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Sand Creek's Laulu remains unbeaten with tournament title
PUEBLO • Losing back-to-back 4A state championship matches would be enough to break many wrestlers. Sand Creek heavyweight Tuli Laulu is not one of them.
Instead, the senior is determined to finally step atop the medal stand in Denver and is on a march toward doing just that. The 5-foot-11, 261-pounder of Samoan descent was in control from the start in a 9-3 victory over fifth-ranked Demetrus Miller of Pueblo Centennial in the championship match of the Southern Colorado Classic on Saturday at Massari Arena on the campus of CSU-Pueblo.
The win pushed his season record to 8-0 and validated his perch at No. 1 in Tim Yount’s On the Mat rankings. While pleased with the victory, Laulu knows he can improve.
“There was some good competition here, and this last match was good for me to see where I am,” said Laulu, who was 34-7 as a junior. “I know there’s a lot of stuff I need to work on and a lot of room for improvement, so I’ve just got to keep going and striving for success. I can celebrate later.”
Both wrestlers who beat him in the state finals the past two years — Pueblo Central’s Michael Miller in February and Patrick Smith of Pueblo East in 2011 — were seniors, so Laulu hopes this may be his time.
“(Losing in the finals) gives you a lot to think about, and my coaches have been there to support me and tell me how to go forward with what I need to do,” said Laulu, who defeated 10th-ranked D.J. Wolski of Vista Ridge in the semifinals earlier in the day. “That motivates me a lot, especially with the guys I lost to being seniors. Now I’ve got to take my anger out on someone else.”
His coach, Troy Bonewell, believes Laulu can accomplish great things.
“He’s wrestling better now than he did all of last year,” Bonewell said. “When you wrestle him, you think, ‘Holy cow, this guy’s good.’ He’s just an athlete and moves his feet, which for a big guy is rare.
“He’s a good guy, a good student and a good worker in practice, so hopefully we’ll see him wrestling in college.”
His nimble footwork has also helped Laulu become a talented defensive end and tackle in his favorite sport of football, and because of his skills in the two sports, Laulu hasn’t decided where he will attend college. The U.S. Army is an option in both sports, and colleges such as Stanford and Utah have expressed interest in him for wrestling, so Laulu has numerous options.
“We’re still deciding where I’m going to go and what my future is,” said Laulu, who is the oldest of four. “If I get more scholarship money for wrestling than I do for football, I’m taking it. It’s a free education.”
Pueblo Centennial captured the team title. ... Cheyenne Mountain’s Bobby Amond won at 132 pounds and Joseph Apodaca from Sand Creek won at 126.