Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
DENVER – Alex Peña finally used up all of his savings.
Peña, Ignacio’s three-time state wrestling champion, was denied his fourth state title by Robert Darnell of Holly in a spellbinding state championship match Saturday night.
Darnell, who lost to Peña three years ago in the state championship match at 112 pounds, held on for a gritty 8-5 win over Peña before a boisterous crowd of more than 10,000 at the CHSAA State Wrestling Championships at the Pepsi Center.
“I used up all the savings,” Peña said after his only loss in 16 matches at the state tournament.
“But I left it all out there. There was nothing I could do any better,” he said of his match against the burly Darnell, who won a state title last year at 130 pounds while Peña was winning the 120-pound title.
“I don’t regret anything ... I don’t know what else to say,” said the Ignacio senior who concluded his prep career with a 132-8 record, three state championships and one state runner-up medal.
“Give him credit. He won ... no question asked,” Peña said.
The opening period of their state title match was a flurry of moves, counter moves and points.
Darnell led 6-4 after the first 2 minutes of the match.
He extended the lead with the help of a penalty point for false starts by Peña.
Trailing 8-5 in the third period, Peña nearly pulled off another late comeback at the state championships – a trademark in his four years as a high school wrestler.
Peña used the powerful “Rico” move and appeared to have a takedown leading to possible back points. He had used the maneuver before as he reached into his wrestling “savings account” when he needed to.
However, the wrestlers were ruled off the mat, and Peña’s takedown was disallowed.
“The ... ‘Rico’ move almost paid off,” Ignacio head coach Bob Overturf said. “But (Alex) just ran out of space.”
Overturf helped console the inconsolable Peña immediately after his championship defeat.
“That was tough,” Overturf said. “He ... said he felt like he let people down. But hey, that kid right there let no one down. Three state championships and one second ... I’d trade that for my career in a heartbeat.”
But a few minutes later, a composed Peña met with the media to discuss the state championship match.
“There was lots of pressure,” Peña said. “But I tried not to think about (the match) too much (Saturday).”
Peña is the son of Shasta and Kenneth “Mossy” Peña.
Overturf said he was incredibly proud of Peña’s performance.
“You know what I liked about that match,” Overturf said. “Alex kept the pressure on him. We pressured him, we pressured him, he backpedaled and he backpedaled.
“If you lose and you’re getting after it ... that’s all you can do. He was getting after it. And he left it all on the mat.”
Darnell was scheduled to wrestle at 138 pounds in this, his senior, year.
But he dropped weight to get to 132 and eventually dropped enough to get into Peña’s 126-pound division.
After Darnell won Saturday night, he raised four fingers in the air to show that he had stopped Peña’s historic bid to be Colorado’s 17th wrestler in 91 years to win four consecutive state championships.
Tim Yount, owner of the On the Mat Rankings and Colorado’s longtime high school wrestling guru, offered his perspective on four-time state champions.
“It’s almost as hard (as winning the lottery). It’s almost unheard of,” Young said.
“It is a treat when we have chance to come to this arena (Pepsi Center) and watch a kid go for a fourth state title ... a treat.”
Ignacio teammates Colton Wyatt and Teagan Overturf also reached the podium at the state championships.
Wyatt finished fifth in the 195-pound division in Class 2A; Overturf finished sixth at 160 pounds.
Wyatt, who has not been able to practice actively since December because of a troublesome knee injury, pinned Zach Parker of Lutheran in 51 seconds in the final match of Wyatt’s high school career.
“I wanted to be done with it. I’m tired,” Wyatt said after he finished the season 29-7.
He said that he has to rely on his experience on the mat since his practice time has been so limited.
“You go out there, and you just have to remember everything that you can do,” Wyatt said.
Earlier Saturday, Wyatt moved up in the consolation bracket with a third-period pin of Jesus Hermosillo of Holyoke. Wyatt led 15-9 at the time of the pin.
The two wrestlers had combined for a tournament-high 18 points in the second period alone.
Wyatt advanced to face Jaron Ragsdale of Norwood (33-2) in consolation action.
Ragsdale, who entered as the No. 1 seed at 195 pounds, built a big lead against Wyatt before pinning him with 27 seconds left in the match.
The loss sent Wyatt into the Class 2A fifth-place match where he collected his state medal.
Overturf suffered an agonizing loss in the fifth-place match at 160 to Jack Woods of Custer County 7-5.
Overturf led 4-3 in the third period before Woods won with a takedown and two back points.
Earlier, Overturf advanced with a hard-fought 4-3 decision over Kyler Bear of Paonia.
That sent Overturf into the consolation semifinal against Chris Robinson of Rocky Ford. In one of the most entertaining matches of the state tournament, the two wrestlers traded the lead. Robinson went up 3-0 and then 3-1.
But Overturf stunned the Rocky Fort wrestler with an aggressive flurry to open the third period, scoring an escape and a takedown to nab a 4-3 lead.
A Robinson escape with a minute to go tied the score 4-4.
Overturf went ahead 5-4 when Robinson was penalized for stalling.
Robinson regained the lead for good 6-5 with a takedown with 15 seconds left.
Overturf pulled off a dramatic reversal, but the official ruled it occurred just after the final whistle.
That sent Overturf (42-12) into the fifth-place final.