Most Viewed Stories
- Two second-half goals land Cheyenne Mountain girls' soccer title
- Prep notebook: Memorial Day all-star baseball games for top prep players
- TCA misses chances in 1-0 2OT loss to Peak to Peak in 3A girls’ soccer final
- Ramsey: Cheyenne Mountain should be tough to beat again in 2014
- Breakthrough at Broken Tee: Indians reach top of 4A girls’ golf world
Brickell has Coronado in wrestling state title contention again
Throughout the lead up to this week's state wrestling tournament which starts Thursday, The Gazette will deliver a different wrestling story every day. A look at our stories so far:
Two years ago Matt Brickell led Coronado to the first state wrestling title for a Colorado Springs school in 37 years. His latest squad may have the best shot at bringing the 5A title back to the Springs again this year.
Pomona and Ponderosa are the favorites to capture the team title, but the Cougars should be in the mix and could surprise if things break their way.
“It could happen, don’t get me wrong,” Brickell said. “You’ve always got an outside shot, but you know me, I’ll never say we’re going to win it. Legitimately we should be a top-five team.”
Coronado has struggled with injuries throughout the season but qualified eight wrestlers. Among those eight are two defending state champions, 120-pound senior Adrian Cordova (a two-time champion) and 106 sophomore Trenton Watson.
Cordova has his work cut out for him in a weight class where he finds himself No. 3 in Tim Yount’s On The Mat rankings with a 27-2 record. Watson carries the top ranking with a 43-0 record.
Both have momentum on their side as regional champions, along with senior 126 No. 4 Devan Cruz. Sophomore 113 Jess Hankin (No. 2) comes into the tournament off a loss to the third-ranked wrestler in the regional semifinals.
All four have high expectations for climbing the medal stand Saturday night.
Joining them at state are senior Richard Cote (170, No. 9) and juniors Grady Pina (160, No. 11), Sam Smith (195) and Joe Hunt (285). Cote, Pin and Smith all placed third at regionals while Hunt placed fifth and won a do-or-die wrestleback to earn his state berth.
“I’ll tell you we were really happy with Grady,” Brickell said. “Jess Hankin got a real good seed. I mean they’ve gotta do it naturally, but they’ve got good seeds to score some points anyway.”
A strong finish at state would further enhance Brickell’s legacy at Coronado and in the region. As the reputation of Colorado Springs wrestling has grown in recent years, Coronado has been at the center of it.
In 23 years as head coach, Brickell’s teams have had only two losing seasons in duals competition and five undefeated seasons. Prior to his arrival as an assistant in 1989 the Cougars had one state placer in 1973. In the 25 years since they’ve only failed to place a wrestler in the top six at state six times with at least one every year since 2001.
“When I came to Coronado I was the assistant for two years,” Brickell said. “They were terrible. Bill Bragg was coaching at Wasson and he was one of those guys you just aspire to try to beat. In those first years, they’d get beat 66-0 by Wasson. That was my goal, and we could never beat Wasson, man. I can’t tell you how many times we’d finished second. Then finally Bill got out and man we took off.”
Brickell’s program has produced five DI college wrestlers in the past eight years, including Cordova, who will be heading to Iowa State in the fall. But the thing that has kept him coming back is the chance to connect with kids.
“Wrestling, you just get so close to the kids,” Brickell said. “It’s such an emotional sport. I don’t sleep, you know. You take the losses with them. It’s tough. You go through it with them. I’ve got such great relationships with my wrestlers. You can take kids and you can train them and if they want to work hard and improve you see so many more gains that way.”
With a long history of success it’s reasonable to consider a coach’s legacy and Brickell, who retired from teaching chemistry two years ago, has reached that point. Anything Coronado achieves this weekend will only broaden that legacy.
No duals for you
The Cougars did experience one first under coach Matt Brickell this season — they were a team without a league and didn’t compete in any league duals for the season.
In January 2012 the area athletic directors, upon splitting area schools into two 4A leagues and one 5A league decided to keep league membership tied to enrollment. Coronado has 4A enrollment numbers but has opted to wrestle up in 5A in order to face the toughest competition possible.
Faced with the choice of wrestling in a 4A league, the Cougars opted to go without any midweek duals.
“I liked wrestling 5A,” Brickell said. “It was fun. They took the opportunity away from us and that bummed me out.”
They did compete in three duals tournaments, compiling an 11-3 record. But in the end, the lack of duals turned out to be a positive for the team.
“It was a brutal schedule (this year), but it was nice not having to make weight on Wednesday,” Brickell said. “I think (the kids) loved it. I don’t think they missed it a bit. I think it’s healthier for them. I kind of liked the schedule, it was kind of nice.”
1989 – first state placer as an assistant: Shane Voss (2nd)
1991 – first state placer as head coach: Brian Olson (4th)
2003 – First state champion: Gabe Burak (soph 103 pounds)
2008 – First COS Metro Tournament championship
2010 – First Regional Tournament championship
2011 – First State Tournament championship
Five D1 college wrestlers: Gabe Burak (Penn and UNC), Micah Burak (Penn), Nathan Burak (Iowa), Carter McElhany (AFA), Adrian Cordova (Iowa State)
Five undefeated duals seasons
Six Metro League championship seasons
One Olympic gold medalist (Henry Cejudo, Beijing 2008)
Coaching his two sons