Summit wrestling team confident Tigers’ mental toughness can lead to several Pepsi Center berths |

Summit wrestling team confident Tigers’ mental toughness can lead to several Pepsi Center berths

Gio Marquez (left) wrestles teammate PJ Trujillo during practice at Summit High School in Breckenridge on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
Liz Copan /

BRECKENRIDGE — To Summit High School head wrestling coach and former mixed martial arts fighter Pete Baker, wrestling is really simple. If you are willing to buy into his perspective that wrestling is 80% mental and 20% physical, if you are willing to push your discipline and toughness further than ordinary athletes, you will succeed.

To Baker, most athletes view the physical and mental balance of a sport like wrestling as 50-50. But Baker thinks it’s much more psychological, and that’s the mindset he wants his Tigers wrestlers to grapple with.

“We have skill,” Baker said, “but really, truly it’s an 80-20 sport. It’s 80% that will to grind and not give up. And the rest skill. The average person will quit at 20%. Everything starts getting hard. You throw in the towel.”

That’s the standard in Baker’s wrestling room: to never even consider throwing in the towel. Whether conducting sprints in the Summit High School hallways or rolling around for minute after minute on Baker’s mats, Summit Tigers wrestlers take pride in their grit. And whether they are newcomers to the sport trying to master the art of a double-leg takedown or seasoned veterans with hopes of a state championship, if they want to wrestle for Baker, they better bring their big boy britches.

Leading the way for Baker’s team this year is an accomplished older duo he’s been training for years and a freshman prodigy who has the skills and aptitude to become one of the greatest wrestlers in Summit High history.

A year after he wrestled his way to the state tournament at the Pepsi Center, senior Brandon Daniel wants to place at states in the 126-pound weight class. Daniel has trained with Baker since sixth grade, learning the standard of toughness Baker expects. Over the summer, Daniel dialed in his mental and physical preparation with Baker down at the 303 Training Center in Westminster. 

“Brandon, I think, has improved on the little things, the details,” Baker said. “He’s making sure that he’s in the right position, and I think that’s from the offseason training that he’s done.”

On those trips down to Westminster, Daniel was joined each week by his cousin he regards more as a brother, Gio Marquez. Since Daniel first began training with Baker in sixth grade, Marquez has been in his shadow step by step, raising his wrestling acumen. Marquez nearly missed a spot in the state tournament last season.

Expecting to wrestle at 113 pounds this winter, Marquez has eyes on qualifying for state and hopes to place in the top six. Of any member of this year’s Tigers team, Baker lauds Marquez for his toughness. Baker sees a lot of himself in Daniel and Marquez, as Baker also has trained the cousins in various mixed martial arts disciplines. Ultimately, both cousins would like to try their hand at MMA after their wrestling careers are over. And Marquez said there are elements of MMA, such as key locks and shrimping, that Baker has honed in their skill set, aiding them on the Colorado High School wrestling mats.

“What he has is Gio won’t quit,” Baker said. “They are both super tough. Brandon’s probably got some more skill. Gio’s got a lot of heart.”

Summit wrestling

Dec.7: Golden Dual Tournament, 8 a.m.
Dec. 14: Frank Palmeri Invite, Wheat Ridge, 8:30 a.m.
Dec. 20-21: Weld Central Tournament, Keenesburg
Jan. 11: Evergreen Invitational, 9 a.m.
Jan. 14: Summit Tri, Summit High, 6 p.m.
Jan. 18: Alameda Invitational, 8:30 a.m.
Jan. 23: Basalt Tri, 5 p.m.
Jan. 25: Commander Invite, JFK, 9 a.m.
Jan. 30: Summit Dual, Summit High, 6 p.m.
Feb. 1: Mile High Classic, Thomas Jefferson, TBD
Feb. 14: Regionals, Broomfield, TBD
Feb. 20-22: State Tournament, Pepsi Center, TBD

Summit wrestling’s fab freshman Patrick “P.J.” Trujillo will wrestle a weight class below Marquez, at 106 pounds. The Leadville resident won the middle school state championship last year, a year after grappling to the final. The son of a Lake County High School state champion, Trujillo should contend for a state championship qualification this season. And Trujillo is already putting pressure on himself, aiming for a top-6 place at state or perhaps even better: a state championship.

Though those goals might seem wide-eyed for a baby-faced ninth grader, Baker doesn’t mince words when it comes to Trujillo. He’s probably the most talented first-year wrestler to ever enter Baker’s program, and he has the potential to become the best wrestler in the state before his Tigers career is over.

What makes Trujillo so special?

“I think it’s just all of the years that he’s been doing it,” Baker said. “He’s one of those kids that, like me, I started wrestling when I was 6. When you start at a young age, by the time you come to high school, you already know the moves. So now it’s just motions, right? You can do it all without thinking about it. Once you think about where to put your body, you’ve already lost, and he’s got all that natural ability and mat time.”

As for the totality of the Tigers team, Marquez said, no matter their skill level, everyone has the same goal: to be the best, toughest Tiger they can be.

“I hope everybody accomplishes their dreams,” Marquez said.

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