By Mike Brohard- Sports Editor Reporter Herald
There are times Parker Simington looks across the mat and knows he has worked harder than the opponent he's about to face. He can even guarantee his skills are better. Jimmy Fate has those nights where he is sure his experience is far superior to his foe's, even that he is just flat-out better than him. This Saturday night, arguably the two best wrestlers in the area know none of those things will be factual in one particular match. When they face each other. "I'd say none of those things are true," Simington said. "We practice with each other about once a week and we practice all offseason together and we push each other. "I know how hard he's been working, because a lot of the time it's been with me, so it's not the case."
Logic says the match should happen in the finals of the Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament at the Budweiser Events Center on Saturday. Simington, the top-ranked 160-pounder in 4A of Thompson Valley, and Fate, No. 1 in 3A at the weight class from Berthoud, are two-time defending state champions and haven't lost since their sophomore seasons. They should go in seeded first and second. Consider it an early Christmas gift for the wrestling fan, as the two will provide one of the marquee matchups of the season in the eyes of Tim Yount, who does the On The Mat rankings. To him, without question, they are two of the top five wrestlers in the state, regardless of weight or classification.
Yes, no question. No. 1, you're talking about two kids who here state champs last year and undefeated," Yount said. "You add that element, and you don't have that happen in very many places.
"Matter of fact, if I'm a tournament director, I'm highlighting this as one of the biggest matches of the tournament, because it is. Is it one of the top-five matches of the year? You bet." Making it more interesting is the two are friends. We're not talking BFFs who are shooting selfies all the time, but two guys who spend a lot of time working out together, who have traveled together on Team Colorado functions and most definitely carry a strong mutual admiration. Truth is, they are both very much looking forward to this match, because they both want to challenged.
"I'm excited. We're good friends, and that part sucks, but you want good competition," Fate said. "It's weird, and the lead-up to it is weird. Once you get to the match, all you're thinking about is getting a victory. Once it starts, it's out the window, but the build-up to it is the weird part." All of those workouts together through the years have made both of them better wrestlers, and while one would think it would give each a good idea on what the other will do, that's not always the case. Simington figures both have an idea of what the other considers their go-to moves, but the intensity in a match is much different than in practice, so how it all plays out is somewhat unknown.
Squaring off on a Sunday afternoon gives one an concept, but Fate said it's not like they've actually studied each other in action. They haven't been in the same classification or the same weight for awhile, so there was no need to scout. "Honestly, I think about how many times I've actually watched him wrestle, and it's not that many," Fate said. "I think we both know what kind of wrestlers we both are, and you have to enforce your offense, your defense — everything that makes you you — and see who comes out on top."
To Yount, it's the contrasting styles that really make the pairing intriguing. He likes Fate's ability to push the pace, but also Simington's knack for turning an opponent's mistake into a final conclusion. So if you're in the stands, get comfortable, because it promises to go regulation. Maybe longer. "I think it's going to be a 6-minute hard go," Simington said. "There isn't going to be much resting. It will probably come down to a takedown or something like that. All you can do is give it your all for 6 minutes and whatever happens, I'll leave it all out there. I know he will, too. No matter the outcome, we'll both be proud of ourselves, because I know we'll give it all we have."
Because of the differing classifications, the result will be more for bragging rights. Win or lose, both will come out of it the favorite to win a third state title in February, but it will also provide a little juice for later in the season. On Feb. 3, Thompson Valley will travel to Berthoud for a dual, giving the two a rematch, one that will come much quicker this time around. Because five years and 60 pounds ago, the two met before with something on the line, the seventh-grade regional final. Simington danced around the topic, but Fate remembered it well enough.
"Parker beat me in overtime," he said, laughing. "I mean, that was a long time ago. We were completely different wrestlers back then." Neither is quite sure how it will play out Saturday, which is why the anticipation is so great. They know how it will end — with a handshake, likely a hug — and then they'll meet up again for their practice sessions. There will be no gloating by the winner, but certainly a feeling of pride. Neither hides from the truth — they both want to know who is better.
"This is kind of like our little state championship in a way," Simington said. "It's definitely going to be one of the biggest matches of the year. We both know it's going to be a grind. You've got to look forward to the tough ones like these."