Weld County State Wrestling Preview: Valley’s pursuit of a four-peat among five things to watch | MyWindsorNow.com

Weld County State Wrestling Preview: Valley’s pursuit of a four-peat among five things to watch

Bobby Fernandez and Tommy Wood · bfernandez@greeleytribune.com

This is the main event.

No question about it.

Months of conditioning, cutting weight and strength training; treacherous all-day tournaments, dramatic head-to-head duals, gut-checking practices — it all comes down to this.

Hundreds of the best wrestlers in the state — 896, to be exact, including 70 wrestlers from Weld County — will coverage at Denver's Pepsi Center for the three-day Class 2A-5A Wrestling Championships.

In the end, just four team champions and 56 individual champions will be crowned. If history is any indication, Weld County will be well represented among that championship tier.

Here are five things to watch during the state wrestling tournaments, which begin today:

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1 Can Valley engineer a four-peat?

Only nine teams have ever won four or more state titles in a row.

Valley will try to become No. 10 after crowning three individual champions and winning its third straight team title last season.

The Vikings won the team race last year by 24.5 points but odds are, the race will be much closer this time around.

Valley, actually, in some minds, is a slight underdog with Alamosa considered the favorite in 3A.

While the Mean Moose have 12 state qualifiers, the Vikings have just nine.

However, any advantage Valley surrenders in quantity, the Vikings hope to make up for with quality. Vital to another championship, Valley will need to put a majority of its lineup on the podium with junior 132-pounder Brandon Damian (36-4), senior 145-pounder Aaron Trujillo (36-3), freshman 152-pounder Jaziah Whaley (39-4) and junior 170-pounder Josh Flanagan (40-4) all among the favorites to win individual titles.

2 How will Injured Greeley Central follow up last year's second-place finish?

The Wildcats positioned themselves to challenge 4A powerhouse Pueblo County after finishing second to the Hornets at state last year, but a series of injuries put that on hold.

Central lost 152-pounder Michael Serna Jr. to a broken arm and 106-pounder Frank Alirez to a torn knee ligament within two weeks in January. Wildcats 132-pounder Zeke Alirez dealt with a persistent knee injury all season but still went 25-5 and enters state ranked No. 2 in his weight class by On the Mat.

"It's not going to stop him," Wildcats coach Eric Penfold said. "It's not going to be an excuse for him."

Central was ranked as high as second in 4A this year but dropped to fifth in the most recent rankings. Penfold said that's "a good thing, if anything," because the Wildcats are focused more on the process than the results this year. Still, the results could be pretty good.

Josh Nira (40-5, No. 4 at 113 pounds), Andrew Alirez (45-1, No. 1 at 126) and Andrue Rojas (37-5, No. 3 at 170) all have a good shot at a state title, and it'd be a shock if the sophomore Alirez didn't defend his from last year.

Penfold said that Pueblo County "will have to do more than stumble once" to lose the state title, but Central could help it — six of the Wildcats' nine qualifiers have a Pueblo County wrestler in his bracket.

3 Can Windsor's return to dominance continue?

So much of the early season talk in 4A was centered on powerhouse Pueblo County and budding contender Greeley Central.

However, quietly but profoundly, Windsor has again shown it has the mettle to be near the top of the team standings this weekend.

The Wizards — ranked fourth in 4A by On the Mat coming into this week — made a big statement last week by winning the Northern Region title in Frederick, topping second-place Greeley Central by 24.5 points.

Although it will be tough for any other 4A team to go toe-to-toe with defending champion Pueblo County, Windsor is as well-equipped as any competitor.

The Wizards have a strong lineup of 10 state qualifiers, led by top contenders Will Vombaur (113, 23-2), Dominick Serrano (120, 46-0), Chris Sandoval (138, 41-0) and Victor Bravo (285, 24-5).

4 Can Weld's returning state champions engineer an encore?

Greeley Central sophomore Andrew Alirez has followed his undefeated freshman season with a 45-1 campaign that saw him go wire-to-wire as the top ranked wrestler at 126 pounds. He beat the No. 2 wrestler in his weight class in 4A, Air Academy's Jason Hannenberg, for last year's state championship and this year's Christmas tournament title. A third finals matchup has the trappings of a classic.

Fort Lupton senior 126-pounder Jody Sandoval is gunning for his third straight state title. If he is able to do so, he will become just the 13th three-time champion from Weld County but he would be the sixth three-time champion from Fort Lupton.

