Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Thorn Compton

NHS Wrestling's Stager Third in State


February 28, 2016

It was a familiar sight for junior Tommy Stager of the Niwot High School wrestling team, being at the Colorado State Wrestling Tournament for the third time in his career.

Unlike the last few times though, Stager had some company to share the experience with. Sophomore Alex Gazdik also qualified for the tournament for the first time in his short wrestling career.

They both fought hard in the three days of events at the Pepsi Center, but ultimately it was Stager who finished in the top three.

Cougar Head Coach Bobby Matthews said this was a fantastic experience for both of his wrestlers, and he could not have been prouder of the way they competed.

“[Stager] placed for the third time, he is now only the second person to place three times in the state tournament for Niwot,” Matthews said of Stager taking third place. “I thought the fact that [Gazdik] went out there aggressive was great. He went for it and wasn’t hesitant. He can build on that for the future.”

Stager and Gazdik really had different experiences in the tournament, though they were competing in close weight classes.

Gazdik was the only person in the 126 class to qualify with a losing record. He was pinned in his first match during the second round after fighting off a cradle for almost two minutes. In his consolation match, Gazdik lost on a decision but he did a great job not being pinned by the more experienced wrestler.

“This is something he probably never imagined he would be a part of,” Matthews said of Gazdik, who has only been in the United States for a few years. “He got a warning for getting a little extra curricular out there, but that shows me that he cares.”

Stager had no problem breezing through his first match, winning on a 12-1 decision. He then had a little adversity in the quarterfinals when he went against an athlete with a very similar style to his own.

“That was probably the toughest quarter-final draw for a top four seed in this tournament,” Matthews said. “I like the fact that [Stager] got some adversity out of the way early.”

Stager won the match on a 5-3 decision and was on to the semifinals in a match against a competitor they expected to see in the finals. Stager lost a heartbreaker to the eventual state champion on a 3-2 decision, one Matthews thought should have been a little different given the other wrestler did not press the attack in the third round.

On the third day of competition, Stager was looking to get some momentum back and at least win third place for the tournament. He was able to do that in the consolation semifinals where he won in a 5-1 decision and made it into the third-place match.

Stager would face familiar competition in the third-place match, as he took on his opponent from the championship quarterfinals who he won against in a close decision. No decision was needed though as Stager pinned his opponent in the second round and took home the third-place medal.

“You’re not going to bully [Stager],” Matthews said, “He’s a strong kid, he’s in great shape, he’s a smart wrestler and he has a bit of a nasty streak to him.”


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