DENVER — Whether he knew it or not on Saturday, Cayle McCoy was called to wrestle by one of the world’s preeminent public-address announcers, Alan Roach. Roach is the voice of numerous things and events, including the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and Super Bowl LVI, held in Los Angeles less than a week before the 2022 CHSAA State Championships took over the Avalanche’s home at Ball Arena.
But in addition to his own thoughts, Ignacio’s sophomore 106-pounder heard only his coaches’ instructions in his mind as he stepped onto the mat to close out the championships’ six Unified exhibition tests, which took place between the tournament’s parade of champions and the start of the first-place bouts:
“Get your head in the game, you’ve got to get angry on the mat — stuff like that,” recalled a grinning McCoy, who’d posted an official 2021-22 varsity record of 6-25 after being unable to qualify conventionally for the supreme spectacle in Denver at the previous weekend’s Class 2A-Region I meet in Buena Vista.
Facing San Juan Basin League rival Jaydon Bailey of Dove Creek before fans roughly 15,000 in number, the two grapplers went back and forth for six solid minutes, each nearly pinning the other on a couple occasions while riling up the fans into a frenzy.
It was no small accomplishment either, considering DCHS senior Bailey – nicknamed “Bug” or “Bugsy” – battles cerebral palsy and McCoy has a joint-contracture condition called arthrogryposis, limiting extension and flexion of joints affected.
“Last year he’d stuck with it, though it was a very short season, right?” said IHS head coach Jordan Larsen. “He pushed through it, took a lot of losses but got one or two wins in there. ... But Cayle’s a funny one. At the beginning of the (season) … I don’t think he was planning on coming out; he asked at the beginning of the year, ‘Can I just be a part of it? Can I be a manager?’”
“I was like, ‘Cayle if you want to be a manager that’s great, but I think you should give ’er a shot!’ And it wasn’t just me; it was a lot of people saying that,” Larsen continued. “But he came to practice the first day, went through it and had a smile on his face leaving — I never heard another word about it.”
Giving fans an idea of their tight 6-4 match, won by McCoy, at the SJBL Championships Feb. 3 in Norwood, the Bobcat and Bulldog again strove to the final whistle, with McCoy emerging a 7-3 victor before Larsen and assistant Ryan Boyce.
“Big crowd … that kind of scared me a little bit! Most definitely,” said McCoy. “It’s kind of scary, kind of exciting — both at the same time. You make one mistake and you could lose your match.”
Raising McCoy’s hand was longtime official Dino Aragon, the same referee who’d raised Larsen’s when Larsen copped Class 3A’s 152-pound crown for Bayfield back in 2008.
“It’s kind of funny how those things roll,” said a smiling Larsen. “Every year coming back, the first time you walk in on all those mats … reminds you of why you’re doing it, why you want kids to get there and get that exposure. It’s a great feeling.”
“I was mat-side … and it was pretty emotional,” said Ignacio junior Keaton McCoy, Cayle’s state-qualifying 145-pound brother who actually volunteered to be a warm-up partner for Bailey. “It’s so cool to get to be able to see both of them – and all of these kids – and that they can do this kind of stuff.”
“It was my brother that started me,” Cayle said, of his roots in the sport. “Family sticks together always and forever.”
“It’s awesome having both of them,” Larsen said. “For them being able to come up here and do what they did, I’m just very proud … and looking forward to (them) continuing to improve in future years.”