“I am very proud of the two of them,” Matthews said following the win. “To come out for wrestling as sophomores for the first time is tough and they have embraced the grind.”

Senior Brandon Barton (138 pounds) notched his sixth win of 2018 in the 41-36 Cougar victory, while sophomore Keith Hemenway (152 pounds) downed Silver Creek’s Kevin Hellman in just 42 seconds. Molina (170 pounds) pinned the Raptors’ Ricardo Soto in 1:11 for his first career varsity win, while Bitterman (126 pounds) scored a Technical Fall over Alex Gomez in a match head coach Bobby Matthews called “his best by far.”

“He went out and used the moves we have been working on in practice and he was chain wrestling going from one move to the next,” Matthews said of the sophomore’s win. “No thinking just feeling what needed to be done. He has come a long way.”

The underclassman’s recent success has been one of the bright spots for Niwot wrestling in an otherwise inconsistent season. On Jan. 11, the Cougars edged out Centaurus 39-38 for their first Northern League win, mostly due to forfeits in four weight classes. In the contested matches, Barton and senior Nathan Hemenway (182 pounds) posted victories, along with sophomore Jovani Lopez (220 pounds), who got a 4-1 decision over Shane Ditlow.

Barton and fellow senior Jose Lopez (285 pounds) earned spots on the podium at the Frederick Warrior Invite on Jan. 13. Barton settled for fourth place, after a hamstring injury kept him from finishing the third-place match against Malachi Chambers of Mesa Ridge. Lopez also took fourth in his bracket, after falling 3-2 to Holy Family’s Andrew Edwards. The Cougars were otherwise shut out of scoring at the 22-team tournament, and finished in last place.

It was another mixed bag for the Cougars at last weekend’s Soeby Spartan Classic, an 11-team duals tournament held at Berthoud HS. Niwot fell to Glenwood Springs (51-30), Loveland (72-12), Roosevelt (69-12) and Sheridan (48-24), but posted wins in seven of the nine contested matches against Golden, beating the Demons 49-18 for the day’s only team win. Freshman Johnny Ramirez (120 pounds), along with sophomore Max Pecherzewski (106 pounds), Keith Hemenway, and seniors Barton and David Koon (145 pounds) all picked up their only wins of the day against Golden. Jose Lopez pinned Robert Gibbs in 1:23 for the first of his two victories on the day—he later pinned Loveland’s AJ Anderson (3:36)—while Bitterman got a 13-6 decision over his opponent, and then later pinned Glenwood’s Alexander Stacy.

“I think the reason for Matt’s quick improvement is that he doesn’t get pinned very much if at all so he is in matches longer and gaining experience,” Matthews said after the tournament. “Matt has a great sense of his body position and that has served him well early on in his wrestling career.”

Outside of the Golden dual, wins were rare for Niwot at the Soeby Invite. Jovani Lopez, who won by forfeit over Golden, picked up his only contested win of the day against Glenwood’s Bryce Wheeler (fall 3:23).

Though Niwot hasn’t seen much team success so far this season, Matthews is optimistic about his large sophomore class, and is especially pleased to see crossover between Niwot’s football and wrestling programs, as personified by Barton, Bitterman, Molina and several others.

“I think it shows their heart and passion to do whatever it takes to help themselves improve on the gridiron,” Matthews said. “I know coach Lantern is happy to see them working so hard and knows that this will help them for football. I’m hoping that more football players come out next year as I believe wrestling can help them. Also having more football guys out will help make the wrestling program stronger. I believe we can help each other out in many ways.”

Niwot heads out on the road to face Thompson Valley on Jan. 25, followed by the Thornton Invite on Jan. 27.

(1/11) Niwot 39, Centaurus 38

106 — Preston Swan, CHS over Connor Carlson (Fall 0:25); 113 — Thor Christianson, CHS over Max Pecherzewski (Fall 1:23); 120 — Colton Gruszczynski by forfeit; 126 — Liam Angel by forfeit;132 — Bryant Chaparro, CHS over Matt Bitterman (TF 21-5 4 4:16); 138 — Brandon Barton over Kade Gendreau, CHS (Fall 4:49); 145 — Matthew Copanas, CHS by forfeit; 152 — Keith Hemenway by forfeit; 160 — Collin Roberts, CHS over David Koon (Fall 1:27); 170 — Angel Mata, CHS over Long Pham (Fall 1:40); 182 — Nathan Hemenway over Alejandro Castanada, CHS (Fall 4 :43); 195 — Nate Uribs, CHS over Daniel Torres (Dec 12-6); 220 — Jovani Lopez over Shane Ditlow, CHS (Dec 4-1); 285 — Jose Lopez by forfeit

(1/13) Frederick Warrior Invite

Team scores — Mesa Ridge 233, Valor Christian 160.5, Loveland 152.5, Ralston Valley 130, Frederick 122, Thomas Jefferson 119, Skyline 110.5, Mountain Range 97.5, Erie 97, Holy Family 80, Fairview 58, Boulder 52, Strasburg 37, Golden 34, Northridge 33, Standley Lake 33, Silver Creek 32, Holyoke 26.5, Niwot 22.

4th-place matches

138 — Brandon Barton over Kevin Kladde, Valor Christian (8-6); 285 — Jose Lopez over Sean Adams, Ralston Valley (5-2).

(1/18) Niwot 41, Silver Creek 36

106 — Max Pecherzewski by forfeit; 113 — Colin Stringer, SCHS over Andy Greve (Fall 3:09); 120 — Christian Keller, SCHS over Johnny Ramirez (Fall 1:57); 126 — Matt Bitterman over Alex Gomez, SCHS (TF 15-0 5:52); 132 — Keldan Stutzman, SCHS over Colton Gruszczynski (Fall 1:52); 138 — Brandon Barton over Dominik Wheeler, SCHS (Fall 1:42); 145: double forfeit; 152 — Keith Hemenway over Kevin Hellmann, SCHS (Fall 0:42); 160 — David Koon by forfeit; 170 — Julian Molina over Ricardo Soto, SCHS (Fall 1:11); 182 — Tyler Young, SCHS over Long Pham (Fall 0:35); 195 — Jacob Gaptor, SCHS over Daniel Torres (Fall 5:19); 220 — Max Ruiz, SCHS over Jovani Lopez (Fall 3:23); 285 — Jose Lopez by forfeit