Class 2A is consistently one of the most exciting roller coasters at The Can. The passion from the small-town fans, all clad in matching shirts for three straight days after rolling into Denver with painted windows on their cars and custom iron-on letters spelling out the name of their son/brother/cousin/student/neighbor and their weight class on their T-shirt, is really second to none.
It’s just awesome. We love it!
This year, Class 2A features nine returning state champions who hold a combined twelve gold medals in the field, including one of the more prolific wrestlers in the state hailing from a humble little burg. Walsenburg, that is.
John Mall’s Wesley VanMatre is one of four wrestlers in Colorado aiming to win a fourth state title at this weekend’s state championship tournament held at Pepsi Center in Denver.
There are currently 24 members of Colorado prep wrestling’s most elite club, and VanMatre looks poised to become enshrined as the top seed in the 145-pound bracket. If he pulls it off, VanMatre would be the first in school history to accomplish the feat, and the first in Class 2A since Meeker’s T.J. Shelton capped his four-timer run in 2016.
As far as the team race, the onus is on the rest of the field to find a way to dethrone two-time defending state champion Wray. The Eagles return to The Can with 11 wrestlers ready to complete the three-peat, something the school last did during a run of four straight from 1969-72.
Don’t sleep on Rocky Ford, a perennial contender which leads the way in terms of numbers, or battle-tested and hungry for more squads like Cedaredge and John Mall.
Defending Team Champion: Wray
In The Mix (# Of Qualifiers): Rocky Ford (12), Wray (11), John Mall (11), Cedaredge (10), Centauri (10)
Returning Individual Champions (Year Won, Weight Won):
- Cade Rockwell, Wray, sr., 113 (2018, 113)
- Michael Atencio, Rye, jr., 120 (2019, 113)
- Trey Geyer, Cedaredge, jr., 126 (2018, 120; 2019, 120)
- Oran Huff, Lyons, jr., 126 (2019, 126)
- Sean Dale, Cedaredge, sr., 132 (2018, 126)
- Wesley VanMatre, John Mall, sr., 145 (2017, 120; 2018, 132; 2019, 138)*
- Anthony Aldretti, John Mall, jr., 152 (2019, 132)
- Micah Hertrich, Buena Vista, sr., 160 (2019, 160)
- Jesse Tapia, Rocky Ford, sr., 220 (2019, 195)
*Potential four-time champion
In The Mix
106: Wray’s Brady Collins enters his first high school state tournament as one of the more highly regarded youngsters in some time. Back in November, On the Mat’s Tim Yount ranked the Eagle frosh No. 1 — one of just four freshman to ever receive a preseason number one accolade from the ranking guru. A 47-1 record with no in-state losses shows why. Other contenders include Buena Vista’s Chris Hutchings and Swink’s Michael Romero.
113: Cade Rockwell, a Wray senior, has made two previous trips to the state finals. The first trip ended with jubilation, the second ended with a hunger for redemption. That quest culminates this weekend with Rockwell (35-5) holding the top seed. Cedaredge sophomore Lane Hunsberger (36-2) and Crowley County frosh Dillon Buford (34-8) figure to factor in the mix as well.
120: Rye junior Michael Atencio made history last year by becoming the first wrestler from his school to win a state title. The next step? Going back to back. Atencio (32-3) enters as the top seed of a fairly tough bracket that features Trinidad’s Alberto Felthager (2018 state finalist), Highlan’s Logan Lewis (2018 state finalist), Rocky Ford’s Michael Maldonado (returning place-winner), and other eager challengers.
126: Trey Geyer is halfway there. The Cedaredge junior has scored two state titles in his previous two trips to the state tournament. Moving along to the next level of his history-seeking quest will require Geyer (38-3) to navigate a field that also includes Highland’s Dante Chirichingo (2x placer), Rye’s Cole Miller (2019 finalist) and fellow defending state champ Oran Huff (42-1) of Lyons. This is definitely one of the most exciting brackets in the tournament.
