Air Academy senior Jason Hanenberg won his third Colorado Springs Metro Wrestling Championship on Saturday at Doherty High School, but that wasn’t the tournament that gave the 132-pounder the confidence to believe he could end his prep career with his first state championship.
Hanenberg pinned his first three opponents in 1 minute, 44 seconds or faster before a 4-0 decision over Discovery Canyon’s Jared Turner got him to the final. He pinned Palmer’s Dylan Owens-Hailey in 1:20 for his third metro title, earning Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week.
“I see it as a big stepping stone going to state,” said Hanenberg.
“For some of us it’s a big deal. I just see it as another event to get through.”
The experience that re-calibrated his expectations came at the Walsh Ironman, a tournament of some of the nation’s best that requires an application process.
Kadets wrestling coach Nate Hill submitted Hanenberg’s credentials after his junior season and the two, joined by Hanenberg’s father, made the trip to Cleveland in early December to see where the Kadet stacked up.
“It’s basically college-level wrestling at the high school level,” Hill said.
Hanenberg pinned his first opponent before dropping into the consolation bracket after dropping a major decision. He rebounded with two more victories via fall before losing a decision to the wrestler who finished seventh.
He has yet to lose against in-state competition this year.
“It set my mind a lot higher. I came back thinking that there’s no way I could lose coming from that experience,” he said.
“Up there, it’s the best high school wrestlers in the nation.”
Now, he’s focused on being the best in the state after placing fourth as a freshman and junior and second as a sophomore at lower weights.
“It’s not something we talk about every day, but I know it’s in his mind,” Hill said. “We try to have every kid meet his potential, and he definitely has the potential.”
Hanenberg takes pride in his ability to punish opponents from top position, while his coach went to the senior’s mental makeup when asked what separates Hanenberg from most other prep wrestlers, noting he has a way of performing his best on the biggest stages.
“He’s going to fight for every inch of the mat,” Hill said. “He’s a competitor.”
He’ll take those strengths with him to Western State next year, where he plans to wrestle for the Mountaineers. In addition to a connection with the coaches and a familiarity with the atmosphere, the Kadets senior also was a big fan of the location.
“It was a good fit for me,” Hanenberg said. “Hunting and fishing is a big thing for me, and that’s right in the backyard there.”
After a 3-2 showing in Ohio and a drama-free 4-0 run through metros, a state championship appears to be well within reach.
“I’m very confident in myself. I don’t see anything going wrong for me at this point,” Hanenberg said.
“I just gotta keep doing what I’m doing.”
Other Peak Performers
Sean Bohuslavsky, Liberty
The junior guard led the Lancers to three wins last week, scoring double figures in each contest. He opened the week with 17 points on 8 of 10 shooting in a win over Pine Creek before putting up 10 against Coronado on Thursday. His best outing came Saturday as he posted 28 points - 13 in the fourth quarter - to lead the Lancers over previously unbeaten Lewis-Palmer.
Aaliyah Ricketts, Widefield
Rickets led the Gladiators to three wins last week, posting at least 12 points and four steals in each game. She had 12 points and seven steals against Mitchell on Tuesday before scoring 17 and recording five steals and four assists against Harrison on Thursday. On Saturday, she hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 24 points to go with five assists, four steals and three rebounds.
Noel Clayton, Discovery Canyon
Clayton had a successful Saturday at the Lady Trojan Invitational, hosted by Fountain-Fort Carson. She won the 200-yard medley in 2 minutes, 22.94 seconds, more than three seconds clear of second place and took first in the 100 breaststroke in 1:13.92.
The sophomore also helped the Thunder win the 200-yard medley in 2:01.41 and the 400-freestyle relay in 3:58.44. Both relay times qualified for state.
Zack Swain, Palmer
It wasn’t enough for the Terrors to pick up their first win of the season, but Swain scored Palmer’s only two goals in a Highlands Conference loss to Castle View on Wednesday.
Both of Swain’s goals came in the first period.
Garrett Niel, Pine Creek
Niel, a former state champion, picked up his third straight metro championship on Saturday. Niel never let a match get out of the first round, pinning his first three opponents in 1 minute 40 seconds, 1:25 and 1:29, respectively.
Niel needed just 1:04 to get a pin in the championship match.