Alex Peña: One match away from wrestling history

IHS senior back in state finals for 4th time in decorated career

Ignacio’s Alex Peña slipped past Andrew Valdez of Swink 5-4 to advance to his fourth state championship match in four years. Peña will face Robert Darnell of Holly, a wrestler he beat in the 112-pound title match as a freshman. Enlarge photo

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald photos

Ignacio’s Alex Peña slipped past Andrew Valdez of Swink 5-4 to advance to his fourth state championship match in four years. Peña will face Robert Darnell of Holly, a wrestler he beat in the 112-pound title match as a freshman.

DENVER – One more match.

Alex Peña of Ignacio is one match away from Colorado high school wrestling history.

Peña, the three-time state champion for the Bobcats, moved into position to win a fourth consecutive title when he came from behind in dramatic fashion Friday night to edge Andrew Valdez of Swink 5-4 in the semifinals of the CHSAA State Wrestling Championships at the Pepsi Center.

“It’s a tradition, I guess, to come from behind in the semifinals (at state),” said Peña, who came from behind for the third consecutive year in the state tournament.

The Ignacio 126-pound wrestler had to scramble after he was penalized a stalling point in the third period. That point put Valdez ahead 4-3.

But Peña received a penalty point when Valdez was whistled for a choke hold, evening the match at 4-4.

With 35 seconds remaining and television cameras focusing on the Ignacio senior, Peña escaped to win 5-4.

Last year, Peña needed overtime in the semifinals; a year before that, Peña came from four points down with 10 seconds left to win in the state semifinals. He, of course, went on to win state championships after each close semifinal victory.

“I didn’t come into the match nervous at all,” Peña said. “I was pretty confident. You can’t be nervous when you are this close. You have to be determined.”

“Alex is wrestling like when he was a freshman, and I like that, “ Ignacio head coach Bob Overturf said after Peña advanced to the state finals.

“He’s not wrestling conservative; he’s getting after it,” Overturf said. “And that kid was pretty good, too.”

Peña, son of Shasta and Kenneth “Mossy” Peña, will take on a familiar wrestler in today’s state championship match at 126 pounds. He will wrestle Robert Darnell of Holly, another defending state champions from last year.

Peña wrestled Darnell in the state championship match three years ago when they both were 112-pound freshmen. Peña won to collect his first state title.

Darnell now stands in the way of Peña’s fourth crown.

“Heart ... that was heart, that’s what it was,” Overturf said as Peña boosted his career record to 134-7.

Peña reached the semifinals with a tense 10-3 victory over Cody Clawson of Paonia on Friday morning in the quarterfinals.

Peña scored first with a first-period takedown. But the wrestlers battled in what became a one-point match through the second period and much of the third.

Leading 4-3, Peña broke the match open with a takedown and three near-fall points in the final 33 seconds of the match at the Pepsi Center.

Teagan Overturf of the Bobcats lost by decision in his quarterfinal match at 160 pounds.

Overturf wrestled No. 2-ranked Jourdan Hottinger of Akron, who won 8-3, sending Overturf into the consolation bracket.

Teammate Colton Wyatt also lost in the quarterfinals Friday morning but not before a dramatic third-period comeback.

Jacob Linnnebur of Byers started with a big 6-1 lead before Wyatt rallied.

Still trailing 7-4 in the third period, Wyatt pulled even only to have Linnebur win on a near fall 12-9. Wyatt was relegated to the consolation bracket at 195 pounds with the loss.

In consolation action, Ignacio’s 170-pound wrestler, Blaine Mickey, was pinned by Rich Lancaster of Peyton in the second period. Mickey had lost his first-round match Thursday to No. 1 seed Brent Harris of Norwood.

Ignacio’s Jeff Herrera also was eliminated in Friday’s consolation rounds. Herrera (132) lost 7-3 to Journey Vreeman of Hayden.

In Friday’ night’s consolation rounds, Overturf bounced right back with a quick pin against Alex Merritt of Wray. Overturf pinned the taller Merritt in 32 seconds to move into the next round of the consolation bracket today.

Teammate Wyatt also bounced back with a win Friday night. He pinned Matt Sullivan of Wray in the second period.

“I missed my shot, and he got the (first) takedown,” Wyatt said.

In the next period, Wyatt had an escape and a takedown to take the lead.

Wyatt (27-6) pinned him to advance to the next consolation round today.

“Just enough ... I had just enough to pin him,” Wyatt said.

“It was a good day for the Bobcats,” the Ignacio coach said after Wyatt and his son Teagan advanced in the consolation rounds and Peña moved into the championship.

dstrode@durangoherald.com

Colton Wyatt’s valiant comeback from five points down fell short against Jacob Linnebur of Byers in Friday’s Class 2A quarterfinal, but Ignacio’s 195-pound wrestler bounced back to pin Matt Sullivan of Wray to stay alive in the consolation bracket later in the day. Enlarge photo

Colton Wyatt’s valiant comeback from five points down fell short against Jacob Linnebur of Byers in Friday’s Class 2A quarterfinal, but Ignacio’s 195-pound wrestler bounced back to pin Matt Sullivan of Wray to stay alive in the consolation bracket later in the day.

Before his thrilling semifinal match, Ignacio’s Alex Peña beat Paonia’s Cody Clawson 10-3 in Friday morning’s 126-pound quarterfinal round. Enlarge photo

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald

Before his thrilling semifinal match, Ignacio’s Alex Peña beat Paonia’s Cody Clawson 10-3 in Friday morning’s 126-pound quarterfinal round.