Thomas Velasquez was born to be a grappler. It’s kind of part of the deal for a lot of kids born and raised in the Pueblo area and he is no different.

As regionals are set to be contested this week, the Pueblo County senior is taking his 35-7 record to Roosevelt High School where he hopes to become a four-time state qualifier.

It would be a banner year for Velasquez if he can once again reach Ball Arena. Earlier this season, he snagged his 100th win and his overall resumé makes him a very worthy candidate as the Colorado Preps Athlete of the Week. It’s just one more step in a journey that he’s been on since he understood what a wrestling mat was.

“I started wrestling when I was four,” Velasquez said. “My parents kind of made it my thing. They thought it would be a great opportunity for me and I stuck with it for the last 14 years.”

Doing it at County is another venture all on its own. The Hornets have won two team titles, going back-to-back in 2016 and 2017 and in that time they also crowned two four-time state champions in Hunter Willits and Brendon Garcia.

Combined with the overall tough nature of donning a singlet for any team from the Steel City, wrestling for a team like County isn’t as much a privilege as it is a responsibility.

“There’s a little bit of pressure on your shoulders knowing the program’s history,” he said. “With the work ethic we have and the time we contribute, I feel like a lot of that pressure is relieved because we’re putting in the work. We’re ready for competition.”

Having made state every year since he was a freshman, Velasquez badly wants to come away with a medal this season. He fell one match shy of a qualifying match last year and knows he can improve in his efforts this year. It’s not even his mat work that’s the issue, as he gets closer and closer to the year’s biggest wrestling event, it’s more self-belief that he needs to emphasize.

“The one thing I’ve been trying to improve on these last two weeks is my confidence,” Velasquez said. “It’s the only thing that has set me back in some major matches.”

Regardless of how the state tournament plays out, Velasquez speaks with the conviction that he has given his all to the team and his craft this year.

When all his matches at Ball Arena have concluded, with his hand hopefully being raised in victory in his final match, he knows that calorie counting and cutting weight can be put on hold for a little bit.

On his way home from Denver, a stop in Colorado Springs to grab some Whataburger might be exactly what he needs.

“It’s a great way to celebrate a long season,” he said. “Personally, I like the honey BBQ chicken strip sandwich from Whataburger. It’s my favorite. That’ll be a great way to celebrate.”

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