MONUMENT - Watching the 138-pound finals of the Colorado Springs Metro Wrestling Championships didn’t sit well with Coronado sophomore Ben Nagel, and he showed it at the Class 4A Region 3 tournament this weekend, hosted by Lewis-Palmer.
About a month ago at Coronado, Nagel won his first match at metros with a quick pin. In his second, however, he dropped a 6-1 decision to Air Academy’s Bailey Badwound. He battled back through the consolation bracket before losing a second time, this time a 6-4 decision to Cheyenne Mountain’s Rick Stark for third.
“My mentality all changed,” Nagel recalled Saturday. “I didn’t want to be that wrestler. I wanted to win those close matches. I wanted to go to state, and I wanted to win state. It kinda kicked it into second gear, and I worked harder.”
A 28-8 record saw Nagel enter the regional tournament seeded fifth with the top four finishers heading to state, a tournament he missed out on as a freshman.
With the five seed came a bye before he squared off with Trevor Cisneros of Pueblo County, the eventual team champions.
As his coach Gabe Burak tells it, Cisneros took an early lead Friday before Nagel fought back and earned a pin with 31 seconds left to advance to a semifinal showing with Lewis-Palmer’s Cole Stephenson and his 33-6 record.
Similar to his first match — but this time to secure a trip to state — Nagel pinned Stephenson with 36 seconds on the clock.
“Same thing,” Burak said. “It was a close match. (Nagel) battled, battled, scored, scored, scored, pinned the kid.”
When the semifinal on the other mat wrapped up, a rematch with Badwound was set.
Nagel scored first and extended his lead to 4-0 early in the second period on a reversal. It was 4-2 as the period ended before Nagel got an added point, as Badwound left the circle without the official’s permission. The Air Academy sophomore would pull within a point early in the third, but Nagel held on to win 8-4.
“Ben has just stepped it up to another level,” Burak said. “He’s wrestling how he’s capable of wrestling. He can beat anyone in the state.”
Nagel’s win came about 10 minutes after another one of his teammates seemingly capable of beating anyone in Colorado captured Coronado’s first regional title.
Angel Flores’ run at 132 wasn’t quite as dramatic, however.
“He’s an amazing wrestler,” Nagel said. “He’s supernatural.”
The junior with a 27-2 record entering the weekend won his first three matches by first-period fall and pinned Golden’s Adam Blackstock midway through the second period in the final. Prior to the official slapping the mat, Flores had a 16-4 lead.
“I just like to push the pace,” he said of his approach.
The Cougars nearly were the only local team with three champions, but KJ Kearns came up on the wrong side of a 2-0 sudden victory against Pueblo County’s Christopher Fasano in a matchup of On The Mat’s top two wrestlers at 160.
“Props to (Fasano), he’s a tough wrestler, and KJ wrestled a good match,” Burak said. “We just needed one score.”
The Hornets won seven brackets and the team title with 248 points.
Cheyenne Mountain was second with 215.5 behind individual championships from Chase Johnson (120) and Nick Gagliardi (195). Gagliardi’s win over Jared Volcic was among the most exciting of the finals. With the match tied at 4 in the final 30 seconds, Gagliardi scored a late takedown and added near-fall points for a 9-4 win.
The Cougars, thanks in large part to Nagel, Flores and Kearns, were third at 190. Coronado advanced eight to state after getting just three last year as a 5A program.
“The goal is you want to get all 14 guys just in that competitive part, realistically, that was a number that definitely we were shooting for,” Burak said. “Really, it was an answered prayer. Eight is a good number.”
One of the eight wasn’t a sure thing to make it to Pepsi Center just a month ago.
“I knew I could beat those kids, so I’ve been putting in a lot of work,” Nagel said. “And I think the outcome was the right outcome.”