4A/5A STATE WRESTLING PREVIEW

Classes 4A and 5A open their state wrestling competition at 7:15pm on Thursday with first round matches across both divisions.  Action continues through the next two days leading up to the state championship matches Saturday night at 6:30pm.  Before the tournament opens, we look at each weight division in both classes.
Valley Electric

CLASS 4A

Defending Team Champion: Pueblo County
In The Mix: Windsor (12), Pueblo East (11), Pueblo County (10), Greeley Central (8)
Tied with 5A for the most returning individual champions (10), 4A boasts some heavy hitters from top to bottom. Of those returning champs, three apiece come from Pueblo County and Windsor – the two teams expected to duke it out along with Pueblo East for 4A supremacy. The Hornets are the two-time defending champs and bring a solid core of 10 to the arena, while Windsor could get a much-needed boost from the two additional wrestlers on the mat. Will the Wizards bring a touch of magic back to The Can, or will the Steel City reign supreme once again – one way or another?
Returning Individual Champions (year won, previous wt.): Brendon Garcia, jr., 106, Pueblo County (2016, 3A 106 at Dolores Huerta; 2017, 106); Will VomBaur, jr., 113, Windsor (2016, 106); Jace Trujillo, jr., 120, Pueblo East (2016, 113); Josiah Nava, sr., Pueblo County, 120 (2015, 106); Dominick Serrano, so., 126, Windsor (2017, 120); Andrew Alirez, jr., 145, Greeley Central (2016, 120; 2017, 126); Isaiah Salazar, so., 170, Windsor (2017, 3A 152 at Eaton); Garrett Niel, sr., 182, Pine Creek (2016, 5A 182); Dante Garcia, sr., 220, Pueblo County (2016, 182); Andy Garcia, so., 285, Pueblo East (2017, 285).
 
In The Mix
106: Pueblo County’s Brendon Garcia (jr., 42-2) surprised some by dropping back to 106 pounds – where he has won the past two titles (one in 3A, one in 4A) – but nevertheless he returns to the opening weight class in search of glory. Garcia has never lost an in-season prep match to an opponent from Colorado, and brings a three-year record of 105-4 to this year’s tournament. His challengers include Discovery Canyon’s Jett Strickenberger (fr., 25-4), Thomas Jefferson’s Bobby Macias (jr., 41-1), and Pueblo Centennial’s Jacob Gonzales (jr., 41-3) – who fell to Garcia 10-6 in the regional final.
113: Two years ago, Pueblo East’s Andrew Lucero and Windsor’s Will VomBaur met in the 106-pound state final, which was won 10-3 by VomBaur. This year, the two bookend the 113-pound bracket with not only individual titles on their mind, but also the fate of their respective teams. Lucero (sr., 39-7) is a three-time placer and thus the top seed in the bracket. VomBaur (jr., 30-1), a two-time placer and 2016 champ, is seeded second. To meet, the two will have to navigate through a talented pool.
120: Loaded. That’s the word that best describes 4A 120. With two state champions, another returning finalist, and a freshman that has been ranked No. 1 for a large chunk of the season this bracket – nay, this “Super Bracket” – is one to watch. Three-time placer, two-time finalist, and 2015 state champ Josiah Nava (sr., 34-10) of Pueblo County leads the way as the top seed, while last year’s 106-pound runner-up, Discovery Canyon’s Patrick Allis (jr., 29-3) sits in the same quarter bracket. On the other side is Pueblo East’s Jace Trujillo (jr., 31-3), a 2016 state champ and Nava’s longtime rival. In the No. 3 seed is Windsor ace freshman Vance Vombaur (36-4), who holds wins over Nava, Trujillo’s teammate Andrew Lucero (now at 113), and Allis twice – including a narrow 5-4 win in the regional final. Of course, any one of the darkhorses in the bracket could emerge as well – it’s happened countless times before at the state tournament. Game on, 4A 120.
126: Dominick Serrano (so., 29-0) has never lost a match in a Windsor singlet. The defending state champion bumped up to 126 this year and seeks title No. 2, though the competition here is fierce as well. Canon City’s J.W. Ruona (jr., 38-7), third last year at 120, sits on Serrano’s half of the bracket, while the opposite half features a 2015 3A finalist in Pueblo East’s Ryan Roth (jr., 34-8), and defending 4A 113-pound champion Josh Nira (sr., 43-3) of Greeley Central.
132: One of the great stories of this season has been Pueblo East’s Aaden Valdez (so., 42-5), who returned to the mat – and competed at a high level – mere months after losing multiple fingers and an eye in a fireworks accident this past summer. Valdez, fifth a year ago, brings high hopes to Pepsi Center in another ultra-competitive weight. The top seed is Air Academy’s Jason Hanenberg (sr., 28-3), a two-time placer and a finalist in 2016. Mead’s Jeremy Ashton (sr., 20-3) is poised as the two-seed, while Valdez is No. 3 and Discovery Canyon’s Jared Turner (sr., 30-8) is the other seeded regional champ. The most decorated (and dangerous) unseeded wrestler is Pueblo County’s Nathan Bonham (jr., 30-6), a two-time placer and runner-up from a year ago who bumped from 126 to 132 just before regionals, where he lost 4-0 to Hanenberg in the final.
138: On the Mat’s Tim Yount works hard on his rankings each week, and they provide a valuable resource for mat-heads all over the state. All that is to say this: On the Mat’s No. 1 and No. 2 ranked 4A 138-pounder wound up on the same side of this bracket. Pueblo County’s Jax Garoutte (so., 34-9) and Greeley Central’s Zeke Alirez (sr., 36-3) were ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, in the last rankings of the year. Each won his region, but they ended up as the Nos. 3 and 2 seed, respectively, in the bracket. Both were third-place finishers a year ago, while Cheyenne Mountain’s Mike McFadden (sr., 28-3) was a runner-up, giving him the edge in seeding points. Also in the mix here is Mountain View’s Erik Contreras (sr., 28-3), and Windsor’s Ronny Minjarez (jr., 20-6).
145: Andrew Alirez (jr., 22-0) seeks his third consecutive state title as his quest to join Colorado wrestling’s most elite club remains in-tact. Looking to challenge the champ will be Windsor’s Dylan Wood (jr., 27-17) – who has an amazing story of his own – Pueblo County’s Trevor Singleton (jr., 30-11), Discovery Canyon’s Dylan Ruane (fr., 26-9), and Thompson Valley’s Jay McLaughlin (jr., 32-9).

