Time to get down to the nitty-gritty.
This is the final (and shortened) version of the Five Count this season – we’ll call this one the Three Count. That’s because, with regional tournament just around the corner (next week!) the majority of tournaments this weekend are league meets and small primers.
In the coming weeks, we’ll have in-depth regional tournament previews for the small schools (2A/3A) and big schools (4A/5A), and the Colorado Preps boss himself, Kevin Shaffer, and I will be on site at The Can for the state tournament with good and fun content galore.
This week, rather than previewing the coming week’s tournaments, we’re going to take a quick look at some of the biggest storylines still to come over the next couple weeks. So strap up your laces, buckle that headgear, and step to the line. Because the wildest roller coaster in high school sports is about to get rolling.
1: 2A’s Three-Horse Race
Rocky Ford High School has won two of the last three 2A state tournaments (and, it should be noted, the Meloneers were one painful point away in 2016 which could have made it a three-peat).
That means the seniors on this year’s Meloneer squad have brought home a trophy after every trip to The Can. Those seniors, including three-time placers in Diego Reyes (160) and Greg Garcia (285), are capable of leading the charge for even more hardware.
The Meloneers have been at or around the top spot in Tim Yount’s On The Mat rankings since the preseason, and a tough schedule full of highly competitive tournaments against larger schools has made them more battle-tested than most 2A wrestlers. Take 120-pound freshman Joziah Maestas, for example.
Maestas’s 27-10 record might not be a “Holy smokes” stat line, but when some of his losses are really examined – eight of them have come in competitive matches to wrestlers ranked in the top five in classes 2A, 3A, 4A, & 5A – it can be a bit deceiving. And that’s just how the Meloneers like it.
Hot on their heels, however, will be longtime cross-state rival Paonia. The Eagles have hovered around the top-three in the team rankings all year as well, and they haven’t exactly gone through a cupcake schedule either.
Paonia has competed – well – at tournaments like The Warrior Classic, Utah’s Tournament of Champions, and their own Screaming Eagle invite. Sackett Chesnik (No. 2, 138) has lost just one match in-state – to Meeker’s No. 1 ranked Tannen Kennedy – but one of the true strengths of the Eagles has been their depth. And of course, their ability to pin from just about any position.
Paonia knocked off the Meloneers in a dual at last week’s Kortney Lake duals in Center, utilizing two pins in otherwise close matches between highly ranked wrestlers. That pin-ability is what scores the crucial points at the state tournament, a fact which Paonia knows as well as anybody.
And then there’s Cedaredge, which just two weeks ago moved up into the No. 1 spot in Class 2A and has been a steady contender presence all year. The Bruins finished in second at the Butch Melton Invite last weekend, but got strong performances from Adrian Nieto (first, 113), Sean Dale (first, 126), Alex McCracken (first, 132), and Derek Sanchez (first, 285).
Class 2A presents one of the more intriguing team races in all of the state. And you can bet on these small towns being some of the most well-represented at The Can.
2 (TWOOOOOOOOO): Front Range Phenoms
There’s been a lot of talk about Pueblo as the central hub of stud wrestlers and teams over the past few years – and rightfully so. The Steel City has two of the best teams, regardless of class, and several of the best individuals roaming the mats at any given time.
But what about the northern Front Range? Though the “Front Range” certainly casts a wider net, there is still an exorbitantly high concentration of prep wrestling phenoms to come from the Fort Collins/Loveland/Windsor/Longmont/Greeley area. (Perhaps not all of these areas qualify to fit under the “Front Range” umbrella, but go with it…this is a wrestling blog and not a geography blog, after all).
It will be interesting to see how many champions the area crowns. The Poudre Impalas, led by the Greenwood brothers, are in the mix as a 5A team title contender.
The Windsor Wizards (4A No. 3) are looking to score some magic in Class 4A with a handful of state title contenders. Sophomore Dominick Serrano (No. 1, 126) has yet to suffer a high school loss, freshman Vance Vombaur (No. 1, 120 lbs.) is looking to follow in the footsteps of older brother Will (No. 2, 113) as a Wizard state champ, and sophomore Isaiah Salazar (No. 1, 170) aims to add a 4A title to his collection after winning in 3A as a freshman at Eaton.
Factor in the Greeley region, including homegrown UNC commit Andrew Alirez (4A No. 1, 145) from Greeley Central and three-time defending 3A team champion Valley, and then sprinkle in the likes of Longmont’s Drake Engelking (4A No. 1, 160), Thompson Valley’s Hunter Williams (No. 2, 160), and a handful of others – you might just think there’s something in the water north of Denver.
3: 5A’s Unbeatables
The horses of Class 5A are certainly worthy of ink (or in this case, computer pixels) on a weekly basis.
Of course, there’s Poudre’s Jacob Greenwood – vying to make history as the state’s 21st ever four-time state champion. What’s remarkable about Greenwood, at least during the few times that I’ve seen him, is that he doesn’t have a whole lot of flash to his game, so to speak. Sure, he’s as smooth as they come technique-wise, but he seems to keep to himself and rarely cracks a smile throughout the course of a tournament. He’s all-business, which is probably what makes him as special as they come.
And then there’s Theorius Robison, Pomona’s two-time state champion who will seek his third consecutive title on his quest to join the four-time club. Robison gets a seemingly bad rap for his perceived antics, but he also quietly handles his business much like Greenwood. He’s quite, polite, and an absolute monster on the mat – and when he goes on one of his scoring bursts it’s hard to fathom being able to avoid a takedown.
Then, looking at heavyweight Cohlton Schultz, Ponderosa’s two-time state champ (and one-time World Champ), you might see someone who is affable and aloof off the mat but handles business like no other on the mat. And you’d be right. Schultz is a world champ for a reason. As in, he’s the best in the world. His ability on the mat seems easier than it should be, particularly when considering he’s wrestling at the highest weight limit. Schultz is not only one of Colorado’s finest, but one of USA wrestling’s finest.
The list of Colorado’s “Unbeatables” could go on and on. Grand Junction’s Josiah Rider. Ponderosa’s Jaydon Woodruff. Greeley Central’s Andrew Alirez. Windsor’s Dominick Serrano. Pueblo County’s Brendon Garcia. Like was mentioned in a previous edition of the Five Count, there are actually eight current wrestlers with at least one title who have the ability to secure an historic four-peat by the time they graduate.
The point is, these three are examples of some of the best of the best that our state has to offer, each with their own chance to make history in their own right. You’re going to want to be sure that you aren’t in the Dippin’ Dots line when either of these dudes are on the matsure to get at Pepsi Center.
Performance Of The Week: Isaiah Gamez, La Junta (113)
The Tigers’ 113-pound sophomore climbed the ranks to No. 1 in Class 3A a couple of weeks ago and this past weekend he proved himself worthy of such prestige. Gamez emerged from a loaded bracket at the 60th annual Rocky Welton Invite in Garden City, Kan., defeating Pueblo East’s Andrew Lucero (4A No. 3) 5-4. The two met at 120 pounds in week two of the season at the East Invite, with Lucero winning by a fall in the third period. Gamez not only avenged alos, but he also improved upon his position on the podium in Kansas, as he placed fifth at the Rocky Welton last year.