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Lopez and Torres bow out at state wrestling championships

Series: Niwot Wrestling | Story 8

February 26, 2020

Jocelyn Rowley

Senior Jovani Lopez makes Broomfield's Tyler Carpenter pay for a mistake during the championship quarterfinals at the Class 4A state wrestling tournament on Feb. 21.

Niwot seniors Jovani Lopez and Daniel Torres accomplished much more than they thought possible during their four-year high school wrestling careers, but in the immediate aftermath of grueling losses in the 2020 Class 4A state championships, it was hard for them to accept falling short of their ultimate goals.

"It was a good experience," Lopez said, though without much conviction. Minutes before, he had lost a close third-round match in the heavyweight consolation bracket, putting him out of contention for a state medal, and sending him home from the Pepsi Center much earlier than he'd hoped. "I had some wins and losses, some good matches. I had a really good match with the Broomfield kid. But I didn't really get what I wanted."

Lopez went 2-2 over the three-day tournament, his two impressive wins cancelled by narrow losses that were in many ways just as impressive. In the opening round on Feb. 20, he pinned senior Israel Lima of Central Grand Junction, putting him into the championship quarterfinals against second-seed Tyler Carpenter of Broomfield the next day. In that match, Lopez gave the powerful Eagle senior more than he bargained for, even getting him on his back at one point, but ultimately fell in a 9-7 decision.

Lopez then entered the consolation bracket, and won in the second round by fall over Lewis-Palmer senior Matthew Icke. In the third round, he faced Pueblo South senior Victor Sosa, just one victory away from placing in the bracket's top six. Hoping to expedite that win, Lopez took a gamble that didn't pay off, and would go on to fall in a 6-4 decision.

"I did a move that wasn't supposed to be made, and it almost caught me by him pinning me, but I told myself 'I don't want to quit now,' and I was able to get out of it quick, and then just tried my best to score points and win the match, even though I was down."

Niwot assistant coach Todd Johnson said Lopez's premature takedown shot was probably motivated by the pressure of nearing his goal.

"It was a big important match in the blood round of a tournament-he's got to win to place-and there was probably a lot of stuff going through his mind. It's a move he hits a lot, but maybe it was something he forced, and didn't need to. It's worked for him a lot this year, and he went to what he knows and what he's good at. I don't know if it was the wrong idea, but maybe it was a little too early or maybe a little bit forced, and he could have set it up better."

Lopez ended the season with a 34-9 record, and was a state qualifier two years in a row. He also checked winning matches at the Pepsi Center off his to-do list, and finally feels like he has stepped out of his older brother Jose's shadow. For Niwot head coach Bobby Matthews, seeing the younger Lopez evolve into a state-level talent has been one of the rare surprises in his coaching career.

"For Jovani to be one match away is amazing," Matthews said. "How far he's come as a wrestler, as a person, and as a leader and an athlete at Niwot High School is leaps and bounds. If you'd asked me the first day I met him if he'd be here, I would probably have said no. But then I saw that potential in him over the years."

For Torres, the 2020 state tournament ended much the way his 2019 tournament did-with a loss to Windsor's Tyler Grasmick in a second consolation round match. This time, however, the Niwot senior won't get a shot at redeeming himself next year, which came as a painful realization to the tenacious overachiever.

"It's pretty disappointing," Torres said. "Looking back, it was the last match ever of my high school career. It's over already, even though I got an extra week compared to a lot of people. I definitely wish I could have done better, and maybe if I hadn't been injured I could have learned more techniques, and more skills."

Torres was 1-2 for the weekend, his win coming in an 8-3 sudden victory over Mitchell's Ryder Hayes in the first consolation round. His coaches also believe his injury played a role in the early exit from state, though both are amazed he came back at all, never mind winning a match at the Pepsi Center.

"I would say the biggest thing this season for him was that he had six weeks off," Matthews said. "There were a bunch of kids this year who didn't have any weeks off, and they didn't make it here. He was able to make it to state with basically one arm. I'm pretty proud of that. It shows who he is as a person, and who he's become."

Jocelyn Rowley

Senior Daniel Torres puts the moves on Ryder Hayes of Mitchell during a first round consolation match at the Class 4A state wrestling tournament on Feb. 21.

Like Lopez, Torres has been a Niwot wrestling success story, rising from novice roots as a freshman to qualify for the Class 4A championships as a junior and senior. He hopes his personal model of success- based on hard work and determination-will trickle down to the underclassmen and bring future success to the program.

"I'm proud that I was able to be a leader for my team," he said. "I know we have a lot of capable wrestlers on our team, with a lot of skill and a lot of heart, and they still have a couple of years ahead of them... Jovani and I left a legacy of having a goal and reaching it, and that's what I wanted to leave for my team."

Matthews agreed with Torres' assessment of the pair's legacy, and added that they will leave the program better than they found it, both on and off the mat.

"I'm just proud of those guys for competing, working hard, and representing our program. They've laid a foundation for the next group coming through to understand what it takes to be a Niwot wrestler, how important it is that you do well in school, that you're a good person and a good teammate."


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