No matter how many chalupas or anything else he ate as a freshman, Caeleb Knoll just couldn’t get much bigger.

The Eaglecrest sophomore wrestler — nicknamed “Chalupa,” though it has nothing to do with the fried, taco-like dish from southern Mexico — competed in the 106-pound weight class a year ago despite weighing in well shy of 100 pounds.

That has all changed for Knoll, who has beefed himself up and transformed into a 108-pound force for the Raptors. He’s off to a 36-3 start and is ranked No. 5 in Class 5A by On The Mat.

“This season is a lot better, I’m not giving up 15 pounds to everybody like I was,” Knoll said. “I had to take a lot of protein shakes to build up muscle mass, but this year I came in at 108 pounds and I’m doing good.”

Knoll’s intriguing nickname of “Chalupa” came to him in his early days in the Eaglecrest wrestling room.

A former Raptors’ captain couldn’t remember Knoll’s first name, so he started calling out words that began with the letter C.

Sophomore Caeleb Knoll has been bringing more recognition to the Eaglecrest wrestling program with his performances on big stages this season. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Chalupa turned out to be the winner and it’s stuck in a big way.

“One of our seniors was running the practice and he forgot my name, so he was just throwing out random names with C’s,” Knoll recalled.

“Chalupa came around and everybody thought it was super funny, so the rest of the practice they called me Chalupa; then it just snowballed. I liked it, it was kindof cool.”

Teachers pull Eaglecrest coach Javier Quintana aside as he walks down the hallway to talk about how “Chalupa” did over the weekend.

This season, that answer has generally been really good.

Quintana now has on his hands a viable contender to make the medal podium at the 5A state wrestling tournament in a few weeks at the Pepsi Center.

Knoll showed glimpses of potential last season when he finished 31-9 while wrestling at 92 pounds most of the time. Because of that weight deficit, however, he had to do some unorthodox things during matches that often got him into trouble.

“He was just trying to survive last year and he was trying big risk moves,” Quintana said. “He did beat a couple of really good kids who were in the state tournament last year, but when the time came, he just didn’t have enough foundation of wrestling skills to beat an opponent that was going to consistently qualify.”

Determined to take a step forward, Knoll hit the weight room with a vengeance and added strength and size.

On the mat, Eaglecrest junior Tyler Maccagnan — a state qualifier last season — has helped Knoll get rid of his bad habits.

“We’ve cleaned up his game a little bit,” Maccagnan said. “You can see it in his wrestling this year from last year, there’s a big difference. He was underweight last year and eating everything and now he’s even a little overweight, so it’s good to see him cutting weight now and still being muscular.”

Knoll lost his first match of the season to Cherokee Trail’s Andrew Chilton by fall when he had to wrestle up in the 113-pound weight class in a dual match, but he’s only lost twice since then to high-powered opponent, both at the Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament before winter break.

He got pinned by Discovery Canyon’s Jeff Strickenberger (ranked No. 2 in 4A) in the quarterfinals and dropped a one-point deficit to Thomas Jefferson’s Bobby Macias (No. 3 in 4A) in the third-place match of the massive tournament in Loveland.

Eaglecrest’s Caeleb Knoll has cranked up his workout regiment and now is comfortable wrestling in the 106-pound weight class this season. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

“Other than a couple of losses, I haven’t seen Caeleb in any trouble,” Quintana said. “He’s out there doing what he’s supposed to do. A lot of times, I thought he’d be in for a tough match and he’d beat the kid 14-2. He’s just doing what is necessary to be successful.”

Knoll seems ready for the magnitude of the Pepsi Center. He got a bit of a taste of the spotlight at the Raptors’ recent trip to Utah for the Uintah Tournament of Champions.

Against a field of wrestlers from Utah — long considered a strong wrestling state — Knoll won the championship despite coming in unseeded because he didn’t have any criteria from missing out on making state last year.

Knoll ended up with a pin in the first period of the championship match against a previously undefeated wrestler from Utah.

“It was awesome, my coaches and my buddies were in the background yelling “Go, Chalupa!,” Knoll said. “It was my best moment so far.”

Quintana believes even bigger moments are ahead in the near future for his growing standout with the memorable nickname.

“He’s not concerned with just qualifying, he wants that state title,” Quintana said. “We as a program believe he belongs in the state final.

“This year, who knows? But sometime between now and when he exits these doors forever, that’s the expectation. That’s what we’re preparing him for.”

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel