Pomona has a strong wrestling history that dates back several decades at this point. But the Panthers are now seriously flirting with the term ‘dynasty’ — if they aren’t considered as such already.
Pomona enters the 5A tournament with a state-best 13 qualifiers and the consensus favorite to take home the team trophy come Saturday night. That would make it back-to-back titles, four out of the last five, and five since 2013 for the Panthers.
And maybe the scariest part of it all is that just one of the Panthers making the trek to Pepsi Center this weekend is a senior. Or maybe it’s that just three of them are juniors. Or maybe it’s that two of them are defending state champions. Or maybe it’s all the above.
Regardless, nothing is a given come tournament time, and there are still plenty of other highly regarded teams and athletes to consider in the mix. That includes Cherokee Trail, Ponderosa, and Rocky Mountain — all of which might have the depth to at least make the team race interesting.
Throw in the seven returning state champions, one of which is looking for a three-peat as a junior (Monarch’s Vince Cornella), and we have a mighty compelling three days ahead.
Defending Team Champion: Pomona
In The Mix (# Of Qualifiers): Pomona (13), Cherokee Trail (10), Ponderosa (9), Rocky Mountain (9), Poudre (9)
Returning Individual Champions (Year Won, Previous Wt.):
- Kenny Sailas, Brighton, jr., 113 (2019, 106)
- Dawson Collins, Grand Junction, sr., 120 (2018, 113)
- Vince Cornella, Monarch, jr., 126 (2018, 106; 2019, 113)
- Daniel Cardenas, Pomona, so., 138 (2019, 120)
- Antonio Segura, Regis Jesuit, sr., 145 (2019, 145)
- Franklin Cruz, Pomona, jr., 195 (2019, 182)
- Alec Hargreaves, Rocky Mountain, sr., 195 (2019, 195)
In The Mix
106: With no returning state champions, finalists, or even placers in the bracket, the 106-pound division is, for all intents and purposes, up for grabs. Grandview’s Frankie Sanchez (jr., 36-4) earns the top seed and is fresh off a regional championship performance. Prominent freshmen Vincent Cabral of Pomona (27-8) and Ane’e Vigil of Prairie View (40-7) present challenges to Sanchez on the top side, while Cherokee Trail sophomore Derek Glenn, Jr. (34-6) and Rocky Mountain senior Lance Johnson (32-5) look to help their teams with deep runs on the bottom half of the bracket.
113: Horizon senior Alec Beltran (36-3) earned his signature victory a week ago by knocking off defending state champion Kenny Sailas (jr., 36-4) in the regional final. That sets up what promises to be a thrilling three-day gauntlet for everyone in the bracket, including last year’s 106-pound runner up, Boulder’s Joey Airola (so., 20-6), Monarch’s Dillon Roman (so., 26-10), and Pomona’s Jeramiah Steele (so., 29-9). Buckle up for this one.
120: Grand Junction’s Dawson Collins looks to close out his prep run with a second state title after finishing in third place a season ago. Collins, a 2018 state champ for the Tigers, is the top seed with a 37-2 record in his senior campaign. Facing off in the first round, in the same quarter bracket as Collins, are two other highly touted contenders — Monarch’s Ryan Kuykendall (jr., 40-4) and Pomona’s Elijah Olguin (so., 31-9). And then there’s Eagle Valley’s Caeleb Knoll (sr., 36-9), Prairie View’s Josiah Alvarado (so., 36-9), and returning state finalist Armando Garcia (jr., 22-1) 0f Denver East. Another bracket, another promise for thrills.
126: They don’t make them much tougher than Monarch’s Vince Cornella (39-3). The junior and two-time state champion aims to continue his quest for history by winning a third title in as many tries this weekend, and he enters having won 17 matches by pin and five more by technical fall. In fact only two wrestlers in Colorado have gone the distance with Cornella — those being Dawson Collins (now at 120) and Loveland’s Cody Thompson (4A). Looking to dethrone the champ will be notable freshmen Jakob Romero (32-9) of Pomona and Levi Deaguero (26-7) of Adams City, among others.
132: If Pondeosa is to make a run at a team trophy, it will be in large part because of guys like Jaron Mahler. Mahler (jr., 32-5), a returning state runner-up, has come on strong in the season’s second half, reeling off 14 straight wins, including a regional championship, to earn the bracket’s top seed. Grand Junction’s Kieran Thompson (jr., 35-4) gave Mahler a battle in the regional final and posits a challenge from the bottom half of the brackets, as does Horizon’s Travis Guzman (jr., 41-4) and Cherry Creek’s Max Franz (sr., 40-7).
138: Rocky Mountain is paced by state veterans including junior Kolten Strait (30-4), who is positioned as the top seed due to his two previous state medals. But a talented sophomore on the bottom half, Pomona’s Daniel Cardenas (so., 38-2) still enters as the one to beat, having earned a state title as a freshman a year ago. The returning champ, who has been ranked No. 1 all season by Tim Yount of On the Mat, scored a major over second-ranked Dean Noble (sr., 34-5) of Poudre, certainly still a contender in this bracket, in the regional final last week.
145: Regis Jesuit junior Antonio Segura (43-5) shook up The Can last year on his way to a state championship. Now, all eyes will be on him as he aims to repeat from the top seed at 145 pounds. Segura’s primary challengers include Poudre’s Walker Heckendorf (sr., 16-3), Ponderosa’s Traevin Osborn (jr., 23-9), and Legacy senior Joey Joiner (34-6), who fell one point shy to Segura in last year’s state final.
152: Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins has never before had an individual state wrestling champion. Can junior Cody Ginther (40-2) make history by becoming the first? The Fossil Faithful will be impatiently waiting as Ginther, the top seed in the bracket and a fourth place finisher a year ago, makes his run. Ginther’s regional title came with a narrow tiebreak win over Fort Collins’ Hudson Cropp (sr., 34-7), who also figures into the equation at 52’s. Keep an eye on Fruita Monument’s Jeremiah Williams (sr., 43-10) as a potential bracket spoiler, as well as Pondo sophomore Karter Johnson (26-10) and Mountain View’s Adin Weaver (sr., 35-9).
160: Pomona’s Gage Bernall (36-5) is one of the three Panther juniors looking to pace the team to another title, all while he looks to reach the top of the podium after a fourth-place finish a year ago. Bernall’s lone in-state loss came to defending 3A state champion Jaziah Whaley of Valley, and he’s otherwise been a major force to be reckoned with. Challengers include second ranked (and seeded) Nathan Fitzpatrick (sr., 37-7) of Monarch, Prairie View’s Mitchell Bond (sr., 35-8), and Grand Junction’s Christian Hafey (sr., 26-6).
170: The last high school match Tyson Beauperthuy lost was in the state finals one year ago. Since then, the Doherty senior has gone 36-0 in earning the top seed at this year’s state tournament. He’ll have a shot to make a second walk of the Parade of Champions, though there will be challenges thrown at him from top to bottom. Those other contenders include Rocky Mountain’s Trey Hardy (sr., 30-7), Pomona sophomore Roman Cruz (26-7), and Pine Creek’s Draygan Colonese (jr., 38-4).
182: After a fifth-place finish at 195 pounds last year, a leaner and meaner Joe Renner (33-2) makes his return to the big show as the top seed in this year’s state tournament. The Grandview senior hasn’t been defeated since an out-of-state loss at the Reno Tournament of Champions back in December 2019. His quest to cap his prep run with a title will be challenged by Legacy’s Grady Funk (sr., 35-9), Arapahoe’s TJ LaFrancis (jr., 32-1), Columbine’s Jack Forbes (jr., 35-4), and others.
195: This might be the matchup everyone will be waiting for come Saturday night. That is, if defending state champions Alec Hargreaves (sr., 36-2) of Rocky Mountain and Franklin Cruz (jr., 37-2) of Pomona win their first three matches and ultimately clash for the state title. The two have been ranked atop the 195-pound standings all year, and with good reason. While the defending champs appear to be on a collision course, there will be intriguing bout sheets up and down the bracket.
220: Cherokee Trail’s Sam Hart has been on a (vision) quest all season. Hart (jr., 34-0), has been unstoppable since falling in the state finals a year ago, earning the top seed at 220 pounds for his impressive efforts. But a new wrinkle was added to the plot last week, as Arvada West’s Elijah Olson (sr., 2-1), a third place finisher a year ago, came back from injury in order to qualify for his final state tournament. Olson forfeited to Hart in the regional final but is expected to give it a go this weekend against such challengers as Brighton Freshman Dylan BravoPacker (34-6) and Rampart’s Dalton Slaughter (jr., 32-7).
285: Columbine’s Zach Schraeder (jr., 39-2) is the lone returning medalist in the heavyweight field, and he earns the top seed in the tournament as he seeks to improve on his third place finish from a year ago. Also in the mix will be ThunderRidge sophomore Tyler Doyle (33-78), Cherokee Trail senior Julian Williams (28-5), and Chaparral junior Jonah Rubadue (38-6).