Pueblo East High School wrestling team is confident in this year’s pack of wrestlers.
The Eagles already posted an order form on their Pueblo East Wrestling Facebook page for parents and company to sit with the team at the state tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver in February.
“The confidence is great,” East coach Pat Laughlin said. “We just focus on what we can control here and do the best we can. … We let the chips fall where they lay”
Last year, they fell half a chip shy of the ‘chip. The Eagles had everything stacked in their favor but it fell like dominoes.
Just half a point shy of a title and reigning state champion Windsor’s 159.5 points and settled for second at 159. Pueblo County placed third at 158.5.
The pain from watching Windsor hold that title still aches. But Laughlin is ready to move forward.
“You can always look back on things that didn’t go your way and how to change that,” Laughlin said. “But I felt our kids wrestled very well. Some things you can’t control. But this year going into it, we’re going to put our best foot forward and try to do what we can do in our control.
"If it comes out we’re number one, great. That’s where we’d like to be. If it doesn’t and we did the best we can, then we’ll accept that.”
No doubt the Eagles still have “unfinished business” – the team’s motto last season – and they’re putting in the work to accomplish it.
Especially Andy Garcia, who has a shot at a first for East. Garcia, a heavyweight, finished 42-3 last season and was the only Eagle to earn a state title. He can become a three-time state champion for the Eagles.
Clinching a title isn’t his prime objective, though.
“I want to beat the kids who have dreams of beating me,” Garcia said.
While he’s metaphorically on the throats of his opposition, Garcia hopes the Eagles can capture a team crown.
“They know what they did last year and they know what they didn’t do,” Garcia said. “It doesn’t need to be said unless they’re not aware of it. If they really don’t understand then one of us will say something.
"I feel like we’re all mature enough and we’ve all wrestled on high levels on big stages that everyone knows what they did wrong. ... Maybe they didn’t get a takedown, controlling hands, staying behind the hips. I think everybody is pretty aware.”
The wrestling world is cognizant that Garcia won’t be the lone Pueblo wrestler vying for school history.
Pueblo County’s Brendon Garcia can become the 21st wrestler in Colorado history to win four consecutive state titles and the first Hornet to do so since Hunter Willits in 2017.
Brendon Garcia won his first title at Class 3A Dolores Huerta in 2016 as a 106-pound freshman. He beat Caleb Cox of Brush in an 8-1 decision in the championship match.
Along with his fight for four in a row, Brendon Garcia is also 109-4. None of those losses occurred in Colorado. He'll look to complete that streak in addition to his pursuit of one final crown.