Hayden junior honors late head coach Chad Jones with berth to his first state final
DENVER — There are thousands of people crowded in the Pepsi Center, but someone is missing.
“I just keep (Chad) Jones in the back of my head,” Hayden High School’s Hunter Planansky said, following his quarterfinal win.
Planansky leans up against the wall. His dad, head coach Nick Planansky, lays a hand on his shoulder as the tears start to pour from his face. He gathers his emotions before he speaks.
“He always wanted me to do my best,” Hunter said. “So, I just keep him in my mind, and he just pushes me. He always used to push me, on and off the season, and to keep doing wrestling outside of season. I just keep him on my mind.”
Jones, Hayden’s head wrestling coach, died unexpectedly this past September of tracheitis. At the beginning of the season, Nick worried that his team would feel too much pressure wrestling in his honor. He didn’t want them to think losing would disappoint their former coach, looking down on them from heaven.
The Tigers sent six of their seven wrestlers at regionals to the state championships. While a state presence is expected, being here without Jones was not.
“Better than half these kids spent the summer with him going to freestyle tournaments and lifting, and it hit hard,” Nick said. “It’s been bittersweet. Love having this many kids here, but it’s tough without him.”
Planansky pinned his quarterfinal opponent, Wray sophomore Ty Hardesty, in the first period, at 1 minute, 13 seconds, pointing to the ceiling to let Jones know that he was fighting, even if he couldn’t see it right now.
As the evening semifinal stage was set, a crowd packed the arena. The tickets for this evening’s competition were reserved seating, and before the semifinals, athletes from all weight classes and high school classes circled the mats in warmups.
Raucous crowds cheered on upset wins next to Hunter, while he had a mere three rows of fans watching from above.
He faced Sedgwick County sophomore Fabian Lopez, an athlete with a stockier build. Hunter stood tall and lean.
The two traded takedowns in the first period, racking up a 2-2 score. Hunter paused the match with a bloody nose, then stuffed it with a tissue to continue.
The two were evenly matched, neither scoring in the second period.
Starting from the bottom position, Hunter hunched over and stayed on all fours.
“GET UP!” Nick yelled.
Slowly, Hunter punched his foot into the mat to lift himself up. He ripped himself from Lopez’s grasp and ran, turning around back in a neutral position to score on an escape, taking a 3-2 lead.
Hunter body-slammed Lopez down to the mat, facing away from the Hayden crowd, holding him there until the final seconds clocked down. When he turned around to have his hand raised in victory, he pointed to the blood gushing down his forehead and walked over to the scoring table for a medical aid. Nick applied pressure to the wound, wiping off the surrounding blood.
Hunter walked back to the mat and cracked a slight smile as his hand was partially raised.
Maybe no one else knew he would make it this far.
Jones probably had a feeling he would.
At least, that’s what Hunter believes.
Jace Logan advances to finals
Soroco senior Jace Logan pinned both of his opponents to advance to Saturday’s finals. He will face defending state champion Wray senior Carlos Tarin. It will be his last chance to grab the state title.
“Really, I’ve just been trying to stay in the moment,” Logan said. “Last year, you get caught up in all the things outside of state, going out to eat, having all my support, my family, everybody here. This year, change it up, staying in the moment and focusing on that match and what I’m going to do, how I’m going to take him down, put him on his back and do my job.”
Colorado Northwestern Community College will host a free presentation from 5:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 20 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.