Denver The numbers were stacked in his favor.
In Justin Iacovetto's 26-match unbeaten streak leading up to Saturday night's 112-pound state championship title bout, the Soroco junior had only been taken down one time.
And not one spectator in the Pepsi Center - packed to the third-tier nosebleed seats with a record 18,569 fans - would've given a freshman from a K-9, first-year program (Colorado Springs' Discovery Canyon) a shot to take down Iacovetto, a two-time state podium finisher.
No one but Nick Adams and his coach, Ron Sukle.
Adams took Iacovetto down in the first minute of their Class 2A championship match, establishing a quick 2-0 lead. In the second period, Iacovetto regained his feet and swagger, moving ahead 3-2 on a reversal. Adams tried to attack low again, but Iacovetto escaped to tie it up at 4-4. Then 40 seconds into the final frame, Iacovetto had one more escape to take a 5-4 lead.
But seconds later, Adams struck again, earning two crucial - and winning - takedown points to go ahead 6-5. Then the longest 30 seconds of Iacovetto's season ticked away as teammates and family members screamed a string of moves, anything, to get that tying point - to no avail.
Adams was caught in the exit tunnel by a swarm of reporters, bright lights and TV camera crews, seeking to find out what it felt like to be the first-ever state champion in the history of what will one day become a high school.
"It feels amazing," Adams said. "There's no way to describe it."
"He did what he had to do," Sukle said. "He's had some tough matches here at the big show, and he came through."
In the opposite exit tunnel, Iacovetto was feeling less than amazing.
"There was so many key things, I could've had so many points," a distraught Iacovetto said. "I was just sloppy on my feet, I mean, that (match) was 2/3 of the times I've been taken down all year : it was a blast while it lasted."
All on the mat
Doug Gates can remember Dennis Morgan coming in as a sixth-grader to his junior high wrestling program. There was no greater reward for the Soroco head coach than seeing Morgan mature into the humble and stoic 189-pounder contending for a state title under the big top Saturday night.
"He knows how to handle it like a champ," Gates said. "He's a real sportsman - he even smiles when he loses."
Morgan could only grin and bear the weight of loss in what he knew would be the final match of his high school wrestling career, falling 5-0 to talented Burlington sophomore Mike Satterly.
From the beginning, it wasn't the championship final match-up Morgan was looking for.
He wanted another crack at his familiar rival, Coy Letlow. But Satterly had other plans there, too, eliminating Letlow in the seminfinals.
Morgan could tell that the match would be decided on foot.
The quick, tall and lanky Satterly sauntered on his feet, dictating a faster-paced, conservatively wrestled match.
"I was just trying to control his head and control his hands - it's what we work on in Burlington," Satterly said.
Morgan grabbed Satterly's leg in the first period, but Satterly countered with a takedown. As the two circled in the second period, Morgan shot again, but again suffered another takedown.
Morgan shook Satterly's hand after the dust had settled and credited his opponent, who Morgan said he wouldn't be surprised to see become a three-time state champ.
"I'm tired," Morgan said after a long tournament, noting how proud he was of his teammates in what he called his best experience at state. "Pretty much all I could think of was that I can't leave anything behind. I gave the best I could."
Soroco finished 12th out of 46 competing Class 2A schools.