By Jeff Todd

DENVER (CBS4) – It wasn’t the kind of start to the State Wrestling Tournament the Cooksey twins wanted. They both lost close matches, but it’s likely no other athlete inside Pepsi Center has had a road like the twins.

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“I always knew they were fighters, I always knew they were strong,” said their mom Damaris Cooksey.

Before Lyle and Paul could compete for a state championship they had to endure a lengthy recovery.

Paul Cooksey (credit: CBS)

Paul Cooksey (credit: CBS)

Lyle Cooksey (credit: CBS)

Lyle Cooksey (credit: CBS)

“We were just heading home from a wrestling tournament, and someone was coming right at us and we kind of just looked at each other and that was it,” said Paul Cooksey, a senior at Weld Central High School.

Lyle was driving on Highway 52 southeast of Keenesburg when the pickup they were in was hit head on by an alleged drunk driver who died at the scene.

“I broke both my feet and I had three surgeries on my one foot so that was the worst one,” said Lyle.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“I broke my foot and I broke my hip on opposite sides and then I got surgery on my foot,” said Paul.

The identical twins were both sent to the hospital.

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“They both had surgery on Christmas Eve and we spent Christmas in the hospital 2014,” said Damaris. “They both came home in wheelchairs and were homebound for three months.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Both had hopes of getting back on the wrestling mat for their senior years. Paul started working out over the summer. Lyle only returned in October. Both said there was one thing that got them back — hard work.

“Their first goal was to wrestle; their second goal was to qualify to come to the state tournament,” Damaris said.

(credit: CBS)

Damaris Cooksey with her sons (credit: CBS)

“Just because it’s such a big stage and everything and I’ve been working hard my whole life,” Lyle said. “I didn’t know if I was going to be wrestling this year.”

They wrestle in different weight classes, Paul 132s and Lyle 138s and both placed second in their difficult regional tournament to qualify for state.

“We always kind of had our mind that we were going to come back and wrestle for our senior year,” Paul said. “Train hard and just believe that you can do it, it’s always been in my mind that I can get here.”

Friday morning both will work through the consolation bracket to place in their classes.

An image of the Colorado High School Wrestling Tournament on Feb. 18, 2016 (credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Damaris says the results don’t matter, “You are winners already, whatever happens this weekend I’m beyond proud.”

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Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.