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Niwot seniors shine at annual Gary Daum Classic

Series: Niwot Wrestling | Story 3

January 8, 2020 | View PDF

Jocelyn Rowley

Seniors Jovani Lopez, Keith Hemenway, and Daniel Torres earned top finishes at the eighth annual Gary Daum Classic on Jan. 4.

The Niwot High gym was stacked to the rafters on Saturday, Jan. 4, as the largest field ever took to the mat for the eighth annual Gary Daum Classic. While more teams may have meant more problems for tournament host and Niwot head coach Bobby Matthews, he said it has been tremendously gratifying to see the competition named for the legendary Cougar coach grow into a can't miss event.

"When I came here five years ago, one of my goals was to make this a really tough tournament. This year, our smallest bracket was 12 wrestlers, and we had six pigtail matches, and you can't be much fuller than that. We had some new teams out here, like Thompson Valley, who is a perennial powerhouse, and the coach told me they're going to look at coming back with more wrestlers next year. That's encouraging to me."

Also encouraging to Matthews was his team's performance on the day. Led by a trio of seniors, The Cougars posted 11 match wins to score 61.0 points at the Classic, their highest total at the home-gym tournament since 2017. Niwot also added three more medals to this season's growing collection, as four-year wrestlers Keith Hemenway, in the 160-pound class, Jovani Lopez (220), and Daniel Torres (285) all earned trips to the podium.

"Having a lot more seniors with experience and understanding about how to get through a match has been huge," Matthews said. "We're seeing that growth, but we still have a long way to go. We have to build up to regionals and be firing on all cylinders."

The day got off to a bit of an inauspicious start, both for Matthews the host and Matthews the coach. A glitch in the tournament software threatened a lengthy delay of the first round matches, and then once they were underway, the Cougars failed to score any points.

Things started picking up for Niwot in consolation round action, which saw sophomore Satchel Hart (126) pick up his first varsity win with a pin of Fort Morgan's Jesse McMinn at 0:46. Seniors Bryan Martinez (152) and Max Pecherzewski (120) also picked up consolation wins, as did Hemenway. He then went on to win three straight matches, including the consolations finals in a 5-1 decision over Rocky Mountain's Cole Griffin. Hemenway finished fifth overall in the 160 lb. bracket, and improved to 11-6 on the year.

Lopez and Torres received first round byes, which meant a lot of waiting around before their quarterfinal matches got underway. Torres took his by fall over Longmont's Blake Kaminsky at 4:23, and then went on to win his semifinal match by a 9-5 decision over Austin Fiala of Monarch. Torres faced Vista Peak's Donovan Jarmon in the title match, and was leading until the final seconds, when Jarmon executed a quick escape move, and come away with a sudden victory.

"It was more about technique than strength," Torres said following the loss to the ninth-ranked junior. "I was thinking I had it. I thought if I could just get behind him, I could get it, so I was trying to circle, and that was my mistake. I thought it was going to be easy, but he put up a lot of fight."

Despite the loss, Torres was pleased with his overall performance, both on the day and on the season. His record improved to 10-7 on the year, and he is looking forward to putting some distance between those numbers in the run-up to regionals next month.

"I'm angry and wish I could have done better in the match, but second place is the best I've ever done here," he said. "That means I'm improving more, but there's a lot of room for improvement. I just want to get stronger-that will definitely help."

Lopez won his quarterfinal by a 7-4 decision over Northridge's Alexis Rosa, and then went on to beat Horizon's Scott Hill in a semifinal match that was closer than the final 7-1 score would indicate. He took on Skyline's Oscar Aranday for the title, but it was clear early on that the shorter junior had his number. The powerfully built Aranday went on to pin Lopez for the win at 1:33.

"The kid was just good with the upper body, and I tried not to tie up with him, but he just caught me and I got stuck," the heavyweight said after his third loss of the year. "I usually try to get the angles and take him down, but I wasn't thinking in the moment, and he topped me with that move he did."

Unlike his teammate, Lopez did not have a particularly positive review of his performance at the meet, blaming, in part, the long wait between matches. However, he said he learned some valuable lessons that will help in his bid for a repeat trip to the Class 4A state championships.

"Sometimes people lose. I just need to work on changing my level and, like with the Horizon guy, trying to find where to get them to take them down."

Jocelyn Rowley

Senior Jovani Lopez (285) won 7-1 over Scott Hill of Horizon in the semifinals match at the Gary Daum Classic on Jan. 4.

Like his heavyweight, Matthews feels there could have been a better result for the two 2019 state qualifiers.

"It was good, but I would have liked to see two champions," he said."I am proud of them for finishing second, but I just know they're capable of winning both of those matches. Some of it's their Achilles heels, which we've known about and are working on in the wrestling room, but I think they're well on their way."

Matthews also extended his gratitude to Gary Daum's son Garin , a former state champion, and daughter Annika for their continued support of the yearly event, and for the assistance of Gary's grandsons, Luka and Remington, who helped the officials at Mat 3 and also passed out medals to top placers.

"It's been great to have the Daum family involved," he said. "To work a table all day, it shows how much it means to them for this tournament to grow and have success."


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