Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley
Sports@lhvc.com 

Lopez signs with Cloud County Community College

 

Photo by Bruce Warren Heavyweight wrestler Jose Lopez (center) signed a letter of intent to wrestle for Cloud County Community College on May 22. Pictured with him are wrestling coach Bobby Matthews (at left) and Jose’s brother Jovani Lopez (at right).

Niwot wrestler Jose Lopez came to the sport later than most of his peers, but that lack of experience hasn’t kept him from success on the mat. A surprise state-qualifier during his rookie junior season, he amassed an impressive record as a senior before a broken arm thwarted his 2018 postseason ambitions. Late last month, the heavyweight’s career took another step forward when he signed a letter of intent to wrestle collegiately at the alliterative Cloud County Community College, in Concordia, Kansas.

Lopez’s Niwot wrestling story reads almost like a movie script. Before joining the team as a junior, he had just a casual acquaintance with the sport, mostly from growing up with three other brothers. At the urging of football teammate Dylan Bonge and a colleague from King Soopers who is “a big advocate for Niwot wrestling,” Lopez reluctantly agreed to come on board for the 2016-17 season.

The 6-foot, 275-pound Lopez proved to have a natural affinity for his new sport early on, and earned a spot on the varsity roster right away. He improved steadily throughout the year, and ended many tournaments with a place on the podium. In Feb. 2017, he placed fourth in his first-ever Regional qualifying tournament, earning a coveted berth in the 2017 Class 4A state championship, where he lost in the second round of the consolation finals.

“I think my work ethic had a lot to do with it,” Lopez said of his memorable first season with the Cougars. “I like being pushed and I like pushing myself. Whenever we’d do drill, I’d just take it a step further and try to do it as hard as I could.”

Lopez’s penchant for hard work had him on pace for a return trip to the state championships as a senior, with a 23-7 record that included a win over the fourth-ranked wrestler in the state. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending broken arm at the Thornton Invitational on Jan. 27, 2018, effectively ending his high school wrestling career.

“That was pretty frustrating,” Lopez said. “The moment I found out my arm was broken, it was pretty emotional for me and my dad there in Longmont Clinic.”

One surgery and five screws later, Lopez’s arm is on the mend, and he is now looking forward to beginning the Cloud County Thunderbirds chapter of his wrestling story.

Lopez also considered wrestling for Augustana College in Illinois, before accepting the offer from CCCC. Though a brand new program—2017-18 was its inaugural season—Thunderbirds wrestling has shown a lot of promise early on, much like their incoming heavyweight. In February, six Cloud County wrestlers qualified for the NJCAA Wrestling National Championships, two of whom were later named second-team All-Conference.

Lopez made his decision final after a visit to the central Kansas campus, located approximately 450 miles east of the Colorado Front Range. More than 2,000 students attend the two-year institution, which offers associates degrees in 14 disciplines, including Business Administration, which Lopez plans to study.

“I checked it out, and figured it’s a pretty good place to come back from injury and become a better wrestler,” he said. “It’s a lot closer to home, and not such a hassle to come back on the weekends.”

He is also eager to work with Thunderbirds head coach Cody Cole, a Brush, Colorado native who previously served as a high school coach in Greeley and Platteville.

“He’s friends with Bobby [Matthews],” Lopez said. “So I figured who’s better than someone who knows my coach and knows how my coach trained me.”

Lopez doesn’t have to report to CCCC until August, but he has already started his offseason training regimen. As for his time as a Cougar, he has high hopes for the athletic programs he is leaving behind, and especially looks forward to watching his younger brother Jovani make his mark as a Niwot athlete.

 

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