Lewis, Carson bounced from state wrestling in emotional finales
Denver — By the final day of the state wrestling championships, the four floor-level entrance tunnels at Denver’s Pepsi Center carry a roller coaster of emotions.
The dimly lit, narrow hallways are often the first place wrestlers celebrate with friends, family, teammates and coaches, whooping and hollering that their podium and medal chances are still alive.
Then there are the athletes who collapse into the dark, too distraught to move after being eliminated from the competition, sometimes too battered to pick themselves up, or in Hayden senior Taylor Lewis’s case, all of the above.
Lewis had to use crutches to enter the arena Saturday morning, and he hardly warmed up before his third-round consolation match in the Class 2A, 182-pound division began. He was nursing a severely injured ankle that nearly cost him a trip to the final rounds in the first place.
Like his overtime win Friday night in the consolation second round to stay in contention for a medal, Lewis again battled Meeker’s Devone Pontine into overtime, using a late escape point to tie the match at seven. But in the extra minute, hardly able to use his left ankle by this time, Lewis surrendered two reversal points to Pontine in a 7-5, sudden-victory loss, ending his state run and his career as a Hayden Tiger.
“That’s why I think it’s one of the cruelest sports in the world, because you can do all that and not get anything to show for it,” Hayden coach Chad Jones said. “He gutted it out. That’s the most heart I’ve ever seen in a kid.”
Lewis’s season-long practice partner, 195-pound sophomore Christian Carson, also was competing for his state life at the same time just one mat away. After scoring a 2-0 lead on a first-period takedown, Carson got rolled to his back and was pinned by Yuma’s Kaler Ybarra, just seconds before his teammate’s loss.
“Carson’s last words to me were ‘Next year,’” Jones said.
There will be more opportunities on the mat for Carson. Lewis likely will never get a shot to compete again, a bittersweet thought, he said. On one hand, the pressure to perform is gone. On the other hand, he reveled under the lights and in the circle.
“There’s no other sport like wrestling,” Lewis said. “Everything else in life is easy after wrestling. I don’t think I’ve ever loved something like I love this sport.”
Lewis finished the season with a 35-7 record. Carson ended the winter with a 26-13 record.
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