Folks, 2018 is here.
That means we’re less than two months — seven weeks, to be exact — from crowning 56 individual and four team state champions at Pepsi Center in Denver.
(If you listen closely, you can practically hear the booming chorus of trumpets and synthesizers which make up the classic parade of champions walkout song.)
We’ve learned a lot through the first three weeks of the season, and there is still much learning to be done. Tim Yount’s latest “On The Mat” rankings feature some significant shake-ups, though it’s important to note that the dust will still be settling over the course of the next month and change.
Kids will be getting healthy and in shape, thus returning to the lineup and making some noise of their own. Others will figure out how to beat that guy whose beat them twice before. Others will finally put their head on the inside during a single leg attempt and score the overtime takedown that has eluded them all season long.
Yes, the rest of the season is going to be a wild ride — just taking a quick look at the team races, for instance, it appears that each champion could be decided on the final day (or even the final match) of the year.
The mat-ness returns to high school gymnasiums this week, with a slew of tough tournaments and highly anticipated showdowns.
Without further ado, let’s get started with the first Five Count of 2018.
1: Arnold Torgerson Invite (Fort Collins)
Heck of a tournament to kick things back off up on the Front Range! Lambkin Way in Fort Collins will again be the site of the annual Arnold Torgerson Invitational, which features a competitive field with schools from multiple classifications.
Among the headliners on the team list are 4A No. 2 Windsor and 5A No. 2 Poudre — though it should be noted that Poudre is expected to send a contingent to the Doc B in California (see below).
Still, a strong group of individuals and teams are expected to be in the field at FoCo High, including Windsor, Eaton (3A No. 3), Thompson Valley (4A No. 6), Castle View (5A No. 6), and returning tournament champion Broomfield (5A No. 8).
The Wizards appear to be the team to beat at the latest edition of the Arnold Torgerson. The Brothers’ Vombaur — the elder Will (4A No. 2) at 113 and the younger Vance (No. 1) at 120 — lead the charge. Meanwhile, another potent weapon could come back into the fold as top-ranked sophomore Dominick Serrano (126 pounds), still unbeaten in high school, could return to the lineup after missing time in the first half.
Individually, also keep an eye on Mountain View’s Erik Contreras (4A No. 3, 138 pounds) and Braden Barker (4A No. 3, 195 pounds).
2 (TWOOOOOOOOO): Bobby “Hawk” Martinez Colt Classic (Pueblo South)
They call it the Bat Cave. But Saturday, the Pueblo South High School gymnasium will be home to costumed crusaders of a different type.
The annual Colt Classic, renamed last year for the late former South coach Bobby “Hawk” Martinez, is back for its 21st iteration.
The Colts have a couple of strong contenders for titles at their home meet, namely Xavier Espinoza (4A No. 6, 113 pounds) and Marcus Martinez (No. 3, 160 pounds).
But also in the mix team-wise will be 2A No. 4 Rocky Ford, 4A No. 7 Cheyenne Mountain, and 4A No. 10 Canon City, among others.
The Meloneers are representing the smallest classification with some of the biggest hopes at the Colt Classic, led by top-ranked Carlos Romo at 145 pounds. Rocky Ford could also get defending state champion Dillon Jaramillo (113 pounds) back in the mix for the first time this season.
Cheyenne Mountain is paced by 4A top-ranked Deonte Bridges at 220 pounds, who put on quite the show at the Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament in December, where he pinned defending state finalist Dominick Fini of Mesa Ridge in the title match.
Canon City was the tournament champion last year, and comes loaded with firepower in the form of JW Ruona (4A No. 2, 132) and Zac Hanenberg (No. 5, 145 pounds).
3: Doc Buchanan Invitational (Clovis, Calif.)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a tougher tournament across the country than this one. The annual Doc Buchanan Invitational, simply referred to as “The Doc” or “Doc B” in wrestling circles, is one of the most prestigious in-season tournaments in all the land.
And with good reason. Each year, some of the best teams and wrestlers in the nation — including our own contingent from Colorado — converge on Clovis High School in California each year to battle for the highly coveted Cliff Keen Cowboy Hat, the “trophy” for winning each individual weight class.
Just take a look at some of the nationally ranked teams in the mix at the Doc B this year
- No. 2 Buchanan (Calif.)
- No. 6 Bergen Catholic (N.J.)
- No. 12 Clovis (Calif.)
- No. 20 Gilroy (Calif.)
- No. 28 Selma (Calif.)
- No. 42 Pomona
- No. 45 St. John Bosco
According to Clovis coach Adam Tirapelle, that’s the most nationally ranked teams ever in the Doc B field, and individually there are expected to be 14 returning state champions and 61 placers from nine different states.
Colorado will also be well-represented by hammers from: Greeley Central, Lakewood, Longmont, Monarch, Pomona, Ponderosa, Poudre and Pueblo County.
The Hornets of Pueblo County turned in one of the finest performances ever by a Colorado team at last year’s Doc B, finishing third as a team with a couple of champs (the Willits twins). Senior Josiah Nava (4A No. 4, 120) won a cowboy hat during his sophomore campaign and junior Brendon Garcia (No. 1, 113) finished fourth a year ago.
Ponderosa’s Cohlton Schultz, one of the 30-plus nationally ranked individuals in the field, is also looking to win another cowboy hat to add to his collection, while Poudre’s Jacob Greenwood — a three-time state champ — is among the Coloradoans looking to improve upon a runner-up finish and win some headwear of his own.
4: 10th Annual Colfax Smackdown (Denver East)
The Colfax Smackdown at Denver East High is back for its 10th edition. And it’s as smackdown-ier as ever.
Teams in the mix include Cherry Creek, Coronado, Fort Lupton, Grand Junction Central, Grandview, Mesa Ridge, Mountain Range, Prairie View, Pueblo Centennial, Pueblo East, Thornton.
Pueblo East, the third-ranked team in Class 4A, seems to be the clear-cut favorite in the field, led by heavy-hitters Drew Lucero (No. 3, 120), Jace Trujillo (No. 4, 132, 2016 state champ), Aaden Valdez (No. 4, 138), Zion Freeman (No. 1, 182), and defending state champ Andy Garcia (No. 1, 285).
Other top-ranked individuals include Pueblo Centennial’s Jacob Gonzales (4A, 106), Fort Lupton’s Jacob Duran (3A, 113), and Mesa Ridge’s Elijah Valdez (4A, 152).
5: Cowboy Invitational (Gunnison)
Gunnison will host the newly revived Cowboy Invitational at the Western State Colorado fieldhouse, and while the tournament will be young and somewhat small in numbers, the idea, venue, and growth potential will be great.
The tournament, featuring 2A No. 2 Paonia, 2A No. 3 Hotchkiss, Coal Ridge, Gunnison, Hotchkiss, Montrose, Mountain Valley, Norwood, Nucla, and Salida, will be held in conjuction with WSCU’s own home invite. That tournament will feature a number of regional collegiate programs, including the Mountaineers, Adams State, Colorado Mesa, Air Force, and more.
Another girl’s tournament is on tap for the weekend, this time at Bennett High School. It’s the inaugural all-girl’s event at Bennett, which will be held in conjunction with the 38th Bennett Invite, and if the first half tournaments were any indication the participation numbers are bound to grow.
Coaches of girl’s programs in Colorado: please reach out to me ([email protected]) with some results and/or information on some of your program’s wrestlers. I’d love to put together some info and a feature on the growth of the sport in Colorado!>