Wrestling: Overland’s Daniel Cuc-Capota growing into contender

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Overland's Daniel Cuc-Capota, top, works on top against Rangeview's David Nuttall in the 106-pound championship match at the 2015 Rangeview Raider Invitational wrestling tournament on Jan. 10, 2015, at Rangeview High School. Cuc-Capota won the title with pin of Nuttall late in the first period. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)
Overland’s Daniel Cuc-Capota, top, works on top against Rangeview’s David Nuttall in the 106-pound championship match at the 2015 Rangeview Raider Invitational wrestling tournament on Jan. 10, 2015, at Rangeview High School. Cuc-Capota won the title with pin of Nuttall late in the first period. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

As a freshman, Daniel Cuc-Capota might have weighed 80 pounds dripping wet when he first entered Overland’s wrestling room.

Emphasis on might.

Undaunted, he threw himself into the sport and has gradually grown up — literally — before Trailblazers’ coach Bert Dalton’s eyes.

Now tipping the scales at 103 pounds, Cuc-Capota is finally starting to realize his potential as a senior. He cruised to the 106-pound championship at the Rangeview Raider Classic on Jan. 10 to improve to 14-1 and could move up from his current No. 10 spot in Class 5A in On The Mat’s rankings.

“I’m not forgetting where I came from and where I used to be, only 80 pounds as a freshman,” said Cuc-Capota, voted Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Raider Classic. “I’m working hard every day in  practice and thinking about those times I lost and working harder to beat the people who beat me.”

Overland's Daniel Cuc-Capota
Overland’s Daniel Cuc-Capota holds up the bracket after winning the 106-pound championship match at the 2015 Rangeview Raider Invitational wrestling tournament on Jan. 10, 2015, at Rangeview High School. Cuc-Capota was voted Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament. (Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

 

Cuc-Capota has plenty to motivate him, including how his junior season ended prematurely.

During winter break, Cuc-Capota suffered a fractured finger that put him in a cast. He went to great lengths to get back in the lineup before regionals, but couldn’t get cleared medically.

“Daniel would have been a qualifier last year if not for the injury,” Dalton said. “He cut his own cast off and said ‘Coach, I’m healed, I’m ready to wrestle.’ I asked him ‘Did the doctor say that?’ No. I just couldn’t let him wrestle.”

So Cuc-Capota spent the offseason lifting weights and drinking protein shakes, which helped him overcome an active metabolism.

With increased size, strength and determination, Cuc-Capota has been a major bright spot for an Overland team devastated by losses to eligibility and injury. Working against bigger wrestlers in the room by necessity  has also paid dividends.

Cuc-Capota’s only loss of the season came on Dec. 6 in the semifinals of the Mike Stanley Invitational at Fairview, Overland’s first tournament of the season.

Widefield’s Stephen Debelko, currently ranked No. 2 in 4A by On The Mat, beat Cuc-Capota 17-5 in the semifinals, but he rebounded to win a 5-1 decision over 4A No. 5 Sawyer Novara of Silver Creek for third place.

At the Raider Classic, Cuc-Captoa racked up four wins that took him a grand total of 5 minutes, 3 seconds, to earn. He pinned Salida’s Will Zielenko in 12 seconds to open, downed Denver West’s Erwin Moreno in 46 seconds, handled Salida’s Ryan Moltz in 3:05 and pinned Rangeview’s David Nuttall in 1:00 in the final.

A great litmus test for Cuc-Capota comes on Jan. 22, when the Trailblazers pay a visit to Cherry Creek for a Centennial League dual meet. Waiting at 106 pounds will be Bruins star Josh Finesilver, a returning state qualifier ranked No. 1.

While a lot can happen between now and the Region 1 tournament on Feb. 14 at Legacy High School, only one wrestler currently ranked ahead of Cuc-Capota is in that state-qualifying field. Four placers from each of four regionals advance to the state tournament Feb. 19-21 at the Pepsi Center.

Aurora Central’s Axel Pacheco (No. 8) — who took fourth at the Raider Classic — and Hinkley’s Ben Rhoton (No. 11) are Aurora’s other two ranked 106-pounders.

Dalton believes Cuc-Capota would have benefited from wrestling at state last season like 220-pounder Amer Tipura did as a junior. Tipura got the feel for the big stage and went on to make the finals as a senior in 2013.

Cuc-Capota doesn’t have that luxury, but remains confident he can take advantage of any chance he gets to wrestle downtown.

“I can do something (at state), it’s time to make my mark,” he said. “I think I can do whatever I set out to achieve.”

No matter what happens at the state tournament, it seems that wrestling in college is a real long shot for Cuc-Capota, and not because of his grades or talent.

It simply comes down to size and Dalton estimates he would need to gain at least 20 pounds to compete collegiately.

Cuc-Capota knows the odds, but he also knew them when he chose to take up wrestling.

“I picked this sport because I like to push myself,” he said.

Six other Aurora wrestlers came home with championships from the Raider Classic, two from overall team champion Rangeview and four from runner-up Aurora Central.

Deron Solomon (145 pounds) and Max Gonzales (220) earned crowns for the Raiders, while Quincy Moreno (113), Jonnathan Quijada (126), Yovanny Osuna (132) and Juan Fraire (182) won for the Trojans.

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