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Elizabeth's Abe Leonard won sixth place at 170 pounds as he and his three state qualifier teammates earned a total of 16 team points, which garnered the Cardinals 32nd place in the field of 50 teams competing in the 3A division at the Colorado State Wrestling Tournament held Feb 15-17 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
“I had a better tournament this year,” Leonard said after the awards presentation. “I came to state last year and was out on the second day, but this year I made it to the podium.”
He said all three days he faced tough competition and the competition got tougher each time he advanced in the tournament.
“Competing at state is a great learning experience. I used what I learned in the regular season and at state last year to make me a much better wrestler this season,” he said. “Now I want to build on what I learned so I can be back at state next year and move up on the podium.”
He said he also plays football and wrestling is a plus, helping him with balance, agility, using leverage and being a better tackler. He said he is looking forward to next football season and even more to next wrestling season.
Cardinal Coach Robert Chavez praised this year's team.
“All the kids in our program worked very hard all season,” he said. “Our wrestlers achieved much more than I expected in my first year coaching Elizabeth wrestling. I am proud of all we accomplished during the regular season and I am very proud that we had four wrestlers qualify for state.”
He said Elizabeth was basically a young team with only two seniors on the varsity roster and he expects this year's juniors to return as the strong core for the team. He said he also expects members of this year's JV to challenge for varsity spots next season. In addition, he said seven freshmen who wrestle with the middle school this year plan to join the Cardinals when they move to the high school, so he feels Elizabeth is building a strong wrestling program and could again be a strong team next season and in the future.
“Assistant coach Robert Leonard and I will take a little break from wrestling and then we plan to hold several wrestling camps at the high school to encourage more young athletes to consider wrestling with us,” Chavez said.
Chavez said the Cardinals are fortunate because of the support that helps train wrestlers who compete in the sport in middle school and in the local pee-wee wrestling program.
“Coach Leonard and I teach a style of wrestling we feel is unique,” he said. “We want to bring that style when we work on the middle school and youth program coaches and their wrestlers as they help the wrestlers improve their mat techniques, assisting Elizabeth in becoming a strong wrestling community.”
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