Folks, we are BACK. We are back. We. Are. Back.
And we are now just a few short days from hearing those beautiful words once again. You know the ones.
“Wrestlers … Please CLEAR THE MATS.”
And that also means that we are just a few delightful, emotional, intense months away from hearing those glorious, soothing synth sounds of Pulstar during the Parade of Champions (shoutout to CHSAA for bringing it back last February).
But anyway, what’s new this year? Well, a lot. But as much as things change, the more they remain the same. Or something like that.
Let’s dive in and take a look at each classification, including who’s back, storylines to watch, and a whole heck of a lot more. Let’s go.
A New Era
First of all, we must recognize the incredible legacy left behind by Alamosa’s Gary Ramstetter, who decided to step away from the chair in the corner after an unparalleled run with the Mean Moose. During his tenure, Coach Ram racked up 12 state titles, six runner-up finishes, seven third place finishes, 57 individual state champions and 207 state placers. Kudos to you, Ram, and enjoy your retirement!
We also wanted to recognize the late, great, Gerald Moore, a longtime Colorado wrestling official who passed away earlier this year after a battle with cancer. Mr. Moore left behind a legacy of kindness and dedication worthy of his 2013 National Wrestling Hall of Fame – Colorado Chapter induction. A memorial website, including a charitable fund, have been set up in honor of Mr. Moore to continue his legacy. If interested, please visit https://www.thegkmoorefoundation.org/.
During the offseason, the wrestling community also mourned the loss of longtime Arvada West coach Ron Granieri and Colorado USA Wrestling Chair Mo Babi. The impact left behind by these ambassadors to the sport will last forever.
Storylines to watch
Every season brings something new and exciting, and this year is no different. Let’s take a quick look at some of the main storylines for the upcoming season.
- The Quest for 4: Of course, among the biggest stories is the chase for history for the four young men going for their fourth state title. Last February, history was made as three wrestlers etched their names into Colorado wrestling lore by joining the Four-Timers’ Club. There had never been more than two wrestlers to do it in any given season; and this year, the record books could be rewritten again as John Mall’s Wesley VanMatre (2A), Pueblo East’s Andy Garcia (4A) and Windsor’s dynamic duo of Isaiah Salazar and Dominick Serrano (4A) all have a shot at joining the exclusive club.
- Untouchable? And speaking of Dominick Serrano, the Nebraska Husker commit and this summer’s Fargo national champion has a chance to do something that only one other wrestler in the state of Colorado has ever done: make it out of high school with an unblemished record (Kyle Sand of Arvada West did it in 2001-04). Serrano carries a 99-0 record into his senior season.
- College Commits: It’s truly incredible to see how Colorado’s prestige as a wrestling hotbed continues to grow year after year. In recent years, Colorado has produced national qualifiers, all-Americans, and even world team members. And boy, are they having an impact. Paonia’s Bo Pipher recently got a decisive victory in the starting lineup for the D1 powerhouse, Penn State. Northern Colorado’s Mosha Schwartz, a Ponderosa grad, was just tabbed as the Big 12 wrestler of the week (as a true freshman). Heck, Loveland’s Tyler Graff, made his senior-level world team debut this past summer. And it all starts here, on the high school stage. We’ll try to keep up with most of this year’s college commits, which already include the likes of Monarch’s Vince Cornella to Cornell (seems like too obvious of a fit), Windsor’s Salazar to Minnesota, Serrano to Nebraska, and Cody Eaton to Northern Coloradi, Pueblo County’s Jax Garoutte to Utah Valley, Broomfield’s Darren Green to Wyoming, and La Junta’s Isaiah Gamez to Western State. Missing anyone? Feel free to give me a shout, and I’ll try my best to keep a running list. It’s important to celebrate these accomplishments and lift our athletes up as they prep for the next level!
Defending champion: Wray
Tim Yount’s Preseason Pick: Wray
The Eagles pulled off the repeat in fairly dominant fashion, outpacing all other teams by 70 points during the three day run at Pepsi Center last February. Led by returning finalists Cade Rockwell (120 pounds and a 2018 state champion) and Tyler Collins (152 pounds), Wray is poised to make a run at another title. Tim Yount has the Eagles touted as the top team in Class 2A in his preseason rankings, and with good reason.
But don’t count out the Meloneers of Rocky Ford, paced by defending state champion JJ Tapia, or the surging Cedaredge Bruins when it comes down to crunch time.
Returning state champs
- Michael Atencio, Rye, 120 lbs (2019, 113)
- Cade Rockwell, Wray, 120 (2018, 113)
- Trey Geyer, Cedaredge, 126 lbs (2018, 120; 2019, 120)
- Oran Huff, Lyons, 126 lbs (2019, 126)
- Anthony Aldretti, John Mall, 132 (2019, 132)
- Sean Dale, Cedaredge, 132 (2018, 126)
- Wesley VanMatre, 145 lbs (2017, 120; 2018, 132; 2019, 138)
- Micah Hertritch, Buena Vista, 160 (2019, 160)
- JJ Tapia, Rocky Ford, 220 (2019, 195)
- The top-ranked Eagles will go as the Collins Bros.’ go; keep an eye on Brady Collins, Wray, 113 (Freshman, ranked No. 1) & Tyler Collins, Wray, 152 (finalist last year, out for half the season).
- Also out for the entire 138-pound preseason rankings list; highlighted by Byers’ Wyatt Yapoujian, a transfer from Pomona and three-time placer in Class 5A (3rd, 2nd, 2nd).
