Denver Normally, the first string of matches of the CHSAA State Wrestling Tournament go by quietly as wrestlers make their first-round debuts, working out jitters under the bright lights of Denver's Pepsi Center.
That's not the case when Justin Iacovetto is on the mat.
As the Soroco High School junior started his Thursday match against Sedgwick County's Trevor Herrick, the Iacovetto family lined the front row of seats above his mat. Older brothers Josh and Matt were at a fever pitch, shouting direct calls of "take it to him" and "explode" as Iacovetto notched a couple of takedown points in the first minute.
Josh Iacovetto is Soroco's last wrestler to win a state title, in 2002. Justin entered Thursday's competition as one of only two 2A wrestlers boasting an undefeated season.
After a timeout in the third period in which Justin Iacovetto stuffed a bloody nostril with cotton, he thwarted Herrick's repeat attempts to throw him and won, 7-2, by decision.
"That first match makes me more nervous and anxious than any other," Justin Iacovetto said. "There's something about this place."
He was one of three Soroco wrestlers who won preliminary rounds to stay in the championship bracket. Senior Levi Gonzales pulled the biggest upset of the day. Entering as the No. 4 seed from the Western Region, Gonzales was paired with 125-pound regional champion Justin Korbelik from Burlington.
Gonzales caught Korbelik at the end of the second period, pinning for the win at 3:41.
"I knew he'd be going for that duck-under, so I wrapped around with my left arm and got him stuck," Gonzales said. "I'm so psyched, but I know the next two are going to be just as good."
Soroco senior Dennis Morgan dominated his match with Calhan's Cory Ronas, taking 1:37 to earn a pin. Although Morgan was keeping the "one match at a time" mantra in mind, he couldn't help but look past his quarterfinal today to the possibility of a semifinal rematch with Byers' Steven Turecek, who beat him by two points at last year's semis.
Tigers impress early
Mitch Doolin doesn't mind the pressure of coaches and peers telling him that this is the year he should win a state wrestling title.
Hayden High School's 145-pound junior has had it on his mind for nearly a decade.
"I was a little nervous because everyone's been saying you have to win state," Doolin said calmly Thursday afternoon, alongside the 10 swirling mats of Class 2A and 3A championship wrestling action.
Doolin had just handled Cheyenne Wells' James Dwyer, pinning him in 2:21 in the first round. He shook hands and stuck around the mat sidelines to study his competition with Hayden coaches Ty Zabel and Ty Camilletti.
"It's OK," Doolin said of the pressure. "It's a dream I've had since I was in second or third grade. I can remember coming down here and sitting up in the stands and watching Anton Fredrickson win state in 2000 : and ever since, I've wanted to be back."
Doolin was back in force Thursday.
"I feel like I can do it, I've been wrestling strong against tough 4A and 5A opponents and battling in practice with" Steamboat Springs' Houston Mader, said Doolin, who faces Holyoke's Luke Garrett in today's quarterfinals.
Hayden's Coy Letlow also was making his return to the championship stage, entering as the Western Region's No. 1 seed at 189 pounds. Letlow also had an impressive opening showing, scoring an immediate takedown on Crowley County's Charlie Cruz and pinning him at the end of the first period, at 1:57.
Scott Armbruster rounded out the Tigers' first-round run. The 103-pound freshman had a tough draw against Antonito's Cody Duran, who had Armbruster on his back immediately. Armbruster managed to work his way out, but could not avoid his eventual pin in the second period, at 2:47.
"I'm proud of him for coming out in this tournament, with the lights and the crowd, to wrestle in only the fourth match of the whole tournament," Zabel said. "And he wrestled a decent match, too - it's OK, he'll come out tomorrow and get some wins."
Mader makes mark
Steamboat Springs High School senior Houston Mader opened his first-round match against Falcon's Jose Cos with sparks of intensity, but the match turned into one of the tight, to-the-wire match-ups that characterized Mader's 2007 run to a fourth-place finish.
Fortunately, Mader pulled away from a one-point match with a minute to go, scoring to win 4-2 and advance to today's quarterfinals.
"I wanted to go out and do my best - I think I could have done better," Mader said. "I'm trying to rack (the points) up early. I want to get enough of a lead. But it's good to get the first one past."
The match was deadlocked 0-0 into the second period until Mader earned a one-point escape followed by a couple of takedown points. The second period ended with Mader grimacing and calling a timeout.
"I had dislocated a rib before regionals and could feel it pop out," Mader said. "It was kind of painful."
Steamboat assistant coach Shane Yeager, recalling his own 1989 bid at a title, reiterated one sage piece of advice to his wrestler - "one at a time, the next one's the most important"- before handing off a cell phone from Mader's former teammate Lane Shipley, who was listening to an Internet broadcast of the match and ready to offer congratulations.
Mader will face Northridge senior Easton Ramirez (33-4) in today's Class 4A 140-pound quaterfinals.
- To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org