They say that state championships are won on the back side of the bracket. If that is the case, then Saturday morning’s session just might be the one to watch when it comes to the Class 4A race.
The consolation round that determines whether or not a wrestler gets a spot on the podium — endearingly known as the “blood round” in wrestling circles — is already one of the most exciting rounds of the whole tournament. The added weight of what promises to be an uber-tight team race will make the session even more appetizing for 4A fans.
But for now, everyone is still on the top side of the bracket. Let’s take a look at the storylines in the 4A division.
Defending Team Champion: Windsor
In The Mix (# Of Qualifiers): Pueblo East (12), Windsor (11), Pueblo County (10), Central-Grand Junction (11)
Certainly no disrespect to the other teams in the field — and there are some strong, strong teams in Class 4A — but this is shaping up to be a three-horse race once again. It’s a rematch some 53 weeks in the making. Pueblo East, Pueblo County, and Windsor have been destined for another dramatic showdown since last year’s incredibly close title race that was won by Windsor. Pueblo East has the numbers (all 12 qualifiers were regional finalists), though County had the same number of regional champions (7). Windsor was dealt a blow with the loss of Vance VomBaur, but the Wizards still have enough magic up their sleeves to procure a championship. This is the team race that is probably the most exciting. And it all starts Thursday.
Returning Individual Champions (Year Won, Weight Won):
- Brendon Garcia, Pueblo County, sr., 113 (2018, 106; 2017, 106; 2016, 106 – Dolores Huerta)
- Will VomBaur, Windsor, sr., 120 (2018, 113; 2016, 106)
- Patrick Allis, Discovery Canyon, sr., 126 (2018, 120)
- Dominick Serrano, Windsor, jr., 132 (2018, 126; 2017, 120)
- Andrew Alirez, Greeley Central, sr., 152 (2018, 145; 2017, 126; 2016, 120)
- Drake Engelking, Longmont, sr., 170 (2018, 160)
- Isaiah Salazar, Windsor, jr., 182 (2018, 170; 2017, 152 – Eaton)
- Andy Garcia, Pueblo East, jr., 285 (2018, 285; 2017, 285)
In The Mix
106: Broomfield was dealt a crushing blow when top-ranked Ryan Vigil missed weight at the regional tournament. That opens up the 106-pound class to be a potential Steel City scrum for the top podium positions. Keep an eye on Pueblo County’s Eric Griego, who pinned South’s Mac Martinez in last week’s regional final. East’s Anthony Franklin and Centennial’s Dominick Castro were also regional champs, and Windsor’s Brady Parker is also in the mix and looking to capitalize on his top bracket position.
113: There are plenty of opportunities for history-making performances at this year’s tournament, and one of those comes at 113 pounds. Pueblo County’s Brendon Garcia looks to join Colorado’s most prestigious prep club as a four-time state wrestling champion. Garcia’s first three titles came at 106 pounds, and this year the Wyoming commit takes aim at the 113 bracket. His challengers include Erie’s Rudy Lopez, who has come on strong of late, as well as Pueblo Centennial’s Jacob Gonzales (last year’s runner-up), who fell to Lopez in the regional final.
120: Another wrestler looking to break off a piece of history is Windsor’s Will VomBaur, who has two titles to his name and hopes to close out his high school chapter with a third. The Wizard hasn’t lost in Colorado this season, even beating state champs from other weights along the way. Falcon freshman James Brown and Mountain View junior Malachi Contreras sit in the bottom half hoping for a shot at VomBaur.
126: Another weight, another defending champion looking to make another claim to the throne. Discovery Canyon’s Patrick Allis is carrying a community on his back as he seeks to win his second state championship in his final tournament as part of the Thunder. Allis (35-1) hasn’t lost since the calendar flipped to 2019, even posting an 11-5 decision over red-hot Ryan Roth of Pueblo East (ranked No. 2) a week ago. His challengers include Roth, Central-Grand Junction’s Jagger Wade, and Pueblo South’s Kristian Arguello among others.
