High school wrestlers in Colorado usually don’t even seriously consider the possibility of qualifying for State as ninth graders.
Regardless of their weight classification or the size of the school from which they hail, the competition is too fierce, and the experience-factor is too great for freshmen to expect to advance through the Regional meet against highly-accomplished, more seasoned grapplers.
It seems, however, that Platte Canyon High School freshman Andrew Hannigan failed to receive the memo.
Hannigan drew a bye in the first round, pinned two opponents and proceeded to battle his way to a fourth-place finish in the 106-pound classification at the Class 2A, Region 3 Wrestling Meet last weekend at Northeast Junior College in Sterling.
That bold effort earned Hannigan a trip to the State Meet Feb. 20-22 under the bright lights of the Pepsi Center in Denver.
When asked whether nerves or anxiety would be a factor competing in such a large venue against the best Class 2A wrestlers the state has to offer, Hannigan gave a typically humble, honest answer:
“Well, I don’t really know because I have never wrestled there before,” Hannigan said with a chuckle.
At Regionals, Hannigan pinned Burlington freshman Aden Reents in two minutes and 28 seconds in the quarterfinals, then fell to the number two-ranked 106-pound wrestler in Region 2, Jack Bornhoft of Sedgwick County.
“He had a lot of experience, and I made a mistake that he took advantage of, and he pinned me,” Hannigan said.
Making it to the semifinals would have been more than enough to satisfy most freshmen at that point, understanding that he or she still had three more years to climb the ranks and earn an eventual place at the State Meet. Hannigan, however, had other plans.
His next match was against a formidable sophomore opponent from Clear Creek High School, Nick Baker.
“He was really strong, so I tried to use his strength against him,” Hannigan said. “He went for my legs, I countered his move, and pinned him.”
That pin occurred two minutes and 26 seconds into the match.
The match for third place did not go the way Hannigan would have liked, as he was pinned by junior Elias Garcia of Highland High School at the 2:11 mark.
“Highland has a great tradition, and he was very good,” Hannigan said. “I was trying to play it safe with him, and we went back and forth in a pretty technical match. I took him down once, then he took me down and eventually pinned me.”
The fourth-place finish was especially significant because the top four qualifiers in each weight division earn trips to State. When asked if he envisioned qualifying for State when the season began, Hannigan pulled no punches.
“No, not really,” Hannigan admitted. “But my coach told me early in the season that he thought I had a chance to qualify for State, and that gave me more confidence and I started to believe it was possible.”
A field of 16 wrestlers from four regions across the state will vie for top honors this weekend at the Pepsi Center in the 106-pound division.
As a fourth-place qualifier, and a freshman, Hannigan will not necessarily be viewed as a favorite to win the competition.
But then again, there is mounting evidence to suggest that this freshman not only marches to his own beat with a quiet, unassuming brand of self-confidence, but that he also has a knack for performing just fine in an underdog role.
Look for final results from the 2020 State Meet in next week’s edition of The Flume.