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Wrestler of the year (upper weights): Josh Schoenberger, Fountain-Fort Carson
In his third trip to the state wrestling tournament, Fountain-Fort Carson 182-pound senior Josh Schoenberger finally brought home the title that eluded him for two years.
That gold medal gave the Trojans their first champion since Mike Allison claimed titles in 1968 and ’69 and led them to a sixth-place team finish in 5A — tops in school history.
Schoenberger, 39-0 and rarely challenged, took a 9-2 decision over Boulder’s Axel Wessel in the finals. He had finished fourth as a sophomore and second as a junior after a controversial non-call.
But his success would have been hard to predict four years ago. As a freshman, Schoenberger spent as much time clashing with his coach as he did competing on the mat. He wasn’t necessarily very successful in either, finishing 6-17.
“He hated me,” Trojans coach Chris James said. “He hated coming to practice.”
Schoenberger didn’t back off the story, which both he and James laugh at now.
“I didn’t listen to him much my freshman year because I hated him,” Schoenberger said. “But once I started listening to him I started winning more matches, so I just figured it was either listen or just butt heads all the time.”
Just before Christmas break his sophomore year, Schoenberger’s approach to wrestling changed. James remembers the first time Schoenberger sized up a tough opponent, Broomfield’s eventual 4A 171 state champion, Josh Van Tyne, and said “I really want to wrestle that kid.”
“He didn’t care what the outcome was,” James said, noting Schoenberger lost. “That was really kind of the last time he was nervous. I saw some changes in him because I think he realized then ‘this kid is not that tough. I can go with this guy.’”
These days, in a sport he loves for its self-reliance on the mat, Schoenberger speaks about his team first, listing the success of fellow seniors Jacob Mondragon (132, third place) and Seth Wilson (170, fourth) as highlights of his season.
“It’s not all about me, it’s about me and my team,” Schoenberger said.
“Our team has left a legacy. It’s not just an individual thing, we’re a team here, we don’t just look at individual things.”
Since that day his sophomore year, Schoenberger has become the face of a program that was once an afterthought.
“That’s really what I got into coaching wrestling for to help a kid like him recognize that ‘you too can be great,’” James said. “We needed that kid and Josh was that guy. Now that that door (to state titles) is open, it’s going to be hard to close it.”
And Schoenberger no longer hates his coach either.
“It felt like the coolest feeling in the world,” Schoenberger said of winning it all. “It means a lot more, not just for me but for our school and me being a state champ for our coach.”