Spartan Wrestlers Ellis, Hennig Place at State
By Dan Karpiel
For the Berthoud Spartans, the 2011-12 state wrestling championships provided a demonstration of the circle of life of a high school wrestling career – a promising young sophomore took his first big steps toward state-wide prominence and a graduating senior finished off his career with a standout tournament performance.
Berthoud senior Cory Ellis capped off a stellar high school wrestling stint by finishing as state runner-up in the 182-pound class while sophomore Kagen Hennig took home the bronze medal in 195s.
Ellis (31-5), who will be playing NCAA football next fall at Fort Hayes State University in Kansas, pinned a pair of opponents on his way to the title bout. In the opening round, the senior Spartan quickly dispatched Bayfield High’s Justin Briskey in 1:54, won a 7-1 decision over Koby Close of Buena Vista and in the semifinals made quick work of Daniel Register of Classical Academy by pinning the Titan in 1:27.
In the final bout of his high school wrestling career, Ellis would face a familiar foe – Eaton’s Jaden Olearnick. Olearnick (33-3) had bested Ellis by a 10-8 overtime decision just a week prior at regionals. The pair, ranked one and two in 3A’s 182-pound class, entered the state tourney expecting to face one another in the title bout.
Olearnick took control of the final match early, keeping Ellis on the mat and under his control for the duration of the bout, eventually winning a 7-0 decision by scoring in each round. Once he gained control, Olearnick prevented Ellis from being able to escape and employ his aggressive style.
“I couldn’t leave from the bottom, usually I can get out no problem but he knew what was coming, he’s a good wrestler,” Ellis said and added that he was not expecting Olearnick to keep him down for so much of the match. The senior said he believes he left everything on the mat and gave credit to his opponent, “He prepared better…he had a little bit more in the gas tank but that’s alright, he deserved it.”
Hennig (32-11) ended his run in the state tournament on a positive note, winning the third place bout in the 195-pound class in 3A. Hennig’s performance was especially impressive considering that all four of the sophomore’s win came by way of a pin.
Hennig pinned Jonathan Flores of Jefferson in 1:18 in the opening round and then dispatched Hotchkis High’s David Mendoza in 3:04 in their quarterfinal bout. Hennig got to experience the other side of the coin however when he was pinned by Brian Macchione of Middle Park in 2:38 in the state semifinals. The loss did not put an end to Hennig’s first trip to state as he dropped down to the consolation bracket where a pair of victories would earn the sophomore a third place finish.
It took Hennig only 1:41 to pin Buena Vista’s Nate Reed and earn a spot in the third place match. Using his trademark cradle move, Hennig quickly put senior Tyler Jara of Lamar on his back – after Jara elected to use the down position that afforded Hennig the opportunity to use his best move – and got the pin in only 1:54.
“All my hard work paid off, I was real glad I made it this far,” Hennig said as he caught his breath following his victory over Jara and added that while he was slightly nervous at the onset of the state tournament, after notching a win in his first match on Thursday, “it just felt like any other tournament.”
“The first match I think he was just a little hesitant but he got his confidence going once he started being successful,” Berthoud Wrestling Coach Scott Pickert explained. Hennig began the season 7-7 but then took off after Christmas, as Pickert explained, “He reeled off a whole bunch in a row of straight wins…as kids get their confidence they can really go; he had such a great tournament and he’s got incredible strength once he gets that cradle locked up.”
Joining Ellis and Hennig at the state tournament was sophomore Preston Pickert (138lbs), junior Alex Kingsley (126lbs) and senior Nick Fleegal (145lbs).
Pickert won a major decision 15-5 in his first round consolation match before losing by a technical fall 23-6 to Brandon Simmons of Ellicott High. Kingsley was knocked down into the consolation bracket after losing by the narrowest of decisions, 1-0, in the preliminaries. Kingsley won a 6-4 decision over Dalton Gregory from Pagosa before losing by a pin in 2:33 to Chris Reveles of 3A wrestling powerhouse, and 2011-12 team state champion, Alamosa.
Fleegal reeled off a pair of wins – 2-1 decision and a pin in 2:33 – before losing in the consolation semifinals on Saturday morning. Fleegal wrestled Dylan Hill of Hotchkiss to a 1-1 draw after three rounds but Hill was awarded two points for a takedown in overtime round, putting an end to Fleegal’s high school wrestling career.
Pickert, Kingsley and Hennig will look to build on their 2011-12 seasons next winter where the competition will be tougher as Berthoud will be moving up to the 4A class. High school wrestling will begin in early November.
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