GREELEY — A.J. Rees did his best Willis Reed impersonation Saturday afternoon at the Northern Colorado Christmas tournament finals.
The Discovery Canyon senior went into the 120-pound title match against Pomona's Josh Rosales with a bum left knee, which didn't get any better as the match wore on.
But Rees persevered against his top-ranked Class 5A foe at the Island Grove Event Center and posted a 4-1 victory to go into the holiday break with a 16-1 record.
"It was a matter of being methodical with it and having a game plan going into the match," said Rees, a two-time state champion who will wrestle in college for Iowa State. "I had to switch up my entire offense because I'm a left-leg lead and I just couldn't shoot on it.
"I tried to focus on what I could do instead of what I couldn't do."
Rees, selected the tournament's most outstanding wrestler of the lower weights, had a 2-1 lead over Rosales in the third period. When knee hurt the most, Rees was neutral with Rosales — but on one leg. Even then, Rees still found a way to score one more takedown.
The lone pin of the tournament's championship matches was produced by Greeley West senior Austin Waterman, ranked No. 2 among Class 5A heavyweights by On The Mat. Waterman scored his fall in 2:58 against No. 1-ranked Jorge Rodriguez of Mountain Range.
Pomona won the team championship. The Panthers, who recently finished fourth at the prestigious Reno Tournament of Champions, crowned only one champion Saturday — Archie Colgan at 160 pounds — en route to producing 228½ points. Broomfield finished second (214½) and Cheyenne East was third (211½).
The best match of the day came at 145 pounds. Two-time Class 4A champion and top-ranked Phil Downing of Broomfield had a 4-2 lead over 2A Highland's top-ranked James Price, who made a move that many in the crowd and several coaches thought should have tied the match. But the referees had a better angle and didn't award the points.
"I kind of let up. I thought I had it won and he could have taken it from me easily," said Downing, who won the match 4-2. "I still had his hips controlled, so that is why the ref didn't give it to him."
NORTHERN COLORADO CHRISTMAS TOURNAMENT
Top team scores — Pomona 228½ points, Broomfield 214½, Cheyenne East 211½, Discovery Canyon 189, Windsor 188, Greeley West 171½, Centauri 171, Thompson Valley 171, Coronado 158½, Arvada West 146.
106 pounds — Watson, Coronado, maj. dec. Huff, Broomfield, 11-3; 113 — Romero, Broomfield, dec. Salomon, Windsor, 7-3; 120 — Rees, Discovery Canyon, dec. Rosales, Pomona, 4-1; 126 — Tawater, Arvada West, maj. dec. Cress, Cheyenne East, 15-4; 132 — Meredith, Cheyenne Central, dec. Robledo, Pomona, 9-5; 138 — Martinez, Pine Creek, maj. dec. Trujillo, Highland, 14-2; 145 — Downing, Broomfield, dec. Price, Highland, 4-2; 152 — Boerner, Mountain Range, maj. dec. Willits, Pueblo County, 13-0; 160 — Colgan, Pomona, dec. Keys, Centauri, 7-1; 170 — Copeland, Bennett, tech. fall Marquez, Thompson Valley, 20-5 (5:06); 182 — Aziz, Centauri, dec. Hernandez, Brighton, 4-3; 195 — Bartlett, Cheyenne East, maj. dec. Tapia, Fossil Ridge, 11-2; 220 — Mayberry, Columbine, dec. Shoop, Eaton, 9-4; Heavyweight — Waterman, Greeley West, pinned Rodriguez, Mountain Range, 2:58.