DENVER — KJ Kearns knows the odds are stacked against him.
Sure, the Coronado senior wrestler dominated in his 160-pound match against Pueblo South's Marcus Martinez in the Class 4A state tournament at the Pepsi Center on Friday night. Final score: 6-0.
Kearns, of course, celebrated. He hugged his coaches and smiled to the crowd.
But as soon as he got to the back of the arena, he began jogging.
His work is not done. His finals opponent: Pueblo County's Christopher Fasano, who is undefeated at 41-0.
Kearns (32-2) is very familiar with Fasano. His two losses this season came against Fasano. He lost to him the first time 6-3 during a Christmas tournament, and then fell in overtime to him at regionals last week.
Is he worried about a third match? Not exactly.
"I'm closing the gap," Kearns said. "My mentality is to go out there and wrestle when the time comes. I wrestle my way, and I can win any match."
Two freshmen shine in first state tournament
Despite respective inexperience at this level, Woodland Park's Brady Hankin and Cheyenne Mountain's Nico Gagliardi didn't let the spotlight bother them Friday night.
In fact, the freshmen showed they can compete.
Both advanced to the state finals in their respective weight classes.
Hankin did it at 106 in 3A, defeating Weld County freshman Robert Estrada in the semifinals with an 8-3 decision. He will face Alamosa sophomore Davion Chavez in the finals on Saturday.
Gagliardi, on the other hand, has had a dominant run. He has logged three pins so far, including one in the third and final round against Broomfield's Bryant Walker in the 195 semifinals in 4A.
In the finals, Gagliardi (37-6) will face Pueblo East's Zion Freeman, who is 37-0.
Discovery Canyon's Allis, TCA's Johns get another state title shot
Two reigning state champs from the Pikes Peak region will get a chance to defend their titles.
Discovery Canyon's Patrick Allis won his 126 semifinals match in 4A with a pin against Grand Junction Central's Jagger Wade, while The Classical Academy's Nathan Johns escaped with a 3-1 decision over Platte Valley's Colton Moore.
Johns (34-1) will face Glenwood Springs' Amos Wilson (48-0).
Allis will go up against Pueblo East's Ryan Roth.
Allis beat Roth for a second time in the Region 2's 126 final last week.