"Stryker Lane & Hugh Hardman." Seems like the title of a buddy movie.
Stryker and Hugh are classmates, teammates and champions to the end. They should make a movie.
On Saturday night The Boys from Norwood became one of the most triumphant tandem, tag teams in the annals of Colorado high school wrestling.
The pair won six state individual titles. The two teenagers won a combined total of 285 matches over the past four years. The Mavericks won 80 matches (Hugh had 41) without a loss in their senior season. Not one point was scored all year, all tournament, against Stryker.
And, in their final high school matches, Hugh Hardman won the Class 2A 140-pound championship by a 10-2 major decision, and an hour later, Stryker Lane won the 215-pound championship with a pin at 3:06.
In the arena hallway between their matches, Lane warmed up while Hardman cooled down. "We pushed each other hard the last two years. He made me better," Hardman said. "I think I helped him. We practiced twice a day, before and after school. It wasn't easy getting up at 5 a.m. and going home" 12 hours later. "But it was worth it."
Lane said that he "always worked on defense because my brother would kick my butt. Hugh made me more aggressive, and it was great to have someone besides me with the same attitude and same goals."
Lane has received a scholarship to Cornell University; Hardman will be going off to the University of Northern Colorado. They will be the first two Norwood wrestlers to compete on the Division I level.
And they have made a couple of wrestling-loving families very proud.
Hugh's father, Dirk, is the Norwood coach. His uncle and his cousin have wrestled.
Lane's older brother Tucker won three state titles, too, before graduating from Nucla. He wrestles now for the University of Nebraska. "Their dream is to wrestle one another for the NCAA heavyweight championship.
The brothers' father was a professional wrestler — "Cowboy" Larry Lane — for 10 years and "won" the NWA championship.
Whooomp! There they are!
Most of the 483 residents of Norwood were in Denver on Saturday. The few left at home were dancing, drinking and celebrating back at the Lone Cone Restaurant and Saloon.
"We put Norwood on the map," Hugh said.
Norwood, a one-horse, one-street (literally) town in 1905, hasn't changed much. It sits between the desert and the mountains at 7,000 feet, 33 miles west of Telluride in southwestern Colorado. On a clear day Lane and Hardman can see Utah in the distance.
These two were born into wrestling, and made themselves champions.
When Larry Lane retired from rassling and became a high-school teacher, he and wife, Gwen, the toughest Lane, bought a little ranch in Redvale and built two barns. One barn has a wrestling mat, the other weight and training equipment. For his two sons and daughter, Mollie (who has finished second at state in the discus), Larry also carved a track and baseball and football fields out of the land.
Lane placed sixth as a freshman, but took state as a 189-pounder at Nucla his sophomore season. Then he transferred to Norwood — both schools are within 20 minutes of the Lane ranch — to take more college preparatory courses, but had to sit out half of last season. "We practiced twice a day when everybody else was practicing once a day," Hugh says. Lane got first as a 6-3 1/2, 215-pounder (and also was the state champ in the discus and the shot put). Hardman, 75 pounds lighter, matched his pal with his second state title.
Stryker carries a 3.86 scholastic average and loves chemistry, and on Saturday, he wore the same pair of practice shorts he first put on as a freshman.
Coach/father Hardman says Lane is a dominator who won't let up, and Hugh is a competitor who scraps and burns for every point.
"Lane's bigger and stronger than me, and that makes it tough for me working on my moves with him every day. When I get on the mat with a guy my own size I feel big and strong. I'm quicker than Lane."
Ninety seconds into the final against Layne Crumley of Akron, Hugh held a 2-1 lead when the match was suspended. Hugh suffered an ugly cut beneath his right eye. He returned looking meaner and attacking. It was 6-1 quick and over soon.
From several feet away Lane savored the victory. Hardman yelled: "It's your turn, Stryker."
Hardman said the pair "had a lot of pressure this year because we never lost, and we knew our opponents would wrestle 10 times better in front of all these people (20,505 for the Saturday sessions), here in Denver. We've come too far (332 miles) to lose." Stryker had real mixed emotions. "I'm happy I won state again. I'm sad it's over."
Nobody had scored a point in 35 previous matches this year. Isaiah Churchwell of Burlington fell back 8-0 before the pin.
A half hour before the finals, two wrestlers in red, white and blue lunged and grabbed at each other. No anger, just love. If they had wrestled for real, it possibly would have been the best match we could see, but it was not to be. Stryker Lane and Hugh Hardman, as always this season, won apart, but together. Now two guys with appropriate wrestling names will go their own ways.
But they'll always will be champs and buddies.
Woody Paige: 303-954-1095 or firstname.lastname@example.org