Efficiently run Best of the Best wrestling also allows for time to spend off mat

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It was an incredible, never-before-seen occurrence as athletes, family and coaches spilled out of the Pine Creek gym Saturday after the two-day Battle of the Best wrestling tournament.

Daylight.

"It's the greatest thing ever," Cheyenne Mountain coach Tyler Seaney said. "A lot of kids get driven out of wrestling by being at 14-hour tournaments on Saturdays. I think the sport needs more of it."

For the seventh consecutive year, Pine Creek played host to the early season event, originally starting with eight teams and growing to as many as 24 that required a second site, with matches also taking place at Liberty.

But for this weekend, 18 programs sent programs only to this northeastern Colorado Springs high school for lots of wrestling and very little waiting around.

That was the key.

"We didn't take as many breaks, including one for lunch today, and that was a great call," said Pine Creek senior Garrett Niel, the reigning state 4A champion at 182 pounds. "It ran so much smoother this year to the point where we'll be able to have a little bit of a weekend left. It helps not to sit around too much and run right through it and just wrestle."

Each school was placed in a six-team pool for round-robin action that started Friday afternoon and concluded before noon Saturday. Then, based on pool-play results, three-team pods were formed that resulted in two more matches to determine final placement.

That's seven matches in not quite 24 hours.

"It's a nice change of pace," said Cheyenne Mountain senior Mike McFadden, a three-time placer at the 4A state tournament who finished runner-up in the 132-pound class in February at the Pepsi Center. "The way Pine Creek is running it, they're doing something right, and other schools need to look at this and work on how fast they run their tournaments. All of us wrestlers are always going. That's what we should be doing, not waiting around all day long to wrestle in two or three matches."

McFadden emerged from his wrestling frenzy with wins in all seven of his matches, helping Cheyenne Mountain to a fifth-place finish, the top placement of the Pikes Peak region's seven representatives.

In addition to tournament host Pine Creek, Falcon, Florence, Fountain-Fort Carson, Lewis-Palmer and Mesa Ridge had teams at the event, which didn't end after dark as the previous six years.

"We just ran it more efficiently," 10th-year Pine Creek coach Billy Gabel said. "Pete Isais runs the tournament for me, and he's the best in the world at it. We just cut a little time here and there and didn't take as many breaks. And when you get more pins, it goes even faster. We've been able to work out the kinks."

That way, coaches like Seaney still get to see the sun, even after a tournament.

And that's even better news for what becomes a sight for sore eyes during wrestling season.

"Wrestling is the most time-intensive sort there is, and as coaches, we're appreciative of the sped-up pace we saw here," Seaney said. "We've got families. We want to get home and see the kids. Usually it's just a kiss on the forehead because they're sound asleep by the time I usually get home."