Defending champion: Alamosa
Tim Yount’s Preseason Pick: Jefferson
It’s a new era at Alamosa High School, which is certainly another storyline that bears watching throughout the year. Coach Ram is no longer in the corner, but that doesn’t mean the Mean Moose are short on great wrestling minds in the room — or talent on the mat, for that matter
But alas, the fledgling Jefferson Saints are the preseason pick as the top team in Class 3A, and it’s really hard to argue with that. Returning champs Angelo Lozado (so., 113) and Nicholas Gallegos (sr., 152) lead the charge for Jefferson, and reinforcements are found in the form of senior Jimmy Ramirez, a former state finalist who is back after missing more than a season with injuries.
Valley, Lamar, Pagosa Springs, and Berthoud round out the top five in a class which could become the most exciting team race come February.
Returning state champs
- Angelo Lozado, Jefferson, 113 (2019, 113)
- Isaiah Gamez, La Junta, 120 (2018, 113; 2019, 120)
- Brady Hankin, Woodland Park, 120 (2019, 106)
- Davion Chavez, Alamosa, 120 (2018, 106)
- Jacob Duran, Fort Lupton, 126 (2017, 106)
- Zane Rankin, Lamar, 132 (2019, 132)
- Cameron Lucero, Pagosa Springs, 152 (2019, 145)
- Nicholas Gallegos, Jefferson, 152 (2019, 152)
- Isaiah Rios, Valley, 152 (2019, 138)
- Jaziah Whaley, Valley, 160 (2019, 160)
- Emmanuel Munoz Alcala, University, 285 (2019, 285)
- What’s going on at 120 and 152?? Barring any movement, either pre- or post-holiday, it’s possible that there could be three state champs (120 – Isaiah Gamez, La Junta; Brady Hankin, Woodland Park; Davion Chavez, Alamosa & 152 – Cameron Lucero, Pagosa; Nicholas Gallegos, Jefferson; Isaiah Rios, Valley) in the same bracket. That would be fireworks.
- Severance High School is in its inaugural year, and it already has one of the most fire emoji mats of all time
Defending champion: Pueblo East
Tim Yount’s Preseason Pick: Windsor
For the past few years, Class 4A has been one of the most exciting (and arguably, the best) classification to watch from top to bottom. Led by a contingent from the Steel City, including last year’s champion Pueblo East, and the always-in-the-running Windsor Wizards, this year appears to be more of the same.
And quite frankly, we love to see it. The Wizards are rightfully favored by the rankings guru, Mr. Yount, because they are loaded. Not only do they have two wrestlers aiming for the four-peat, but the NoCo powerhouse also returns Vance Vombaur, who unfortunately missed last year’s postseason with an injury. All he’s done in his return to the mat is enter a collegiate open tournament and win the dang thing, earning national recognition as the Adidas/The Open Mat HS Wrestler of the Week.
But you can never, ever count out anyone from Pueblo. The East Eagles are back with hammers of their own, including three-time champ Andy Garcia at heavyweight. And out on the Mesa, Pueblo County is eyeing a return to the top led by defending champ Jax Garoutte.
Get ready for another exciting main course in February, preceded by some tasty appetizers all year long.
Returning state champs
- Brady Parker, Windsor, 106 (2019, 106)
- Dominick Serrano, Windsor, 132 (2017, 120; 2018, 126; 2019, 132)
- Darren Green, Broomfield, 145 (2019, 138)
- Jax Garoutte, Pueblo County, 152 (2019, 145)
- Isaiah Salazar, Windsor, 182 (2017, 152; 2018, 170; 2019, 182)
- Andy Garcia, Pueblo East, 285 (2017, 285; 2018, 285; 2019, 285)
- If Pueblo East is going to make a run, some of the youngsters will have to step up in a big way. And fortunately for the Eagles, they have some youngsters who are capable. One to watch is freshman Weston Dalton (ranked No. 2 at 120), who was massively successful on the local and national youth circuit with the long-running POWA club.
Defending champion: Pomona
Tim Yount’s Preseason Pick: Pomona
What did I say earlier? The more things change, the more they remain the same — or something to that effect. Pomona is case in point there. Despite losing some of their more prolific point scorers, including two-time finalist Wyatt Yapoujian (transfer to Byers), the Panthers again reload with the goods to win it all.
Daniel Cardenas, a sophomore and defending state champion at 138 pounds, is far and away one of the most talented and exciting underclassmen in the state. He’s bound to accomplish great things (and in reality, he already has — he earned a Cadet national title in Fargo this summer to add to his growing resume). He’ll be pushing the Panthers, both on a national and local level, as they contend with recent rival Grand Junction for another crown.
Returning state champs
- Kenny Sailas, Brighton, 113 (2019, 106)
- Dawson Collins, Grand Junction, 120 (2018, 113)
- Vince Cornella, Monarch, 126 (2018, 106; 2019, 113)
- Daniel Cardenas, Pomona, 138 (2019, 120)
- Antonio Segura, Regis, 152 (2019, 145)
- Alec Hargreaves, Rocky Mountain, 195 (2019, 195)
- Franklin Cruz, Pomona, 195 (2019, 182)
- A couple of wrestlers are making big leaps in weight compared to last year, namely Cornella (Monarch, 113 to 126) and Cardenas (Pomona, 120 to 138). It’s likely that the post-break shuffle will change that a bit, but it also makes sense for these two. They are legit college prospects (Cornella has already committed as a junior) with plenty more growth ahead.