152: Last year, Elijah Valdez (sr., 38-1) made it to the state finals and came up short. This year, the Mesa Ridge senior returns to the scene as the No. 2 seed in the 152-pound bracket. Atop the bracket sits Pueblo County’s Christopher Fasano (jr., 33-8), a two-time placer, while Greeley Central’s Tony Ulaszek (jr., 44-4), Windsor’s Cody Eaton (so., 32-6), and others also look to score big.
160: Longmont’s Drake Engelking has sniffed the big time. Now he wants to take a bite. Engelking (jr., 21-3) placed third in this weight a year ago, finished second at the prestigious Doc Buchanan in January, and second at the Utah Tournament of Champions in January. Is this where he breaks through? Standing in the way could be Brady Badwound (jr., 27-6) of Air Academy, Valor Christian’s Payton Polson (jr., 36-4), and/or Thompson Valley’s Hunter Williams (sr., 33-6).
170: Much like Alamosa in Class 3A, Windsor got a significant boost when a defending state champion transferred to attend school within the Wizardly hallways. Sophomore Isaiah Salazar (32-1), a 3A state champ for Erie a year ago, gives Windsor another home run hitter which could help them challenge for the team title. Valor’s Jake Welch (jr., 26-3), Pueblo County’s Jayson Davis (jr., 35-9), and Greeley Central’s Cody Solis (jr., 27-9) all sit on the same half of the bracket, while Salazar is joined up top by the likes of Amos Wilson (so., 34-3) and other sneaky contenders.
182: Garrett Niel was a 2016 5A state champion at this weight before both he and Pine Creek dropped down a divison last year, where he finished third at 170 in 4A. Now back up to 182, Niel (sr., 39-6) looks to mimic his past success. Two highly ranked competitors who didn’t win their regions end up in the same half as Niel: Thompson Valley’s Matt Dunkelman (sr., 38-6) and Pueblo East’s Zion Freeman (jr., 37-8), each of whom have handed Niel losses during the season. On the other side sits Palisade’s Terrance Williams (sr., 32-1), whose lone loss came in overtime to an out-of-state opponent in mid-December.
195: Fort Morgan’s Dylan McBride (sr., 37-1), a fourth-place finisher last year, is the top seed in the tournament. His challengers include Windsor’s Josh Grasmick (sr., 34-9), Cheyenne Mountain’s Cian Quiroga (jr., 20-6), Vista Peak’s Jayden Smith (sr., 30-5), Mountain View’s Braden Barker (sr., 40-4), and Mesa Ridge’s Jared Volcic (so., 33-6).
220: The 220-pound bracket got a major shakeup Tuesday when it was announced that talented (and No. 2-ranked) sophomore Deonte Bridges (20-2), third last year at this weight, would be unable to participate because of injury. That leaves 2016 state champion and three-time placer Dante Garcia (sr., 25-2) of Pueblo County, 2017 runner-up Dominick Fini (sr., 36-2), and Pueblo East’s Dominic Robles (jr., 41-5) as the leading contender candidates.
285: Andy Garcia became the second freshman state champion in Pueblo East High School history –  preceded by Jace Trujillo the year prior – last year when he claimed the heavyweight crown. Garcia (so., 38-3) gets the top-seed nod in a field which also includes Windsor’s Victor Bravo (sr., 24-8) – who was upset as the top seed last year en route to a fourth-place finish – and Mesa Ridge’s Michael True (sr., 31-5), last year’s third-place finisher. Silver Creek’s Jacob Williams (sr., fifth in 2017) enters as one of three unbeatens in all of 4A, boasting a 38-0 record as the No. 3 seed.

