Mountain View's Erik Contreras sets golden goal13 Feb 2017
In the Mountain View wrestling room, when the moment hits, the team doesn't blink. Not anymore. Like last week, when Erik Contreras told Semaj Spencer he was calling his dad to see if he could dye his hair blond, it was just another day. "He asked me if he should do it, I said yes, because I thought he was kidding," Spencer said. "Then I saw it and it was like, 'Oh no.'"Maybe because it wasn't just that Contreras was testing the theory that blonds have more fun; it was the extra step he took by adding a purple paw print on the right side. Coach Scott Barker rolls his eyes going back to the moment when the mood struck Contreras last week and he acted upon it. Then he dyed it more blond.
He doesn't march to a different beat, more like he struts to a personal bass riff, the old-school funk that fills his playlist. "People like it. People don't like it," Contreras said with a grin. "That's whatever. I always try to do something new. It keeps me into the sport and always trying to have fun with it." He's had the most fun during the state tournament, where he'll make his third straight appearance Thursday at the Pepsi Center in Denver. He is one of six Mountain Lions to make the field this year, and Barker likes his team's chances. During Contreras' last two trips, he's been the guy to surprise, the freshman wrestler not expected to place who took fifth anyway. Or the sophomore who wasn't supposed to reach the finals, but did so by knocking off a pair of wrestlers ranked higher than him.
"I mean, that's what state's all about. It's all about surprising people, because anything can happen at state," he said. "It's good to be that guy that surprises, not the guy to be surprised." He's always looked the part of cool customer on the big stage, though he said there were moments of nerves his first outing. But to him, there's a time and a place, and a wrestling mat is not the setting for one to be tight.
That's just kind of him, easy going and whatever. He only has one speed, so it doesn't matter, the nerves," Barker said. "You probably see more this year once you hit a certain level and you want to get back to that level. When you're younger, a freshman, young and dumb and you throw it all against the wall and it works. We've been working on the mental side of that the last couple of weeks. It's the same approach; don't change."
There is one notable change, however: Contreras can no longer surprise people, not as a state runner-up who has been highly ranked in 4A at 145 all season. Barker said Contreras has worn a target all year. Thus, the camouflage. "That's why I dyed my hair, so no one could recognize me," he joked. Yeah, that's not going to work. He also has some work to do to reach his goal of being a state champion. To do so, he figures he will have to beat Niwot's Tommy Stager, and that hasn't gone so well lately. Contreras won the first meeting in a close decision in Wyoming. The past three matchups have all been won by Stager, a discouraging trend for Contreras.
"That's not even a mountain trend, like up and down. It was up, then down so far," he said. "I have an idea. I've just got to be just as good as he is on his feet. Other than that, it will be a great match. I think it goes to our feet. That's where he gets me and I get him." As with all Mondays of state week, Barker sat in front of his wrestlers and went over a laundry list of work to do, and when it was his time, Contreras listened intently. When it comes to work in the room, he does his well, and if Contreras puts his mind to winning a drill or a race in a drill, Spencer said he does. He also makes it fun, which is appreciated over the course of a long season.
"His goofy personality brightens the mood," Spencer said. "Whenever we have a hard opponent, or we're stressed, he calms us down. He tells us to calm down, go work our stuff and we've got it. It's just his personality in general. It's his timing." Which he'd like to perfect on the mat this weekend. Preferably on Saturday night in front of a packed house. "This is honestly the perfect time to do it," Contreras said. "It's the only time to do it."