132: If Cedaredge hopes to play spoiler in the team race, it’s going to need big performances from big performers. Enter Sean Dale, a 2018 state champion looking to re-discover success at the big show after missing out on the podium a year ago. Dale (33-4) enters as the top seed while Byers frosh phenom Lain Yapoujian (34-6) and returning finalist Eyan Chavez (so., 39-3) of Centauri posit as challenges on the other side.
138: For three years, Wyatt Yapoujian racked up wins and state medals (including two silvers) in the 5A division. After a move to Byers High School, the senior (37-4) enters the 2A field as the top seed and arguably the favorite to win. But there’s also Peyton’s Clint Brown (35-1), a state placer in both Ohio and Colorado, and others looking to make a run to the top.
145: All he’s done is win — particularly when it counts. John Mall’s Wesley VanMatre (38-2 this season, 118-10 in high school) is now just four wins away from becoming a four-time state champion, something accomplished by just 24 wrestlers in state history. The Panther’s two losses on the year came at the Top of the Rockies, though neither came from the 2A ranks. Among those looking to stop history will be Highland’s Jack Ring, Lyons’ David Gardner, and Cedaredge’s Adrian Nieto, all of which won their regions.
152: On one side, there’s Tyler Collins (30-1) — a junior from Wray who made a trip to the state final a year ago only to come up short. On the other side, there’s Anthony Aldretti (27-9) — a junior from John Mall who made the state final a year ago and emerged victorious. In between, there’s a slew of returning placers and hungry qualifiers. This feels like one of those brackets where the first and second rounds get wild.
160: The top four seeds — Grey Neal of Paonia (42-4), Jadon Baldonado of Rocky Ford (37-7), Emmanuel Huerta of Wray (40-5), and Micah Hertrich of Buena Vista (33-2) — all have legitimate shots. But of course, Hertrich is the only one who has made it atop the state podium before. The defending state champ is the one to beat here.
170: Crowley County junior Adam Schultz (38-0) is the only wrestler in the 2A field with an unblemished record entering the state tournament. His impressive campaign rolls on as he seeks to improve upon his third place finish a year ago. Hotchkiss’ Jace Peebles (31-6) and Holyoke’s Luis Chafino (17-1) are among the other contenders.
182: Hayden’s Hunter Planansky (40-6) scored a big win over longtime rival Colby Clatterbaugh (37-6) of Meeker in the regional final. Planansky carries that momentum to the top seed in the 182-pound division, which features fellow challengers like Clatterbaugh, County Line’s Jaime Ibarra (29-2), Centauri’s Adam Chacon (22-8), and Wiggins’ Devon Harshman (31-11).
195: Looking to continue the state-championship pedigree set by his older brother, Lyons’ Karson Bean (32-3) enters as the top seed and No. 1 contender in his final state tournament. Bean’s challengers include Wray’s Carson Berghuis, a senior who missed much of the season but managed to punch a ticket with his eyes on playing spoiler, Paonia’s Anthony Miller (37-7) and Sedgwick County-Fleming’s Fabian Lopez (33-2) — all of which have won medals at state before.
220: The last of the nine returning state champions in 2A is Rocky Ford’s Jesse Tapia (33-2), a senior who looks poised to become Rocky Ford’s latest two-time winner (and potentially boost the Meloneers into trophy contention). Tapia has racked up 16 straight wins in his quest to repeat, while Wray’s Jose Molina (39-8) Monte Vista’s Ethan Hotz are among the top contenders on the other end.
285: Last year was the year of the Lotus at the state tournament; heavyweight Scott Torres became the young school’s first state placer with an improbable third-place finish at the state tournament. This year, Torres (17-6) has his work cut out for him against the likes of Cedaredge’s Derek Sanchez (33-4), Trinidad’s Chance Wiening (15-3), Centauri’s Remi Lucero (35-5), and others hoping for a magical run of their own.