Gilpin wrestler wins national championship

Wrestling Jett HannssenBarbara Lawlor, Gilpin County.  He’s only six years old and he’s a national wrestling champion. He weighs 37 pounds, less than your average bag of chicken feed and every ounce is determined muscle, especially when he’s on the mats.

Gilpin Elementary School first grader Cooley Murdoch is the youngest of five kids and his coach Pete Morgan says he is the sweetest boy you would ever want to meet, until he gets on the mats, and then he is “mean as hell.” Cooley started wrestling last year, with the Gilpin County Youth Wrestling league and has been winning matches ever since.

Coach Pete Morgan says, “From the very beginning he has never been too interested in watching the videos of his wins, but whenever he has lost he insists on watching those matches over and over again to figure out what he did wrong and what he can do better. Little kids just don’t think that way but Cooley does and that has served him very well.”

Cooley became the first Gilpin County champion at a National level tournament. On Saturday, Jan. 2, GCYH had four wrestlers competing in the Who’s Bad? National Classic at the National Western Stock Show Complex in Denver. This was the highest level of competition the Gilpin wrestlers have competed in, with 1000 of the best wrestlers from all over the country competing for National Seeding points.

Coach Morgan says, “Little Gilpin County once again brought home huge results. Cooley Murdock U6, 37 pounds had his best day ever defeating everyone he faced, all of whom were great wrestlers.”

He brings home the trophies and puts the Gilpin wrestlers on the map, and yet, says his mom Dana, “He is very extremely humble. He doesn’t think he is good and never wants to tell anyone he won. I asked his sisters and they said he likes to practice on them and whips their tails and his sisters are much older than he is.

Metro league events are designed to be practice, in the sense that equally experienced wrestlers of the same age and weight get as many matches as possible. Morgan says they usually are put in six-man round robins and wrestle five matches. The competition is designed to be for everyone regardless of experience, to gain experience. Morgan says from 30-35 of the Gilpin kids will be competing on Saturday.

“Cooley winning at a National level and Mateo Muldonado taking fourth place is an unbelievably huge accomplishment that we were not expecting,” says Coach Morgan.

“We believe that learning how to lose is important, and we only entered a few kids to test the water and to put Cooley up against kids his size who could beat him but that did not happen. The only losses Cooley has had were against kids who were much heavier than he is but not kids he would ever compete against in a meaningful competition.”

Wrestling individual results:

Mateo Maldonado, U15 156 lbs, battled to finish 4th, once again at a National Level.

Joey Airola, U12, 82 lbs, and Michael Wenholz, U15, 102 lbs had a very tough time in their open divisions and were eliminated early, but went on to take 1st and 3rd, respectively, in their Rookie divisions, a very significant accomplishment.

Cooley Murdock proved something bigger on Saturday, says Coach Morgan. “No one is limited by where they are from, in an individual sport like wrestling. No one is doomed to be a big fish in a small pond, a great player on a bad team against a low level of competition, the individual controls his destiny and there are no limits.

“One day after winning a National Tournament, 6 year old Cooley put on his head phones at home and without orders or instructions from an adult, blasted his favorite song “Eye of the Tiger,” and played it over and over again, while doing a seemingly endless amount of pushups.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.