Here we go again. 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 classes 4A and 5A, the regions were again shuffled based upon last year’s state finish. In 5A, the top 16 teams were split up while the remaining teams were placed into regions with geographical considerations, while in 4A the same concept applied, only it was the top 12 teams that were split.
For a full list of teams and ranked wrestlers in each region, you can head here:
Here’s how each region fares, with rankings providing by Tim Yount’s On The Mat:
4A Region 1
Where: Pueblo County High School
Who: No. 1 Pueblo County, Pueblo South, Pueblo West, Air Academy, Durango, Falcon, Harrison, Liberty, Littleton, Palmer Ridge, Pueblo Centennial, Sand Creek, Vista Peak, Vista Ridge
The Tilt: To the victors go the spoils? Two-time defending state champion Pueblo County is the surefire favorite in Region 1 as the only ranked team in the field. Led by a trio of wrestlers with individual state championships under their belt – junior Brendon Garcia (No. 1, 106) and seniors Josiah Nava (No. 2, 120) and Dante Garcia (No. 3, 220), the Hornets appear primed for another regional run. Individually, there are a handful of intriguing weight classes, including 106 pounds where the top-ranked Garcia could square off with No. 2 Jacob Gonzales of Pueblo Centennial – who was ranked No. 1 all year until Garcia opted to drop from 113 to 106 a week ago.
Weight Watch: An interesting one here is 160 pounds, which features three wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in Pueblo South’s Marcus Martinez (No. 3), Falcon’s Caleb Sherrill (No. 5), and Air Academy’s Brady Badwound (No. 6), along with No. 11 Jarett Nakamura (Pueblo Centennial), No. 14 Kaleb McMunn (Durango), and No. 15 Michael Cornelius (Liberty).
4A Region 2
Where: Lincoln High School, Denver
Who: No. 3 Pueblo East, No. 7 Thompson Valley, No. 8 Cheyenne Mountain, Arvada, Battle Mountain, Central G. J., George Washington, J.F. Kennedy, Lincoln, Loveland, Montrose, Palisade, Standley Lake
The Tilt: The clashing of the Eagles highlights Region 2, with third-ranked Pueblo East and seventh-ranked Thompson Valley leading the way. Pueblo East truly has the guns to challenge Steel City rival Pueblo County for a state title, but the numbers they bring out of regionals – and more importantly the regional championships they earn for seeding purposes –will go a long way toward dictating that. And don’t discount Cheyenne Mountain from making a run, led by top-ranked 220-pounder Deonte Bridges (18-1 on the year).
Weight Watch: Pueblo East’s Andrew Lucero (No. 2, 113 pounds) is aiming for his fourth regional title ahead of his final quest for a state championship. Lucero, 35-7 on the year, will have to contend with the likes of Airiel Siegel (No. 3) of Thompson Valley, and No. 6 Jacob McClaskey of Central Grand Junction.
4A Region 3
Where: Northridge High School, Greeley
Who: No. 4 Greeley Central, No. 9 Canon City, No. 10 Mountain View, Erie, Fort Morgan, Frederick, Glenwood Springs, Longmont, Mead, Northridge, Roosevelt, Skyline
The Tilt: The fourth-ranked Greeley Central Tigers don’t have to prowl far as they too seek to get the numbers to quantify a state title run come next week. Greeley Central is led by some heavy-hitters, including the Alirez brothers (No. 2 Zeke is at 138, and No. 1, two-time state champion Andrew is at 145) and defending state champ Josh Nira (No. 3, 126). Meanwhile, the Mountain View Mountain Lions boast a unique set of siblings of their own in the Barker twins – Kaley at 113 pounds and No. 2 ranked Braden at 195 – and Kaley will look to become just the fourth female to qualify for the state tournament more than once (qualified as a sophomore in 2016).
Weight Watch: 126 pounds presents an intriguing potential matchup between two-time state placer James Ruona of Canon City and defending state champion Josh Nira of Greeley Central. Ruona, ranked No. 5, and Nira, ranked No. 3, have yet to meet this season but have been at or near the top list of contenders in the weight all season. The result could go far in determining state seeding. Â
4A Region 4
Who: No. 2 Windsor, No. 5 Mesa Ridge, No. 6 Discovery Canyon, Evergreen, Golden, Lewis-Palmer, Mitchell, Niwot, Pine Creek, Sierra, Thomas Jefferson, Valor Christian, Widefield, Wheat Ridge
The Tilt: In arguably the most well-balanced of the 4A regions, the Windsor Wizards still appear to be the team to beat. With four wrestlers ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes – Will Vombaur at 113, Vance Vombaur at 120, Dominick Serrano at 126, and Isaiah Salazar at 170 – it’ll be up to the Wizard underdogs to punch their ticket to The Can in order to make the team race real interesting. It won’t be easy. Mesa Ridge is particularly strong in the upper weights, and the heavyweight final could be a rivalry renewed between the Grizzlies’ Michael True (No. 2) and the Wizards’ Victor Bravo (No. 3).
Weight Watch: Any weight with the Vombaur brothers. Will, the elder Vombaur and a 2016 state champion, will look to reclaim his throne in a 113-pound bracket that also features Lewis-Palmer’s Tanner Hunt (No. 4). Erstwhile, the younger but bigger Vance, a freshman, enters his first regional tournament as the top-ranked 120 pounder in a weight that features a returning state finalist in Discovery Canyon’s Patrick Allis (No. 4).
