WHEAT RIDGE — Jefferson junior Sam Rosales lets his wrestling on the mat speak for itself.

“He (Rosales) does lead by example,” Jefferson coach Oscar Fonseca said of the Saints’ returning state champion. “He gets in the (wrestling) room and works. The other kids get better wrestling with him. They get to feel what it is like to wrestle at that high level.”

Last year’s Class 3A state champion at 120 pounds is a role model in the Saints’ wrestling room for anyone who strives to reach the top of the podium next month at Ball Arena.

“It is defintely motivating,” Jefferson senior and 113-pounder Enrique Soto said of having a returning state champion as a teammate. “Even thou he his younger than me, we all look up to him. We want to be like him. We want to follow in his footsteps.”

Rosales is right back in the situation he was last season. The junior is ranked No. 1 at 132 pounds by Tim Yount’s On the Mat rankings. Rosales will attempt to make it to a third straight state championship bout appearance. He was a state runner-up his freshman year at 106 pounds.

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

“A little bit,” Rosales said about added pressure being a returning state champion. “Just working hard and trying to do the best I can every day.”

The junior took care of business Thursday night at Wheat Ridge High School. Rosales got first-period pins against Wheat Ridge’s Ronnie Reynolds and Golden’s Keegan Thomson in the triangular meet.

Jefferson took a 60-11 team victory over Wheat Ridge and then defeated Golden 54-36 before heading back to Edgewater.

“It is always fun to beat these type of schools,” said Soto, who got a technical fall win and first-period pin in his two matches. “They know of us. It is just business as usual.”

Soto is looking at getting on the podium at the state in his final shot. The senior failed to place last year at state, but is currently ranked No. 1 at 113 pounds.

“I don’t think he feels pressure,” Fonseca said of Soto. “He works hard and it is finally clicking for him. Everyday he comes into the wrestling room he is looking to learn something new. He studies film. He asks questions on how to improve. He is a great kid to have in the room as well.”

The Saints have some solid depth this season with the likes of Aaron Quiroz-Garcia (106), Isaiah Gallegos (132) and Joseph Salazar (138) all returning state qualifiers as well.

“I think if they compete well to their abilities we can finish in the top-5,” Fonseca said of his outlook at the 3A state tournament in downtown Denver from Feb. 15-17. “We’ll have them ready. That is all I can do with our kids.”

Regionals will be a good benchmark for the Saints. Jefferson will compete at the 3A Region 4 Tournament hosted by the top team ranked in 3A — Mullen. A solid Holy Family squad and No. 8 Severance is also in that same regional.

“It is defintely a rougher region than we’ve been in,” Fonseca said. “We are excited for it and see how it shakes out.”