Niwot senior Tommy Stager breaks 4A career wins record, now turns attention to chasing 4A individual title12 Feb 2017
Niwot’s Tommy Stager broke the Class 4A career win record with a regional championship Saturday, giving the senior 172 total wins and plenty of momentum heading into this weekend’s state tournament. But while the record is a nice accolade, Stager — who’s ranked No. 1 at 145 pounds by On The Mat and is committed to wrestle at Air Force — has grander visions. He’s after an elusive state title after earning a spot on the podium each of the past three seasons with a sixth-place finish at 113 as a freshman, a fourth-place finish at 120 as a sophomore and a third-place finish at 132 last season. “The past three years have taught me a lot about the intensity needed to become a state champion,” Stager said. “That’s something that’s been on my mind the whole year, and it continues to drive me after losing by one point in last season’s semifinals to the eventual champion.”
Stager’s now 42-2 on the winter but has not lost since early December. Along the way, he rattled off 21 consecutive pins, shattered most of Niwot’s records set by his older brother, Nick, and revised his mentality out on the mat. “Something we’ve really focused on this year is the process, and not missing any steps in preparation heading into each match,” second-year Niwot coach Bobby Matthews said. “The focus is on what we’re doing in the room, and that’s been big for him after his second loss because we sat down after that match and changed his approach, and now he’s peaking at the perfect time.” But more than individual feats, Stager bleeds green and white and has done everything he can to raise the profile of the Niwot program. Before the season started, the Eagle Scout with a 4.3 GPA in the school’s IB program took it upon himself to bolster the team’s participation. Last year the Cougars finished the season with a measly 11 guys. Thanks to Stager’s recruiting efforts, this year they came into the winter with 33 signed up.
“He has an ability to thrive on the uncomfortable, and to be comfortable in the uncomfortable,” Matthews said. “He embodies everything we want and he’s definitely been a huge leader in the room. And he really does care about Niwot and he wants to leave a legacy — not just in wins and losses and those types of things, but he wants to leave his footprint on the program. And he’s already done that.” Stager will certainly encounter stiff competition at the Pepsi Center, including Mountain View‘s No. 2 ranked Erik Contreras (whom Stager beat in the regional championship match for his fourth consecutive regional title) as well as Cheyenne Mountain‘s No. 3-ranked Steve Mattorano and Pueblo County‘s No. 4-ranked Christopher Fasano. But the Niwot senior is ready for all challenges ahead of him as he seeks to become the Cougars’ first individual state champion since 1993. “I feel like I’m in a good spot mentally and physically,” Stager said, “and I feel like all the hard work I’ve put in throughout my entire wrestling career is all folding into this weekend and an opportunity to achieve a state title.”