CLASS 5A

Defending Team Champion: Pomona
In The Mix (# Of Qualifiers): Brighton (12), Pomona (11), Poudre (10), Grand Junction (9)
Anyone’s got a puncher’s chance in the 5A team race. While defending state champion Pomona has the numbers to earn a repeat, the Brighton Bulldogs brings an even 12-pack to The Can with a chance for a surprise finish. And even with nine wrestlers, Grand Junction simply can’t be counted out. Poudre’s middleweight core, featuring Jacob Greenwood, will need some help from the supporting cast on the back side in order to make this thing real interesting. Still, it’s shaping up to be a 5A free-for-all, at least through Friday.
Returning Individual Champions (year won, previous wt.): Malik Heinselman, sr., 120, Castle View (2016, 106; 2017, 106); Justin Pacheco, jr., 120, Pomona (2017, 113); Theorius Robison, jr., 132, Pomona (2016, 126; 2017, 132); Dayton Marvel, sr., 132, Arvada West (2015, 106); Colton Yapoujian, jr., 138, Pomona (2017, 120); Jacob Greenwood, sr., 145, Poudre (2015, 126; 2016, 132; 2017, 138); Josiah Rider, sr., 152, Grand Junction (2016, 152; 2017, 145); Gabe Dinette, sr., 160, Lakewood (2016, 145; 2017, 152); Tate Samuelson, sr., 182, Castle View (2017, 170); Cohlton Schultz, jr., 285, Ponderosa (2016, 220; 2017, 220).
 
In The Mix
106: Monarch’s Vince Cornella (fr., 33-3) has emerged as the latest potential breakout freshman to hit the state scene. And though he won his Region 3 tournament (handily), he still gets slotted as the three seed. That’s because Pomona’s Wyatt Yapoujian (so., 32-7) sits at the top as the returning state placewinner (3rd in 2017) with the most points. Another freshman, Douglas County’s Max Black (37-2) is also in the conversation along with Brighton’s Kenny Sailas (fr., 41-4).
113: Grand Junction’s Dawson Collins (so., 30-3) got a signature win when he topped Pomona’s Justin Pacheco (defending 113-lb. champ now at 120) 1-0 earlier this year. The returning 106-pound runner up now finds himself atop the 113-pound bracket, staring down a loaded bracket which includes Broomfield’s Presley Madril (jr., 35-2) in the same top quarter. Opposite Collins is Castle View’s Adrian Marquez (jr., 34-6) and Denver East’s Jose Cerda (fr., 36-9).
120: Malik Heinselman (sr., 42-2) of Castle View enters the field with his sights set on a third consecutive Class 5A title to cap his prep days. Another defending state champion, Pomona’s Justin Pacheco (jr., 30-9), will look to get another crack at Heinselman, a future Ohio State Buckeye, who beat Pacheco 10-2 earlier this season. Brighton’s Justin McCoy (jr., 28-9) could help his team’s cause with a semifinal (or deeper) run from the three-seed.
126: Remember Fabian Santillan? The Grandview standout who once hit an insane cartwheel takedown at the Reno TOC? After placing fourth as a freshman and missing the latter half of the season last year, Santillan (jr., 40-4) is back. His competition includes Adams City senior Nicholas Gonzales (35-4), Poudre’s Alex Alvarez (jr., 39-8), and Fountain-Fort Carson’s Taylor Vasquez (jr., 32-12), among others.
132: Consider this one to be a “Super Bracket.” The weight features three wrestlers with state final experience, including last year’s 126-pound runner-up in Poudre’s Job Greenwood (jr., 37-5), 2016 champ Dayton Marvel (sr., 30-2) from Arvada West, and two-time defending champ Theorius Robison (jr., 36-1) of Pomona. Greenwood and Marvel are on the same side of the bracket, while Broomfield’s Darren Green (so., 41-4), also state finalist a year ago, could meet Robison as early as the semis if the stars (and wins) align.
138: Pomona’s Colton Yapoujian (jr., 41-5) has ended every trip to Pepsi Center by getting his hand raised. Third as a freshman and the 120-pound champ last year, Yapoujian leads the 138-pound crop. In the same quarter bracket is Doherty’s Maverick Keigher (sr., 41-6), a returning fourth-place finisher who enters unseeded after a third place regional finish. Poudre’s Brody Lamb (sr., 40-3), the No. 2 seed, is the reason behind that. Lamb also knocked off Monarch’s Cole Polluconi (sr., 35-7) at regionals, placing him into the same top semi-bracket as Yapoujian and Keigher.
145: This is the weight that everyone in Pepsi Center will be watching closely all weekend long. That’s because they’ll be hoping to catch a glimpse of history, as Poudre’s Jacob Greenwood (sr., 31-1) looks to become Colorado’s 21st four-time state champion. Greenwood, a future Wyoming Cowboy, enters his final prep state tournament with a 129-13 record. Coronado’s KJ Kearns (jr., 41-4) and Grand Junction’s Dylan Martinez (sr., 36-3), a runner-up last year, both sit on the opposite side.
152: Grand Junction’s Josiah Rider (sr., 32-0) is as good as they get in the Colorado prep wrestling scene. Last year he won his second 5A state title by pinning his way through the 145 pound bracket – with each fall coming in the first period. In fact, 21 of his 32 victories this year have come by way of a first period fall. Looking to wear down the future N.C. State Wolfpack wrestler and prevent a three-peat will be Monarch’s Parker McQuade (sr., 30-6) and Adams City’s Gavin Deaguero (sr., 35-6), who has actually taken Rider the distance twice this year in narrow decision losses.

