Small school regional tournaments are some of the most rambunctiously rowdy good times you’ll find in the prep wrestling scene.
Those two-day regional tournaments get underway across the state on Friday, with hundreds upon hundreds of kids stepping to the mat with a singular goal in mind: To make it to the state wrestling championships.
There, at Pepsi Center, the highlights will be uproarious crowds, college scouts, the promise of glory, and – for some – Â Dippin’ Dots.
Some 896 wrestlers will qualify for the state tournament. Others will wait for next year. Others still will hang up their shoes, leaving with only the memories and bonds forged over the last few years.
And those who do qualify will have the opportunity of a lifetime. Four good matches – Â they don’t have to be perfect, but good – will earn a state title. It’s the universal motivator that brings thousands of kids out for the ultimate individual sport. Glory awaits, and the road to it begins this weekend.
In Class 3A this year, the top eight returning teams from state were split up amongst the four regions, with the remaining teams being placed into regions with geographical considerations. That means Class 2A is the last of the classifications which is divided purely with geographic considerations – the reasoning being that smaller schools are strapped when it comes to travel budgets – though that logic is at least somewhat flawed in a few cases.
Nevertheless, it creates an interesting Class 2A Region 1 tournament and a sparse 2A Region 4 tournament – which no doubt could have significant state tournament ramifications.
For a full list of teams and ranked wrestlers competing, check out Colorado Preps’ breakdowns, with rankings provided by On The Mat:
2A Region 1
Where: Delta High School
Who: No. 2 Cedaredge, No. 4 Paonia, No. 6 Hotchkiss, No. 8 Soroco, Dolores, Dove Creek, Ignacio, Mancos, North Park, Norwood, West Grand, Hayden
The Tilt: Looking at the lineup of Class 2A Region 1, when compared to the other three regions, there is notable disparity. With three of the top six teams and four of the top 10, along with 66 total ranked wrestlers, Region 1 is the proverbial – to steal a phrase from World Cup soccer – Â Group of Death. There is a No. 1 or No. 2 ranked wrestler in 10 of the 14 weights, and both No. 1 and No. 2 are found in three brackets (120, 138, and 220). At 138 pounds, No. 1 Tannen Kennedy of Meeker and No. 2 Sackett Chesnik of Paonia lead a loaded bracket which also features the No. 3 wrestler in Hayden’s Keenan Hayes. Kennedy and Chesnik have thrice met this season, with Chesnik winning twice and Kennedy once with a combined six-point differential between the three results.Â The only defending state champion of the bunch, Norwood’s Aiden Dabal, leads a 160-pound weight class that also features No. 3 Jared Hulteen (Cedaredge) and No. 7 Jesse Burns (Paonia), whose teams will look to get enough qualifiers through the gauntlet to make a state run next week.
Weight Watch: 220 pounds, a bracket which, at least on paper, features the top-five ranked wrestlers in the state, No. 1 Sky Carlson (Soroco), No. 2 Taj Van der Linde (Cedaredge), No. 3 Kevin Chavez (Hotchkiss), and No. 4 Cyrus Malek’ Madani and No. 5. Levi Peterson of Paonia. Unfortunately, there’s only room for four on the caravan to The Can, and teams can only enter one wrestler per weight, so one of the Eagles will have to jump ship.
2A Region 2
Where: Sanford High School
Who: No. 5 Fowler, No. 7 John Mall, No. 10 County Line, Antonito, Center, Centennial/Sierra Grande, Custer County, Del Norte, Dolores Huerta, Hanover, Mountain Valley, La Veta, Rye, Sanford
The Tilt: Host school Sanford has but two wrestlers currently listed on the squad, though one of them, junior Max Salazar, is ranked No. 6 in the state. Salazar’s road to state could lead him to No. 1 ranked Seth McFall of Fowler, who has the Grizzlies in the top five in the 2A ranks. Defending state champion sophomore Wesley Van Matre leads the way for No. 7 John Mall at 132 pounds, a bracket which also features the second-ranked wrestler in Del Norte’s Brett Benavides.
Weight Watch: 113 pounds, where Rye freshman Michael Atencio enters his first regional tournament as the top-ranked wrestler in the state. With just one loss on the season, Atencio will contend with the likes of No. 8 Jose Garcia (Dolores Huerta) and No. 10 Travis Vialpando (John Mall).
2A Region 3
Where: Northeastern Junior College
Who: No. 3 Wray, No. 9 Burlington, Akron, Byers, Gilpin County, Highland, Holyoke, Lyons, Merino, Sedgwick County/Fleming, Wiggins, Yuma
The Tilt: The depth of the Wray Eagles has vaulted them up to No. 3 in the rankings, and a strong performance at the Region 3 meet could make them a force to be reckoned with at Pepsi Center in one week’s time. No. 2 Carlos Tarin (170), No. 3 Cole Rockwell (106), and No. 3 Junior Arambula (126) lead the way for Wray, while Lyons’ Bean Brothers (defending state champ and No. 1 Keegan at 182 and No. 3 Karson at 195) will each look to punch their ticket to the big show.
Weight Watch: 145 pounds, where five wrestlers ranked in the top eight will compete for four tickets to the state tournament. That five-pack includes returning state finalist Cody Jacobson of Burlington, ranked No. 2, Merino’s Remington Canfield (No. 4), and Limon’s Woody Aguilar (No. 6).