5A Region 1
Where: Arvada West High School
Who: No. 1 Grand Junction, No. 5 Brighton, Arvada West, Lakewood, Boulder, Cherry Creek, Denver South, Fort Collins, Fountain-Fort Carson, Greeley West, Mountain Vista, Prairie View, Rangeview, Thornton
The Tilt: By all accounts and indications, the Grand Junction Tigers are a definite contender to dethrone defending state champion Pomona. If their No. 1 ranking wasn’t enough, just look back to their last trip to A-West, when they won the Arvada West Invite over the Panthers with 201 points and a pair of champions — seniors Dylan Martinez (No. 2, 145) and Josiah Rider (No. 1, 152). The Tigers are for real, and they know a Region 1 title and at least eight state qualifiers would further bolden their case. No. 5 Brighton, led by budding 106-pound star Kenny Sailas (ranked No. 4), will be in the mix as well. This region has star power galore, with four NCAA Division I commits set to compete: Grand Junction’s Dylan Martinez (Air Force) and Josiah Rider (N.C. State), Lakewood’s Gabe Dinette (Stanford) and Hayden Still (Oregon State).
Weight To Watch: 170 pounds features the Nos. 4, 5, and 6-ranked wrestlers in the state, all of whom will by vying for superior bracket positioning at state. Grand Junction’s J.T. Skalecki is ranked No. 5 but holds a win over No. 4 Tarron Adams of Brighton, while No. 6 Kai Blake of Cherry Creek, No. 9 Elijah Olson (Arvada West), and No. 10 Kyle Stalder (Fountain-Fort Carson) also lurk in the mix.
5A Region 2
Where: Adams City High School
Who: No. 2 Pomona, No. 8 Adams City, Rocky Mountain, Coronado, Arapahoe, Denver East, Fruita Monument, Gateway, Heritage, Legend, Mountain Range, Northglenn, Palmer, Rock Canyon
The Tilt: Adams City is the host of a rock-solid region which features defending state champion Pomona and a host of highly-ranked individuals. Adams City’s Nick Gonzalez (126) and Gavin Deaguero (152), both ranked No. 2 in their weights, should enter as top seeds and favorites, while Pomona is looking to get numbers out and position itself as capable of defending its title. The Yapoujian brothers, Wyatt (106) and Colton (138), along with Justin Pacheco (120), Theorius Robison (132), Doug Mills (220), and Brandon Hodge (285), should also figure to be among the top seeds in their regional brackets.
Weight Watch: 120 pounds, led by Pomona’s Justin Pacheco (No. 2) and Northglenn’s Noah Vigil (No. 3), features four wrestlers ranked in the top six. How will they duke it out, and will there be any surprises when state brackets come out on Sunday?
5A Region 3
Where: Poudre High School
Who: No. 3 Poudre, No. 4 Monarch, No. 10 Legacy, Doherty, Aurora Central, Centaurus, Chatfield, Cherokee Trail, Columbine, Fairview, Fossil Ridge, Horizon, Regis Jesuit, ThunderRidge, Westminster
The Tilt: Poudre and Monarch have traveled many of the same circles this season, and each feels like they are poised to make a run against Pomona and Grand Junction. The disadvantage comes from being in the same region, where only one will likely get the horses out to make a serious charge. Monarch’s Vince Cornella (No. 1, 106) has had as impressive of a freshman campaign as anyone this year, and leads the charge for the Coyotes along with Cole Polluconi (No. 3, 138) and Parker McQuade (No. 3, 152). Jacob Greenwood of Poudre is aiming to win his fourth straight regional title before shooting for a fourth state title next week, and the Impalas’ middleweight lineup might be the toughest in the state.
Weight Watch: 138 pounds, where Polluconi and Poudre’s Brody Lamb (No. 2) could meet in an all-important final for state seeding purposes. The two have tangled twice before this season, with Lamb winning both times (including 6-1 most recently at the league tournament), and both have fallen short to Pomona’s Colton Yapoujian twice apiece. The winner may position himself on the opposite side while the loser may find themselves on the same side, and possibly even in the same quarter, as Yapoujian at state.
5A Region 4
Where: Broomfield High School
Who: No. 6 Castle View, No. 7 Ponderosa, No. 9 Broomfield, Grandview, Bear Creek, Chaparral, Douglas County, Eaglecrest, Far Northeast, Highlands Ranch, Hinkley, Overland, Ralston Valley, Rampart, Smoky Hill
The Tilt: With three top-10 teams, Region 4 is certainly not short on talent. Division I prospects and signees are scattered throughout the brackets, including Castle View’s Malik Heinselman (No. 1, 120, Ohio State), Ponderosa’s Jayden Woodruff (No. 1, 195, Utah Valley) and world champion junior Cohlton Schultz (No. 1, 285). Broomfield’s Mason Watt, No. 1 at 220, has put together an impressive 40-win season after shedding more than 100 pounds from a year ago and will look to cap his run with a regional title, though No. 3 ranked Micah Smith of Douglas County is lurching close behind.
Weight Watch: The only 5A weight class with a No. 1 and No. 2 ranked wrestler in the same region is Region 4’s 195 pound class, where Ponderosa’s Jayden Woodruff (No. 1) and Overland’s Kaelin Chin (No. 2) could clash. Also in the weight is Broomfield’s Bryant Walker (No. 7).