The brunt of the season is over, which is a real shame. But it also means that regionals, and therefore the most exciting round in all of sport â€• Â the regional wrestling semifinals â€• is right around the corner.
But before then, we still have a whole lot to learn about the best of the best in Colorado prep wrestling.
We did, however, learn a lot last weekend, thanks in large part to the stellar 2018 edition of the Top of the Rockies last weekend at Centaurus High School.
The little town of Pueblo proved that it is just as tough as anyone in the state, with 4A No. 1 Pueblo County and No. 2 Pueblo East placing first and second amongst a hoard of 5A’s premier programs. As a nice little aside, those in attendance were treated by perhaps the match of the year (so far?) in the 120-pound title match between County’s Josiah Nava and East’s Jace Trujillo â€• longtime rivals who added to their storied back-and-forth with a 13-10 melee which was won by Trujillo after a last-second headlock (his specialty).
(Side note: The two went at it again on Wednesday night during a dual between the No. 1 Hornets and No. 2 Eagles, this time with Nava getting the 9-8 edge after a reversal in the final 20 seconds. Could these two meet for one final, epic, high-stakes showdown in Denver?)
Pueblo County’s Brendon Garcia kept his in-state unbeaten streak alive, Pomona’s Theorius Robison proved he might just be the slickest man in wrestling shoes on any given Saturday in prep gyms across Colorado, and Ponderosa’s Cohlton Schultz made it known that he simply can’t be stopped.
Some miles down the way along I-25, Mesa Ridge was winning its first ever Colorado Springs Metro title, and all the way out in Utah the Windsor Wizards were dazzling with their mat magic en route to winning the Rockwell Rumble.
This week sees a throng of league tournaments from around the state, as the competition begins to take on a different meaning with regional action just around the bend. Without much further ado, here are some of the top things to watch for the week in prep wrestling.
1: Rocky Welton Invite (Garden City, Kan.)
Sure, this tournament takes place outside of our fair state’s borders â€• but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feature some strong Colorado competition.
This is the 60th edition of the Rocky Welton Invite and Colorado’s contingency includes the likes of Bear Creek, Canon City, Doherty, Fountain-Fort Carson, La Junta, Lamar, Lewis-Palmer, Pine Creek, Pomona, Ponderosa, Pueblo Centennial, and Pueblo East.
Pomona (Class 5A) and Pueblo East (Class 4A) are each ranked No. 2 in their respective divisions, and the Panthers return as the defending tournament champions over Kearney, Neb.
As for those individuals who acquired previous glory at Rocky Welton, some returning champions include:
- Wyatt Yapoujian, Pomona (106)
- Jace Trujillo, Pueblo East (120)
- Theorius Robison, Pomona (132)
- Colton Yapoujian, Pomona (138)
- Parker Benekas, Ponderosa (160)
- Garrett Niel, Pine Creek (182)
- Cohlton Schultz, Ponderosa (285)
2 (TWOOOOOOOOO): Valley Viking Invite (Valley HS, Gilcrest)
The three-time defending 3A champs are once again set to play host to a mighty fine pre-regional tuneup tournament.
The most notable name in attendance just might be Greeley Central, the No. 4 team in Class 4A which is fresh off a team title at the Northglenn Norse Invite. Greeley Central will head to Valley to clash with the likes of Valley (3A No. 2), Eaton (3A No. 3), and more.
The weight class to watch? That has to be 152 pounds, where Valley’s Jaziah Whaley (3A No. 1), Holy Family’s Hunter Branson (3A No. 3), Greeley Central’s Tony Ulaszek (4A No. 3), and Roosevelt’s Miles Beam (4A No. 4) are among the contenders.
3: Mile High Classic (Thomas Jefferson HS, Denver)
The annual Mile High Classic at TJHS brings some of the state’s finest to the capitol city. Castle View (5A No. 5), Fort Morgan, Pueblo South, Windsor (4A No. 2), and defending tournament champ Grandview highlight some of the top contenders this year.
The Wizards are led by super-sophomore Dominick Serrano, still unbeaten in high school competition at 68-0. The top-ranked 4A grappler at 126 pounds could meet one of his most adept challengers to date in Grandview’s Fabian Santillan (5A No. 2).
4: Front Range League Tournament (Broomfield)
Last year, the Poudre Impalas galloped to the top of the Front Range League, and there they have reigned for the past 360-plus days. Brody Lamb and the Brothers’ Greenwood are primed to make that run last at least one year longer, as Poudre (5A No. 3) looks to repeat as FRL champs.
But not if Monarch has anything to say about it. The Coyotes are certainly formidable challengers. Led by freshman Vince Cornella (106), and seniors Cole Polluconi (138) and Parker McQuade (152), Monarch has horses positioned in the right lanes to make this thing a race.
5: Brighton Invite (Brighton HS)
Class 5A’s No. 1 team, the Grand Junction Tigers, scored big in winning the Arvada West tournament two weeks ago. Now, fresh off a third-place finish at the Top of the Rockies, it’s a safe bet to expect the Tigers to be hungry to get back to their winning ways.
Just three weeks out from trying to fulfill their ultimate destiny at Pepsi Center, Grand Junction enters a Brighton Invitational field as the favorites â€• led by No. 1-ranked Josiah Rider (152), who cruised to a TOR title and moved to 25-0 on the year â€• though there is certainly competition.
Host Brighton (5A No. 7), Mountain View (4A No. 7), and an always feisty Pueblo West team are among the challengers in the field.
Center High School has put together quite the late-season event over the past several years, with the Kortney Lake Duals bringing together many of the state’s best, including two Class 2A powers from opposite corners of the state, to meet before Center also holds its annual invitational.
Friday’s dual meet action will again be highlighted by 2A No. 2 Rocky Ford against 2A No. 3 Paonia in an annual neutral site clash between state title contenders.
Then on Saturday, Center will again be the site of some high quality wrestling with schools from all over the state.
In other news, after finishing in second place behind the Hornets at TOR, 4A No. 2 Pueblo East managed to take down No. 1 Pueblo County 39-36. What a treat for the folks in the Steel City. This battle, as well as the individual battles within the rivalry, are still far from finished.
Performance Of The Week: Vince Cornella, Monarch, 106
Last week we saw the next potential frosh phenom rise to power in Class 5A, as Monarch’s Vince Cornella (ranked No. 2) toppled No. 1 Wyatt Yapoujian of Pomona 8-2 in the semis before steamrolling through Scottsbluff, Neb., frosh Paul Garcia by way of a 19-5 major. In the process, Cornella avenged a 1-0 loss that he suffered against Yapoujian at the Doc Buchanan earlier this month.
For his efforts, Cornella earned the TOR Outstanding Wrestler honor for the lower weights, and now receives the even more prestigious Colorado Preps wrestler of the week distinction. January has been a pretty good month for the freshman â€• Â what will February have in store?