Discovery Canyon's Jaden Porreco has returned with success since a gruesome elbow injury cut his junior season short - flipping and flattening the opposition on his last-chance hope toward state gold.
Porreco stuck Mesa Ridge's Coltin Doyle early in the second period of the 126-pound match Wednesday, and the Thunder beat the Grizzlies 48-36 as part of a highly touted Class 4A dual that featured 12 pins and two forfeits.
Although the senior has been sharp this season, Porreco is not taking anything for granted after a devastating injury on the mat a year ago.
He was third at state as a sophomore before spending the end of last season recovering from an elbow fracture, and tears to his UCL and MCL.
Last year, "it was taken away from me so suddenly," Porreco said. "I didn't expect anything like that to happen and now that I know that it can happen, it's a lot of motivation towards my goals."
Mesa Ridge was ranked No. 5 in 4A by On The Mat's latest rankings, while Discovery Canyon was eighth. Both of their team's strengths and weaknesses were on display in a series of sure-handed results.
"It was such a lopsided, weird dual," Thunder coach Marques Bravo said. "We pin them, they pin us, we pin them."
The Thunder jumped out to a 30-0 advantage with walk-off wins from Jett Strickenberger (106), Darian Palacio (113), Patrick Allis (120), Porreco and Jared Turner (132). The five of them - Discovery Canyon's lightweight "Murderers' Row" - only trailed for a combined 10 seconds.
"We knew that our heavy weights we were lacking some people and some experience, so we knew us light guys, more the seniors, we all needed to come out there with some fire," said Turner, who jumped out to a 15-0 lead before sticking Isaiah Brown in 2:45. "In the matches we were going to dominate we had to make them pins for the extra points."
The Grizzlies responded with pins in four of the last seven matches and scored an additional 12 points because of Discovery Canyon's forfeits at 220 and heavyweight.
A shaken-up Malachi Chambers came out of an injury timeout to win 138s and Elijah Valdez needed only 69 seconds in 152s to bring the Grizzlies within 36-12. The Thunder, though, wrapped up the dual victory with consecutive pins from David Biddy (160) and Dustin James (170).
"We knew it was going to come down to those matches in the middle," Mesa Ridge coach Rob Braaten said. "Way too much not wrestling tough through the periods by my team. And then not getting off our back enough."
Five wrestlers between the teams are ranked in the top four by On The Mat's Dec. 22 rankings. Of those, Mesa Ridge's Dominick Fini and Michael True did not wrestle Wednesday and won by forfeit.
The Thunder and Grizzlies will see each other plenty in the not-too-distant future. They'll cross paths again at the Colorado Springs Metro Championships in just over a week and are both slated in 4A Region 4 in early February.
"Right now we need to tighten the screws," Valdez said. "It's that fine-tuning stage."