132: Of all of the storylines and historic efforts that are sure to dominate a memorable weekend, the quest of Windsor’s Dominick Serrano is right up near the top. Serrano carries a 121-0 record into his third state tournament, where he seeks to win his third state championship and help the Wizards to a second straight team title. Looking to halt the Nebraska commit are Pueblo East’s Jace Trujillo, Coronado’s Angel Flores, and Canon City’s James Ruona.
138: Pueblo East junior Aaden Valdez finished remarkably close to a state championship last season, falling just short of reaching his ultimate goal. His narrow loss was a microcosm East’s own painfully oh-so-close second-place finish. This year, Valdez is poised to make another deep run while helping his team reach break through for its first wrestling title. It won’t be easy, as Broomfield’s Darren Green (39-4) is positioned atop the bracket and owns a win over Valdez earlier this season.
145: If any young wrestlers want to see a clinic in pace and neutral work, then they should fix their eyes on the 145-pound 4A bracket. Pueblo County’s Jax Garoutte (37-2) is among the best in the state from his feet, and last year’s runner-up hopes that skillset translates into a state title this weekend. Cheyenne Mountain’s Kevin Hooks, Thomas Jefferson’s Isaias Estrada, and Pueblo Centennial’s Cole Hernandez look to play spoiler from the lower half.
152: One of the most dominant wrestlers in the state (and the nation, for that matter) is back for one last ride at Pepsi Center. Greeley Central’s Andrew Alirez is one of the fearsome four looking to capture a fourth state title. The Northern Colorado commit has gone untouched in high school competition (29-0), and he even stepped into the senior freestyle spotlight for a week and defeated former college all-Americans and national champions. When Alirez is on the mat, it is must-see wrestling. Highlighting the lower semi bracket are Pueblo County’s Trevor Singleton and Longmont’s Brayden Engelking.
160: Another member of Class 4A’s unbeaten club, Pueblo County’s Christopher Fasano (38-0) seeks redemption after finishing as the state runner-up a year ago. The Hornet senior has been nothing short of impressive this season, with one of his signature wins coming over Coronado’s KJ Kearns (29-2) in the regional final. Windsor’s Tristan Perez, Falcon’s Caleb Sherrill, Thompson Valley’s Chase Engelhardt, Kearns, and other challengers are also in the mix.
170: Drake Engelking is a man on a mission for Longmont, as the senior aims to go out on top with his second straight state champion. The Northern Colorado commit is 24-1 on the year and finished last year’s championship with a major decision exclamation mark. Windsor’s Cody Eaton, Roosevelt’s Miles Beam, and Pueblo East’s Xavier Freeman bring their own title aspirations to the field.
182: Windsor has multiple-time state champions galore, including junior Isaiah Salazar. With an unbeaten record (39-0), Salazar continues his quest for history and aims to win his third consecutive state title this weekend. Last year, Salazar’s finals win provided the cushion the Wizards needed to secure the team title. By all indications, this weight could prove pivotal once again. On the other end of the bracket is Pueblo County’s Jayson Davis, the runner-up to Salazar last year who hopes to reverse history.
195: Pueblo East’s Zion Freeman (34-0) is on a mission of his own this weekend. Perhaps no wrestler in the state is as fierce with the crossface cradle, and a few of those would be a big boost to the team race. Freeman, also a runner-up last year, is positioned atop the bracket on the same half as Mesa Ridge’s Jared Volcic, Pueblo County’s Bryce Garcia, and Windsor’s Tyler Grasmick. The bottom half includes Cheyenne Mountain’s Nico Gagliardi and Broomfield’s Bryant Walker.
220: The possibility of three straight Pueblo East finalists — and potentially three straight champions to end the night — is real and cannot be ignored. One of the pieces to that puzzle is senior Dominic Robles (33-4), another Eagle looking to make a second straight trip to the finals and produce different results. Opposite Robles on the bracket positioning is Central-Grand Junction’s Conner Shenk (16-4).
285: Hypothetically, if the 4A team race does come down to the last match of the tournament, Pueblo East could certainly have the closer that it wants on the mat. Two-time state champion Andy Garcia (21-0) takes aim at his third crown this weekend, which would be a first for an Eagle wrestler. Garcia is the top seed in a weight that has no additional returning placers. Who will make the most of their trip to The Can?