Summit High School wrestlers ready for state meet at Pepsi Center
BRECKENRIDGE — Summit High School wrestling coach Pete Baker makes it a point to bring an up-and-coming wrestler to the Colorado High School Athletics Association Wrestling Championships at least once before the wrestler actually competes.
The fevered grand stage — the verve — of the biggest wrestling tournament in the state is such a spectacle that Baker feels it’s a necessity for a grappler to soak it all in before strapping into a singlet. If they don’t, the magnitude of the moment could chew them up and spit them out before they realize their shoulders are pinned to the mat.
“It’s the biggest high school sporting event in the state of Colorado,” Baker said. “The energy at the Pepsi Center — the only way to describe it would be if the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup and watching them win the game at the Pepsi Center.”
Beginning at 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Summit Tigers junior Gio Marquez and freshman P.J. Trujillo will wrestle in the 113- and 106-pound weight classes, respectively. For Marquez, it’ll be his third time at the state tournament but his first competing. He tagged along the past two years with Baker, including last year when his cousin and current Summit senior Brandon Daniel wrestled at state. Daniel will be at state again this year, though he won’t be competing due to a nagging ankle injury.
Trujillo is the first freshman in Baker’s decade coaching the program to earn his way to state. The 106-pound phenom lives and breathes wrestling thanks to his father, Patrick Trujillo Sr., who won state as a 112-pound senior wrestler at Lake County High School in 1999.
With that kind of father figure, the junior Trujillo has been to the Pepsi Center before. On top of that, he’s had the experience of “Pepsi Center light” with his time at the Colorado Super State Tournament’s middle school championship at the National Western Stock Show arena in Denver.
“My dad told me the other day that when he was wrestling in his state tournament senior year, it made him sick to his stomach how big it was,” Trujillo said. “So I’m trying not to think about my matches, just chill and just enjoy the experience.”
Trujillo has the same goal as Marquez heading into Thursday evening: advance far enough from each of their 16-grappler classifications to be one of the final six to stand on the podium when all is said and done.
Baker is confident Marquez and Trujillo have the ability to podium. Marquez showcased as much with his strong runner-up finish at regionals this past weekend, where he shot low and avoided underhooks and overhooks in his semifinal match to earn the automatic qualification to state.
As for Trujillo, he had a rougher road at regionals to earn his way to state. Wrestling in a 106-pound regional weight class that featured five of the state’s top 16 106-pound wrestlers, Trujillo bounced back from an 8-2 loss to the No. 2 wrestler in the state to defeat a ranked wrestler from Pueblo West and keep his state hopes alive.
After a noon weigh-in Thursday, Baker will take the Summit contingent out for lunch to get their minds off the excitement of the state tournament for a bit. The Tigers will arrive at 5 p.m. at the Pepsi Center, where the adrenaline will start to course through the wrestlers’ bodies while the rest of the group, including Daniel and Summit up-and-coming sophomore wrestler Luca Rizzo, will go up to the box seating donated to the program by Breckenridge Grand Vacations.
As for Baker, Marquez and Trujillo, it’ll be go-time on the wildest stage in Colorado high school sports.
“It comes down to hard work, grit and making the right moves at the right times,” Baker said. “Really, it’s just another wrestling match, just another tournament. It’s just the hardest one with the best kids in the state. But if they made it, they are the best kids in the state, too.”
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