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Wrestling coach of the year: Matt Brickell, Coronado
In 26 years at the helm of the Coronado wrestling program, Matt Brickell had seen his fair share of success.
There were regional titles, repeat individual state champions, multiple champions in one year. But all of that proved to be just steppingstones on the way to the ultimate prize.
The crescendo finally peaked at the 5A state meet with a 184.5-168 victory over runner-up Pomona, bringing a team wrestling title to Colorado Springs for the first time since 1974. And Brickell did it with a school small enough that it could have competed in 4A.
“The kids decided to go up and wrestle 5A and wanted to shut out (eight-time defending champion) Ponderosa,” Brickell said. “It ended up being Pomona we had to beat.”
“That was really sweet that it paid off to do that. I know 4A is really tough, but I think it’s all that much better to win it at 5A.”
The Cougars were led by five seniors and a standout sophomore, five of whom made the state finals with three winning titles. But with 13 out of 14 wrestlers qualifying for state, it was a host of lesser-known wrestlers who lifted them to the title.
“Everybody contributed,” Brickell said. “They all did it. To me what was neat about it was that it was a true team championship.”
It’s been a long time coming for the area, the school and the coach, whose family arrived in Colorado Springs with General Palmer, the town’s founder. Brickell, who says he still hasn’t fully taken it in, admitted when senior Carter McElhany sealed the title with his championship at 130 pounds, it was a relief as much as anything.
“All these years people have been saying ‘You going to win one? You going to win one?’” Brickell said. “All I can tell you now is we won it. It’s something that nobody can ever take away from you. It’s a neat deal.”