DENVER - Mesa Ridge senior Deric Cruz leaned against a wall underneath the Pepsi Center tunnels and reflected on a successful career after his bid to win a second straight state title came to an end.
He commended his opponent and gave thanks to his Christian faith.
He also clarified something that should not be overlooked: "It's tough to win a state title."
Let alone win it twice.
Pine Creek's Peter Isais and Peyton's Britton Holmes each won their semifinals match on Friday night and are now one win away from clinching a second straight title. Isais' teammate, Garrett Niel, and Cruz, meanwhile, had their bids for a repeat snapped late into the night in Denver.
On Saturday, Isais and Holmes will return to the finals mats.
Both agreed that going for a second title has been a tougher journey than the first.
"I've got to have the mentality that I'm going for a new title," Isais said. "I'm not defending anything."
Isais actually isn't defending anything.
With the Eagles dropping down from 5A as part of a statewide classification realignment, Isais is looking to win in 4A to end his high school career. It would be his second state title after he was part of the Pine Creek football team that won it all in November.
So far in the tournament, Isais, who claimed that "Class 4A is the more difficult class" in wrestling, hasn't let it show. He ripped through the bracket with two tech falls before he punched his ticket to the finals with a 4-1 decision over Valor Christian's Hunter Harrison.
"I'm looking forward to the finals and getting my second one," he said.
Holmes' bid for No. 2, meanwhile, would also be the school's second-ever title in wrestling.
The 145-pound senior, who wrestles with goggles to help him see, said after his semifinals match that he's felt like he's had a target on his back all season. His reputation is now well-known around the Pepsi Center tunnels.
"People come up to me and say 'Hey you're Britton Holmes or you're the goggles kid'," said Holmes, who beat McClave's James Steerman 7-2 in the semifinals. "Last year, no one knew who I was so it was easier to stay focused."
Niel had a 4-3 lead in in the second period of the 170 semifinals before Central Grand Junction's EJ Barrera (No. 2) stuck him. Cruz lost to Pueblo County's Donavon Rincon 5-2.
"Coming back to repeat is tough," Cruz said.