It was an unlikely picture Saturday night at The Garden, about 10 minutes after the final matches had been completed in the 60th edition of the Rocky Welton Invitational wrestling tournament.
Standing at midcourt, as the three mats were being rolled up and put away after another two-day successful run of hosting 36 teams and nearly 400 wrestlers from four states, was the top wrestler for the third straight year.
He’s a curly-headed, smiling, jovial junior from Ponderosa High School in Parker, Colo., situated on the southeast side of Denver.
His name is Cohlton Schultz, a 6-foot-2, 285-pounder.
Remember his name because one day you might just see him on the podium with a gold, silver or bronze medal around his neck at the Olympic Games.
When he’s not demoralizing his opponents on the mat, you’ll find him hanging out with teammates, visiting with other coaches and, for the most part, just taking it all in. He’ll gladly sign an autograph for young wanna-be Cohlton’s as well.
Greatness has a way of finding its way to the top.
Will Schultz become an Olympic champion, a self-expressed goal in a post-Welton interview Saturday night?
Only time will tell, but Schultz is certainly making a case that he may well be part of the next generation of USA’s top wrestlers.
When he disposed of Lee Herrington of Kearney, Neb., in Saturday’s 285-pound championship match in just 1 minute, 37 seconds, he wrapped up a third straight title, two at 220 pounds (freshman and sophomore seasons) and the latest. What’s impressive about his final match win is that Herrington had captured the 2017 Welton at the heavyweight division.
For his three-year visit to Garden City and the Welton, generally regarded as the toughest tournament in Kansas, Schultz is now 15-0. Pretty heady stuff for the nation’s No. 2-ranked heavyweight.
But that’s just a tiny portion of his impressive credentials.
In those 15 victories, all have come by falls (pins to the standard non-wrestling spectators). And just one, mind you, just one has been recorded past the initial two-minute first period. And that came in his championship match as a freshman, when it took him one minute of the second period to end that match.
In his freshman year at the Welton, Schultz was on the mat for a total of 7 minutes, 37 seconds in his five wins. A year ago, that time was trimmed to 4 minutes, 40 seconds and this year’s 5-0 mark took just 4 minutes, 33 seconds.
When asked to give a scouting report on himself, Schultz took a few seconds, rubbed his chin a little, and smiled.
“Well, they better know what they’re doing on their feet,” Schultz said happily. “Can they make it through the first period? Then we’ll see what happens.”
It doesn’t happen often, that’s for sure.
This season, Schultz has compiled a 37-0 record (32 falls) against some of the stiffest competition in the United States.
He owns a 3-2 decision, his narrowest margin of victory, over No. 3-ranked Seth Nevillis of Clovis, Calif. That came at the Doc Buchanan Invitational in Nevillis' hometown.
“It’s one of the few times that he’s gone the distance,” said Ponderosa coach Tito Rinaldis, in his first year as the head coach but his ninth season overall at Ponderosa. “I remember watching him work out when he was 7, 8 years old in our youth program — same curly hair, same smile, same attitude.”
This season, Schultz also owns a victory over the nation's No. 9-ranked (Flowrestling) wrestler in Jake Levengood of Vacaville, Calif. That win came at the Reno (Nev.) Tournament of Champions and consumed just 50 seconds into the match, ending with another fall. He also won the prestigious Walsh Jesuit Ironman in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
Rinaldis not only sang the praise of Schultz as a wrestler, but also as a person.
“He’s a one in a million kid,” Rinaldis said. “He’s always getting compliments from the teachers in school. He loves his teammates, and they love him. He’s like a magnet at tournaments — everybody wants to talk to him, and he’ll talk to everyone.”
Rinaldis said if there was a popularity contest, Schultz likely would win.
“He could be the mayor anywhere,” Rinaldis said. “He’s so polite and respectful of everybody.”
Schultz’ mother, Jessica, was in the stands Saturday watching her son mop up on the Welton field. But when asked about her younger son — he has an older brother, Trenton, wrestling at the University of Northern Colorado — all she could do was exhibit a beaming smile.
“He’s a really good kid,” his mom said. “He’s never in trouble. He’s a good student and he’s a good son. I’m very blessed.”
Rinaldis said that as Schultz moves closer to his senior year in high school, the opportunity to move to Colorado Springs and start working at the Olympic Training Center would be an option.
But Schultz dismisses such talk.
“I’m committed to the team and to my senior season,” Schultz said. “I enjoy those big tournaments — they are the real fun ones — but I really enjoy my teammates and being in school right now.”
While Schultz competes in high school where freestyle wrestling is the name of the game, he much prefers the events where the original style of wrestling — Greco-Roman — is utilized. The big difference is that in Greco-Roman, wrestlers can only use their upper body to make moves.
“I fell in love with throwing people,” Schultz said with a big smile on his face. “It takes a lot of drilling and you have to use your hips to whip through and not be afraid of taking a chance.”
Rinaldis, too, echoed his prodigy’s assessment of his skills in the Greco-Roman style.
“It’s the ultimate form of wrestling,” Rinaldis said. “It’s interesting to watch him wrestle freestyle as he incorporates his strength and conditioning in that form. Even when he’s late in a match, and maybe tired some, his defense always helps him win close matches. He’s able to recover from a bad position, and usually it becomes a quick pin.”
Rinaldis said that there have been a number of outstanding wrestlers come through the Ponderosa program, but said Schultz stands out in the crowd.
“He’s a tremendous wrestler, a great student, but most important, he’s an outstanding human being,” Rinaldis said. “It’s been a huge learning opportunity for me to learn from him.”
In his final thoughts of self-assessment, Schultz said there were still items to fine tune in his repertoire of wrestling skills.
“Likely working on my shot, and taking more opportunities to take the offensive,” Schultz said. “I need to get another dimension to my skills.”