160: Another Division I-bound grappler aiming for a third straight state title is Lakewood’s Gabe Dinette (sr., 35-2). Dinette is headed out west to Stanford after this year, but first he hopes to pick up one final piece of hardware before moving to the nation’s software hub. Broomfield’s Preston Renner (sr., 40-8), Rocky Mountain’s Josh Betts (sr., 29-6), who met Dinette in last year’s 152 final, and Chatfield’s Earl Camero Manzanares (sr., 39-6) are the other regional champs in the mix.
170: Parker Benekas (sr., 39-7) of Ponderosa is up a few weight classes from his last trip to The Can, which resulted in a 145-pound runner-up finish. The 170-pound field is loaded with fellow contenders, including Cherry Creek’s Kai Blake (jr., 41-5), Brighton’s Tarron Adams (sr., 32-8), and Adams City’s Christian Rowell (sr., 38-7) in the top half, and Grand Junction’s Jay Skalecki (jr., 33-5) and Legacy’s Aidan Funk (sr., 36-8) on the bottom side.
182: Castle View’s Tate Samuelson completed an undefeated journey en route to the 170-pound title a year ago. And though he carries a whopping three losses (to go with 39 wins) into this year’s tournament, he still figures to be among the weight’s favorites to win on Saturday night. Each of Samuelson’s losses came to out of state opponents. On the opposite end, Grand Junction’s Seth Latham (sr., 38-1) has but one loss on the year – 4-3 to Samuelson in mid-January.
195: Ponderosa’s Jayden Woodruff (sr., 42-6) has been a rising star since he came up one point shy of a 5A title last year. The Mustang senior will contend with the likes of Fruita Monument’s Keegan Bailey (jr., 24-4) – who was ranked No. 2 behind Woodruff prior to regionals and is in the same quarter bracket – Poudre’s Cole Yung (sr., 35-9), among others.
220: Does everyone know the story of Broomfield’s Mason Watt? They ought to. After placing fifth at 285 last year, and cutting weight to do so, Watt (sr., 44-2) dropped some serious pounds in order to get to 220 – where he now sits as the No. 1 seed. Pomona’s Doug Mills (sr., 25-10) can help the Panthers’ cause with a deep run from the four-seed, while No. 2 seed Grand Junction’s Hunter Tobiasson (jr., 35-3) will look to score big for the Tigers.
285: Unbeaten. Two-time state champ. World champ. Nationally ranked. This is Cohlton Schultz’s weight class until someone else lays their claim. Schultz (jr., 46-0) looks to capture his third straight title while Pomona’s Brandon Hodge (sr., 25-8), Poudre’s Weston Mayer (sr., 32-9), and Brighton’s Ian Helwick (sr., 19-3) look to halt the seemingly unstoppable force at the top.
 

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