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Discovery Canyon's Rees wills way to tourney title with mangled knee
GREELEY • AJ Rees couldn’t give his best, so he decided to be extraordinary instead.
With a possible dislocated knee, the Discovery Canyon senior wowed spectators with a gutty, gruesome performance, beating powerhouse Pomona wrestler Josh Rosales 4-1 in the 120-pound finals at the Old Chicago Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament.
“He’s a warrior,” former Coronado wrestler and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo said of the Thunder wrestler.
Rees, a two-time defending state champion and recent Iowa State commit, had nothing to prove Saturday. With a knee that had just been crumpled like an empty potato-chip bag, nobody would have blamed him for bowing out.
In fact, many thought he should have.
“I had a lot of people who told me not to wrestle,” Rees said. “My coaches’ and teammates’ main focuses are on the state tournament in February. But something inside me told me I needed to wrestle.”
Midway through the semifinal match Rees’ knee twisted under Robertson’s Richard Montoya. At the time, Rees was up 6-2.
After the trainers looked him over, a different, less-aggressive wrestler came back to the mat, and his lead turned into an 8-8 tie after the third period.
“Going into overtime, I just needed one explosion,” Rees said. “That’s about all I could do anyway.”
And he did.
Rees, wincing in pain, used one takedown in extra time, and held on to take the 10-8 decision to claim a spot in the championship match.
Then came decision time.
“We waited to see how he felt,” Thunder coach Ron Sukle said. “He came up to me and said ‘I want to wrestle coach.’ If it was going to get bad, I was ready to get him out of there.”
In preparation for the match, trainers wrapped Rees’ swollen left knee, with which he hobbled to the championship mat.
The match proved worth the anticipation.
Up 2-1 with 30 seconds left in the third, Rees knew the winner would be decided by one move.
“I knew it was going to come down to a (two-point) takedown. Either I would get him or I left it open for him to get me,” Rees said. “So, I saw my opening. I hit that ankle pick, down to a double, to make it 4-1.”
Then, the humble Rees quickly pointed out what he could have done better.
“It was tough,” he said, “and it wasn’t my best match.”
But he smiled, and knew, it might have been just that.
Coronado’s Trent Watson (106) and Pine Creek’s Geordan Martinez (138) also won titles in the 62-team, 680-wrestler tournament. ... Discovery Canyon had five wrestlers in the top eight to place fourth and Coronado was ninth.