if one of us went, both of us were going, and we wanted to be at the top," Gates said.
The top of the podium that is. Neither wants to be anywhere near the Pepsi Center's top row of seats until, perhaps, late Saturday night.