Sandoval's stiffest competition in the 3A 126-pound bracket figures to come from Olathe senior Andrew Godfrey (36-3), who is on the opposite side of the bracket from Sandoval.

Valley's Trujillo is trying to wrap up his high school career as a two-time champion but could be well-challenged in Saturday's finals by Florence junior Ty Addington (38-4) or Centauri junior Brandon Buhr (39-9). In fact, even before Trujillo can begin to think about the finals, he will likely have to get past another top challenger, Bayfield senior Ryan Nava (35-1) or Steamboat Springs junior Lance Bryant (32-7), in the semifinals of a loaded bracket.

Windsor's Vombaur won state as a freshman at 106 a year ago, but he will have his work cut out for him at 113 pounds this weekend.

A runner-up at regionals after losing in the finals because of a medical forfeit this past weekend, Vombaur will likely have to beat fellow top contender Pueblo County junior Josiah Nava (23-7) just to get to Friday's semifinals.

5 Can any Weld County sleepers emerge to contend for titles?

Weld is full of wrestlers talented enough to make a run to Saturday's finals without necessarily being a bracket-topping favorite.

Highland freshman Logan Lewis (2A 106, 34-6) and senior Juancito Lucero (2A 195, 34-7) come to mind as do many others: Platte Valley's Adrian Rodriguez (3A 138, 38-9) and Jeremiah Land (195, 41-4), Eaton's Braeson Lewis (3A 160, 31-6) and Jake Sandau (182, 20-8), and Greeley Central's Zeke Alirez (4A 132, 25-5), Tony Ulaszek (138, 41-7) and Andrue Rojas (170, 37-5).

Greeley West senior Xavier Vasquez (34-3) could make some noise in the 182-pound 5A bracket.

However, several wrestlers maintain slight sleeper status — rather than full-blown favorite designation — only because they are freshmen: notably, Fort Lupton 106-pounder Jacob Duran (3A, 39-3) and Windsor's Serrano.

Valley's Whaley will try to raise some eyebrows and top the podium as a freshman, as will fellow 3A 152-pound freshman Isaiah Salazar of Eaton (23-5). However, Weld Central junior Jimmy Laconte (40-2) is the true favorite in that bracket, earning victories against Salazar and Whaley at regionals last week.

Denver bound

» Who: The top wrestlers from throughout the state

» What: Class 2A-5A Wrestling Championships

» When: Today through Saturday

» Where: Pepsi Center in Denver

State Schedule

Today

» 3-6:15 p.m.: Class 2A/3A preliminaries

» 7:15-10:45 p.m: 4A/5A preliminaries

Friday

» 9:30 a.m.: 2A/3A championship quarterfinals, followed by first round consolation

» 12:45 p.m.: 4A/5A championship quarterfinals, followed by first round consolation

» 5:30-6:45 p.m.: 2A/3A second round consolation

» 7:15 p.m.: Championship semifinals (all classes)

» 7:15 p.m.: 4A/5A second round consolation

Saturday

» 10 a.m.: 2A/3A third round consolation, followed by semifinal consolation

» Noon: 4A/5A third round consolation, followed by semifinal consolation

» 2 p.m.: 2A/3A fifth-place matches, followed by third-place matches

» 2:30 p.m.: 4A/5A fifth-place matches, followed by third-place matches

» 6:30 p.m.: Parade of Champions, followed by championship matches (all classes)

Weld first-round matchups

Class 2A

Highland (6)

» 106 — Logan Lewis (34-6) vs. Destry Schmidt, North Park (21-14); 113 — Dante Chirichingo (26-9) vs. Cody Crum, Holly, (26-4); 126 — Hector Flores (20-12) vs. Eli Etter, Paonia (24-15); 132 — Skyler Score (29-6) vs. Isiah Wellman, Mountain Valley (9-7); 195 — Juancito Lucero (34-7) vs. Davis Shults, Simla (10-24); 285 — Cody Johnson (27-9) vs.

Dylan Crump, John Martin (13-20)

3A

Eaton (10)

» 106 — Toby Gavette (19-11) vs. Johnny Masopost, Florence (38-8); 120 — Hayden Gavette (30-13) vs. Chris Moschetti, Moffat County (26-15); 126 — Jackson Contreras (14-13) vs. Jody Sandoval, Fort Lupton (42-1); 132 — Ariel Rodriguez (27-13) vs. Anthony Quintana, Buena Vista (34-2); 138 — David Pringle (20-13) vs. Quinton Montague, Centauri (36-1); 145 — Ty Garnhart (19-11) vs. Ben Vance, Alamosa (21-17); 152 — Isaiah Salazar (23-5) vs. Dalton Lucero, Pagosa Springs (24-6); 160 — Braeson Lewis (31-6) vs. Drake Horn, Dleta (29-17); 182 — Jake Sandau (20-8) vs. Colton Eberhardt, Lamar (30-13); 195 — Braedy Strudevant (16-3) vs. Atticus Fredrickson, Manitou Springs (17-7).

