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May 25, 2013
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Sweet 16th

Eagle County’s best senior athlete is Eagle Valley’s Andy Armstrong. Period.

The Eagle Valley wrestler became the 16th state champion in the program’s proud history, winning the brutally tough 220-pound division.

That puts him in heady company.

The first was Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day, which you need to know because there’ll be a quiz later.

Armstrong was the first since Chris Harvey won at 160 in 2006. And Armstrong was the first undefeated state champ from Gypsum since heavyweight Mike Long in 2000.

Armstrong was a perfect 40-0 record. He was also all-state in football, anchoring both the Devils’ offensive and defensive lines.

He isn’t one to brag and he didn’t really openly celebrate on the mat. He pointed to the stands to salute his family.

“It’s amazing to be able to have them there, supporting me through everything,” Armstrong said. “It’s great. All this hard work paid off.”

The seeds for his senior season were planted at the same spot his junior wrestling season ended. Armstrong was fifth in the state as a junior, and that didn’t sit well.

“I had a lot of motivation after last year,” he said. “I wanted to better than fifth.”

And so, after the 2012 state wrestling championships, Armstrong went to work. He spent the spring wrestling freestyle. That helped his movement on the mat and his focus. Then came hours and hours in the weight room.

Devils football coach John Ramunno is not a waxing-poetic kind of guy, but wax he did about Armstrong’s work in weight room.

Armstrong made it two Warrior Classic titles in a row in December, and started to roll. By the time, he repeated as regional champion, Armstrong was 36-0 and the top seed in the 220-pound division.

Mountain View’s Mason Barber was first. Armstrong pinned him in 64 seconds. The Eagle Valley senior went 2-for-2 on the second day of state.

He went the full six minutes twice. Pueblo South’s Hunter Reinert went down, 7-5. By the time Armstrong hit the semifinals, he was hitting his stride. He took out Broomfield’s Connor Eakes, 3-0, and it wasn’t close.

“Never in danger,” Devils wrestling coach Ron Beard said. “That was a dominating 3-0 performance. That kid’s a good wrestler, but his goal was just not to get pinned.”

The only bummer was that the win on points cost Armstrong a chance of tying the school record for pins in a season. Armstrong still finished with 26 pins in 40 wins, an impressive ratio.

One of the toughest things about the state tournament is the wait. Armstrong was at the Pepsi Center and the environs of Denver for about 72 hours for a total of 19 minutes, 4 seconds of wrestling. This included a 24-hour wait for the biggest wrestling match of Armstrong’s life.

Worrying about all these variables was a moot point. Canon City’s Garrett Benell never stood a chance in the final. Armstrong made a very good wrestler look downright poor in a 14-3 victory.

“Andy just did his thing,” Beard said. “It was Andy having fun and going out and destroying.”

(We suppose it was more fun for Armstrong than Benell.)


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The VailDaily Updated May 25, 2013 04:00AM Published May 27, 2013 02:08PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.