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Mitchell wrestler McElfresh ‘chips' away at competition, closes in on elusive state berth
Three years ago, an 85-pound freshman walked into the Mitchell wrestling room as Caleb McElfresh. After a freak accident that left him with a chipped tooth, he was rarely known by his given name again.
Even with the tooth repaired, “Chip” remains his name of choice. On Friday at the 4A Region 1 wrestling tournament at Discovery Canyon, the senior, competing in the 113-pound weight class, moved tantalizingly closer to his first state berth after a first-round bye and a convincing 18-5 major decision in the quarterfinals.
“My goal for my senior year is to make state,” McElfresh said. “The past few years, I’ve come into regionals with a lot less confidence. This year, I know I can go out there and beat anyone if I give it all I’ve got.”
McElfresh and sophomore teammate Abraam Arreguin-Almanz at 106 pounds led the Marauders by going undefeated Friday and with plenty of momentum heading into Saturday’s final rounds. The top four wrestlers in each weight class earn berths in the state tournament, Feb. 21-23 at Pepsi Center in Denver.
Besides Mitchell, 15 other schools had at least one wrestler advance to the championship semifinals, with a large contingent still eligible with one loss in the consolation bracket. Host Discovery Canyon, ranked No. 2 in the latest On the Mat rankings, had nine wrestlers go unscathed, while No. 5 Pueblo South sent eight and Mesa Ridge had seven.
“This is a phenomenal region,” said Discovery Canyon coach Rob Braaten, who also led the football team to the 4A state semifinals in November. “It’s out of the toughest it can get. In some weight classes, it’s like a mini state tournament. If you make it to state out of this region, you have a good chance of placing since this region is so tough.”
Mitchell 17th-year coach Kevin Meyer never questioned McElfresh’s toughness, especially after watching him receive an accidental head butt to his chin that took out part of a tooth. It was just a matter of time before McElfresh learned from his mistakes and started to turn the tables.
“He took his bumps and bruises as a freshman and sophomore,” Meyer said. “He’s giving them as a junior and senior. He’s paid his dues, and he’s reaping the benefits now.”
With a semifinal win Saturday, McElfresh will accomplish his goal, miles from his freshman year, when he “was pinned almost every single match.” To do it, he’ll have to beat Vista Ridge’s Ladarius Stubbs, who narrowly beat McElfresh in overtime in the 113 finals at the Metro League tournament at Doherty two weeks ago.
“I didn’t take the opportunity I had, and he took me down,” McElfresh said. “This one counts a lot more, and I just have to bring it.”
While his intentions aren’t secret, the name on the back of his team jacket seems obvious, until you ask.
So what does the acronym E.L.I.T.E. mean, anyway?
“As soon as a wrestler finishes his first year, I give him an envelope,” Meyer said. “Inside, it tells him what it stands for. It has a special meaning for wrestlers with our school. Once they know, they burn it. They don’t tell anybody. We’ve had our teachers, counselors, parents, and people at other schools ask. It has a special meaning but we keep it to ourselves.”
Added McElfresh: “People try to look it up, but they haven’t figured it out. You can’t Google it, that’s for sure.”