2A Region 4
Where: Otero Junior College
Who: No. 1 Rocky Ford, Baca County, Calhan, Cheyenne Wells, Crowley County, Ellicott, Holly, Kiowa, Las Animas, Miami-Yoder, Simla, Swink
The Tilt: Rocky Ford is the defending state champion, defending regional champion, and the clear-cut favorite again in Region 4. The Meloneers boast eight wrestlers ranked in the top six, far and away the most in the region, including defending state champion Dillon Jaramillo (No. 3, 113) and three-time placers Diego Reyes (No. 2, 160) and Greg Garcia (285). Rocky Ford’s supporting cast will be the key if the Meloneers want to steal the spotlight at Pepsi Center once again.
Weight Watch: 113 is once again the weight to watch, with returning champ Jaramillo, a junior, just now getting his legs back under him after an injury kept him out of the first half and kept him limited for much of the second half. Jaramillo will have a test with No. 2 Austin Crum poised to be on the opposite side of the bracket.
3A Region 1
Where: Alamosa High School
Who: No. 1 Alamosa, No. 2 Valley, No. 4 Pagosa Springs, No. 7 Buena Vista, Basalt, Bayfield, Coal Ridge, Delta, Grand Valley, Gunnison, Lake County, Montezuma-Cortez, Olathe, Rifle, Summit
The Tilt: A result of the new regional formula in Class 3A makes this one of the most intriguing regional tournaments in the whole state. This one pits the four-time defending champion Valley Vikings in hostile territory against the top-ranked Mean Moose in Alamosa’s home gym. Fun fact: the Vikings and Mean Moose have combined to win the past seven 3A state titles. The team that gets the more favorable numbers out to the state tournament will become the immediate frontrunner next weekend, and there are several weights were crucial head-to-heads between lower-ranked wrestlers could prove pivotal. Looking to crash the party will be No. 4 Pagosa Springs, which has come on strong as of late, and No. 7 Buena Vista. Interestingly enough, this region features the most ranked individuals out of any other tournament regardless of classification with 67, which means you can expect just about every match from top to bottom to be competitive.
Weight Watch: Watch ‘em all. Every single weight has at least one wrestler who is ranked in the top five, and therefore a legitimate state title contender is aiming to capture the first leg of the two-stage postseason sprint in each bracket. Some weights which feature No. 1 and No. 2 ranked wrestlers who could go toe-to-toe include: 120 (A.J. Serna, Grand Valley and Owen Berry, Buena Vista) and 285 (Logan Church, Delta and Preston Duran, Alamosa).
3A Region 2
Where: Eaton High School
Who: No. 3 Eaton, No. 6 Weld Central, No. 11 Brush, Platte Valley, Bennett, Denver North, Berthoud, Estes Park, Holy Family, Ridge View Academy, Resurrection Christian, Sterling, Strasburg, University
The Tilt: Eaton benefits from the new format by not having to deal with Valley in the same region, which is a plus. But that doesn’t make Region 2 a cake walk. There are still 61 ranked wrestlers in the region, 22 of which are ranked in the top six of their respective weight classes. While Eaton might have the depth that other teams covet, Weld Central and Brush have some of the headliners of the meet.
Weight Watch: Speaking of headliners, 160 pounds has ‘em. Weld Central’s No. 1 ranked Jimmy Laconte and Brush’s Wyatt Pfau, ranked No. 2, could very well meet in the championship finals in consecutive weeks if they play their cards right. Laconte has bested Pfau twice this year – Â both times by a 2-1 margin – and the third (and potentially fourth) meeting between the two could be the most electric of all.
3A Region 3
Where: Englewood High School
Who: No. 5 Lamar, No. 9 Moffat County, Alameda International, Conifer, Denver West, Eagle Valley, Elizabeth, Englewood, Faith Christian, Middle Park, Mullen, Platte Canyon, Skyview, Steamboat Springs
The Tilt: Lamar’s heavy hitters pace a Region 3 tournament which features a hodgepodge of 3A contenders from all corners of the state. Representing the far east is Lamar, which is led by No. 2 ranked Colton Eberhardt (195) and Bart Gruenloh (220). The lone top-ranked wrestler in the field is Moffat County’s Mikinzie Klimper at 170 pounds, a senior with 20 pins on the year.
Weight Watch: 182 is an intriguing bracket, with three of the weight’s top six pitted together with potential team title ramifications on the line. Moffat County’s Elias Peroulis, ranked No. 6, is tasked with attempting to knock off one (or both) higher ranked opponents above him in No. 3 Lucas Tinnes of Lamar and No. 4 London Spivey of Faith Christian.
3A Region 4
Where: Pueblo Central High School
Who: No. 8 Centauri, No. 10 Sheridan, Colorado Springs Christian, Florence, Fort Lupton, James Irwin, Jefferson, La Junta, Manitou Springs, Monte Vista, Pueblo Central, Salida, The Classical Academy, Trinidad, Woodland Park
The Tilt: Pueblo Central’s gym is surely one of the finest prep sports gymnasiums in the state, which makes it the perfect venue for the Region 4 tournament. The weight everyone will be watching is sure to be 113 pounds (more on that later), but 106 pounds is nothing to scoff at either. That weight features five wrestlers ranked in the top 10, with one more ranked No. 15 – Â and with only four places advancing to state, a couple are going to get left home. Another to keep an eye on is 220 pounds, where Salida’s top-ranked Eli Smith and Centauri’s No. 4 ranked Bennie Chacon appear on a collision course.
Weight Watch: 113 pounds, where sophomore and defending state champion Jacob Duran of Fort Lupton has his eye on top-ranked sophomore Isaiah Gamez of La Junta. The two super sophomores have yet to meet in high school competition, and in order to do so at regionals they will have to navigate a field which also includes Johnny Masopust of Florence (No. 5), Jimmy Gonzales of Pueblo Central (No. 7), and Aidan Johnston of TCA (No. 15).