Valley (9)

» 106 — DJ Matthews (20-9) vs. Jacob Duran, Fort Lupton (39-3); 113 — Noah Damian (32-5) vs. Stevie Fuentes, Montezuma-Cortez (25-13); 120 — Javier Gonzales (26-9) vs. James Thomas, Pagosa Springs (11-10); 132 — Brandon Damian (36-4) vs. Jake Sandrey, Bayfield (40-9); 145 — Aaron Trujillo (36-3) vs. Captain Payne, Conifer (25-12); 152 — Jaziah Whaley (39-4) vs. Chance Dillingham, Delta (31-9); 170 — Josh Flanagan (40-4) vs. D’angelo Roybal, Pueblo Central (11-2); 220 — Jesus Garcia (22-13) vs. Bennie Chacon, Centauri (31-14); 285 — Tristian Stoos (24-14) vs. Sam Deseriere, Mullen (38-0)

Platte Valley (8)

» 120 — Varrion Ciddio (35-8) vs. Noah Barrett, La Junta (24-22); 132 — Dylan Yancey (37-4) vs. Jose Serrano, Lamar (21-13); 138 — Adrian Rodriguez (38-9) vs. Matt Johnson, Classical Acad. (29-14); 152 — Zach Waite (27-9) vs. Liam Young, Classical Acad. (20-20); 170 — Wyatt Reisener (28-17) vs. Mikinzie Klimper, Moffat County (37-6); 182 — Colton Moore (29-14) vs. Livan Santander, Delta (24-12); 195 — Jeremiah Land (41-4) vs. Travis Kerrigan, Lake County, 20-10; 220 — Joseph Cockroft (19-7) vs. Andrew Adame, Fort Lupton (11-3).

Fort Lupton (6)

» 106 — Jacob Duran (39-3) vs. DJ Matthews, Valley (20-9); 113 — Derrian Jaramillo (24-17) vs. Isaiah Delacerda, Alamosa (24-2); 126 — Jody Sandoval (42-1) vs. Hayden Gavette, Eaton (30-13); 132 — Jaylen Torrez (26-12) vs. Kolten Hillis, Alamosa (23-15); 220 — Andrew Adame (11-3) vs. Joseph Cockroft, Platte Valley (19-7); 285 — Devon Garcia (14-5) vs. Logan Church, Delta (38-2).

Weld Central (4)

» 106 — Santana Hernandez (34-8) vs. Carlos Hutchings, Salida (19-8); 126 — Riley Roskop (33-14) vs. Moises Juarez, Monte Vista (34-5); 145 — Quentin Jiner (24-2) vs. Caleb Laisure, Eagle Valley (18-10); 152 — Jimmy Laconte (40-2) vs. Drake Zimmerman, Moffat County (30-16).

University (3)

» 145 — Brody Mendoza (24-5) vs. Lance Bryant, Steamboat Springs (32-7); 220 — Caleb Measner (28-5) vs. Nolan Stretton, Pagosa Springs (24-10); 285 — Emmanuel Munoz-Alcala (32-3) vs. Joel Brautigam, Conifer (8-4)

4A

Windsor (10)

» 106 — Boden Baker (22-13) vs. Brendon Garcia, Pueblo County (18-2); 113 — Will Vonbaur (23-2) vs. Grady Nickolaus, Montrose (24-18); 120 — Dominick Serrano (46-0) vs. Jalen Fisher, Mesa Ridge (25-19); 126 — Braden Penninger (35-12) vs. Riley Prough, Glenwood Springs (45-4); 138 — Chris Sandoval (41-0) vs. John Murphy, Valor Christian (31-11); 145 — Josh Willis (20-12) vs. Zac Hannenberg, Canon City (35-6); 160 — Gage Trusty (28-6) vs. Brian Macarus, Arvada (13-6); 170 — Caleb Willis (36-12) vs. Ryan Weber, Discovery Canyon (22-6); 195 — Josh Grasmick (39-12) vs. Donavin Bedburdick, Sierra (25-8); 285 — Victor Bravo (24-5) vs. Peyton Miles, Mitchell (22-8).

