Nick Wittrock (31-11) finished fifth after losing by a single point to Elizabeth's Gavril Houston (37-7) in the fourth-round consolation match at the Colorado State High School Wrestling Meet Saturday. Houston went on to take third place in the tournament.
That loss moved Wittrock, a Summit High junior, into the fifth-place match Saturday afternoon, where he took on Roosevelt junior Tylar Francis (27-12). Wittrock earned four points for a takedown in the second period and an escape just before the third period began to win, 5-1. Francis' only point was from an escape in the second period.
"It was a good match. I wrestled how I wanted to wrestle. I went out there and did it," Wittrock said, adding that he's still in awe of wrestling at the Pepsi Center.
With a minute left in the match, Wittrock took a shot and jammed his finger in what looked like a painful injury, but he kept going.
"You gotta wrestle injured; it doesn't matter. you gotta tough it out," he said. "It's pretty swollen, but the pain was worth it."
"He did well," head coach Pete Baker said of Wittrock's performance. "He wrestles the way he normally wrestles, using the skills he possesses. ... Fifth place sets him up real well for next year."
The plan for the summer is to try to put more muscle on Wittrock's lean frame so he can bring strength with his skill on the mat.
That's because Houston controlled the match by muscle, Baker said. Wittrock couldn't get his hands free to even attempt a takedown.
"We were two different style wrestlers," Wittrock said. "He was pretty strong and it was a close match, 1-0. Anything could have happened."
Houston earned his single point by way of a standup - enough to move him on to wrestle for third place.
"Nick had more skills than that kid, but (Houston) was stronger in the upper body and was controlling NIck," Baker said. "He just outmuscled Nick and got that 1-0 win. That's a tough loss. ... Next to AJ Rees, I think Nick has more skill than these kids, but the kids he's lost to, he's getting out muscled."
Baker always aims to coach four of his wrestlers to the state tournament. This year, three of the four hopefuls didn't make it, but that won't change his aspirations for next year.
He doesn't know what he'll have in the practice room next year between seniors departing and not knowing who will come out for the team. However, Wittrock plans to be back and Tyler Blackford will also return - and Baker is currently training middle school wrestlers to prep them for the high school arena.
"I'm super proud of Nick," Baker said. "He's a very special kid. He's very intelligent and everything I show him, he uses it, adapting it to his style of wrestling. He's a great kid to coach, he's coachable, he listens. It shows in how well he did in the state tournament. Hopefully next year, we get Tyler down here at the Pepsi Center and maybe we can get Nick to place first."
For Wittrock, it's been a good year.
"I want to thank my coach for preparing me and being there with advice and motivation. It's been a great time. I'm just happy to be wrestling," he said.