Greeley Central (9)

» 113 — Josh Nira (40-5) vs. Jose Perez, Skyline (29-16); 126 — Andrew Alirez (45-1) vs. Uriel Contreras, Skyline (38-4); 132 — Zeke Alirez (25-5) vs. Adrian Rincon, Erie (31-16); 138 — Tony Ulaszek (41-7) vs. Luke Antonia., Cheyenne Mountain (20-13); 152 — Justus Strand (26-10) vs. Ron Salazar, Pine Creek (41-9); 160 — Jonny Guerrero (28-8) vs. Sebastian Benavidez, Pueblo East (13-10); 170 — Andrue Rojas (37-5) vs. Adam Bezlou, Liberty (16-10); 182 — Gerardo Arellano (29-15) vs. Weston Holdren, Grand Junction Central (32-13); 285 — Alex Yeadon (35-7) vs. Kyle Aumiller, Pueblo South (14-15)

Roosevelt (2)

» 126 — Bo Slaymaker (34-10) vs. Nick Stiltner, Palmer Ridge (29-10); 138 — Miles Beam (31-10) vs. Tucker Coffey, Canon City (32-12)

Northridge (1)

» 138 — Jordan Jackson (31-11) vs. Ernie Quintana, Erie (40-11)

5A

Greeley West (2)

» 113 — Curtis Federico (30-11) vs. Bo Cole, Cherry Creek (29-14); 182 — Xavier Vasquez (34-3) vs. Uriah Vigil, Pomona (11-4)

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Weld County has crowned more than its share of state wrestling champions, dating back to when the tournament was conducted at Gunter Hall in 1936 and organized by John Hancock, considered the founder of Colorado high school wrestling. Hancock, a member of the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, later coached Colorado State College, now the University of Northern Colorado.

The state tournament, scheduled today through Saturday, is the most attended high school athletic event in the state.

» FIRST YEAR, ETC: 1936 at Gunter Hall. Nine teams comprised the field — Greeley High, 32 points; Olathe, 22; Fort Morgan, 20; College High, 18; Grand Junction, 9; Montrose, 3; Golden, 1; Windsor, 1; Fort Collins. 1. Greeley High had three individual state champions on that first team.

» FIRST WELD COUNTY TEAM TITLE: Greeley High, 1936.

» LAST WELD TEAM TO WIN TEAM TITLE: Valley (3A) in 2016.

» WELD TEAM TITLES/YRS: Greeley High, 1936; Fort Lupton 1981, 1982, 1987; Weld Central, 1991; Platte Valley, 1992, 1993; Roosevelt, 2000, 2003, 2008; Northridge, 2008; Valley, 2014, 2015, 2016; Windsor, 2011, 2012.

» SCHOOL INDIVIDUAL TITLES/ NO./LAST ONE: Fort Lupton, 50, Jody Sandoval, 2016; Roosevelt, 38, Jace Lopez, 2013; Greeley Central, 32, Andrew Alirez, 2016; Eaton, 21, Dalton Shoop, 2013; University High, 16, Rory O’Farrell, 2001; Platte Valley, 17, A.J. Jaramillo and Ryan Waite, 2015; Windsor, 13, Will Vombaur, 2016; Greeley West, 12, Emilio Martinez and Austin Waterman, 2013; Highland, 11, Morgan Fogg, 2016; Valley, 11, Zach Damian, Macoy Flanagan and Aaron Trujillo, 2016; Weld Central, 8, Dalton Robertson, 2016; Northridge, 7, Patrick Gomez, 2009.

» WELD THREE-TIME STATE CHAMPIONS: Ben Gonzales, College High, 1945, 1946, 1947; Sonny Bachicha, Fort Lupton, 1980, 1981, 1982; Vince Holton, Fort Lupton, 1980, 1981, 1982; Jarrod Nelson, Fort Lupton, 1986, 1987, 1988; Brian Luna, Roosevelt, 1993, 1994, 1996; Tony Mustari, Greeley Central, 2003, 2004, 2005; Curtis Salazar, Valley, 2004, 2005, 2006; Saul Guerrero, Fort Lupton, 2006, 2007, 2008; Dale Shull, Fort Lupton, 2006, 2008, 2009; Joseph Martinez, Greeley West, 2009, 2010, 2011; Emilio Martinez, Greeley West, 2010, 2012, 2013; Dalton Robertson, Weld Central, 2013, 2015, 2016.

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