We are truly in for what is shaping up to be an all-time, historic, monumental Class 5A state tournament.
Like, this is one of those tournaments that we’ll look back on in a few years and remark at the who’s who in each bracket. College champions. World team members. Olympians.
It’s that kind of field.
There are two wrestlers aiming for their fourth state title. There are several others seeking their second. And still others — in the hundreds — seeking their first taste of state glory. Here’s a quick look at the teams and some of the individuals set to compete for history this weekend.
Defending Team Champion: Grand Junction
In The Mix (# Of Qualifiers): Pomona (13), Brighton (10), Grandview (9), Monarch (9), Grand Junction (8), Ponderosa (7)
It was already going to be tough for any team to match the firepower of the Pomona Panthers; it’s going to be downright daunting now. Loaded from top to bottom, Pomona brings a class-high 13 wrestlers to Pepsi Center as it tries to capture its sixth 5A team crown. But still challengers like Brighton, Monarch, Grandview, and even Ponderosa cannot be discounted. With the unpredictability of The Can in play, it will still be a highly electric team race for all three days.
Returning Individual Champions (Year Won, Previous Wt.):
- Vince Cornella, Monarch, so., 113 (2018, 106)
- Dawson Collins, Grand Junction, jr., 120 (2018, 113)
- Justin Pacheco Pomona, sr., 132 (2017, 113)
- Fabian Santillan, Grandview, sr., 132 (2018 126)
- Theorius Robison, Pomona, sr., 145 (2016, 126; 2017, 132; 2018, 132)
- Cohlton Schultz, Ponderosa, sr., 285 (2016, 220; 2017, 220; 2018, 285)
In The Mix
106: Brighton’s Kenny Sailas finished third as a freshman, and now returns to the big stage with an extra fire in his belly. But a true wildcard is Pomona freshman Elijah Olguin, who in January won a Top of the Rockies bracket that included Sailas and other 5A contenders. Sailas and Olguin are positioned in the same quarter bracket, while Grand Junction’s Andrew Leyba and Boulder’s Joey Airola (who beat Olguin at regionals) slot in on the other half of the bracket.
113: Monarch’s Vince Cornella stands tall as the one to beat at 113 pounds, with a 2018 state title and a 33-3 record (all losses out of state) under his belt. His challengers include regional champs in Prairie View frosh Josiah Alvarado and Horizon junior Alec Beltran, along with returning podium placer Max Black of Douglas County.
120: Certainly a top pick for one of the most dynamic brackets in the entire tournament, 120 pounds features a number of qualified and quality contenders. Leading the way is Grand Junction’s Dawson Collins, a reigning state champ with just one loss to his name. That loss came to Pomona freshman Daniel Cardenas, a young but battle-proven Panther with his sights set on history. Ponderosa’s Jaron Mahler and Castle View’s Adrian Marquez (a previous state finalist) are also in the bracket’s top half.
126: Part of the reason Ponderosa is still a contender for a team trophy is because of its potential for high placers at just about every weight. That of course includes Mosha Schwartz, who returned to the Mustangs after a two-year absence and expects to contend for his first Colorado state crown. On the other side is Pomona’s Wyatt Yapoujian, a perennial placer who also seeks his first title.
132: Pomona senior Justin Pacheco lays claim to the top spot on the bracket by virtue of his 2017 state title and a regional championship this past weekend. Pacheco’s quest to return to the top of the podium will be met with challenges including Ponderosa’s Traevin Osborn, Overland’s Miguel Mendoza, and Castle View’s Randy Myers.
138: Another defending state champion atop the bracket, Grandview’s Fabian Santillan is Stanford-bound following one last Pepsi Center performance that is worth watching. Santillan is the favorite in a bunch that also includes state placers Alex Alvarez (Poudre) and Joshua Deaguero (Adams City).
145: There are going to be plenty of opportunities for standing ovations on Saturday night, as four Colorado wrestlers seek to join wrestling’s most elite club by winning a fourth state championship. The first opportunity in 4A could come at 145 pounds, where Pomona’s Thorius Robison seeks a fourth trip to the final as the top seed.
152: Talk about coming on strong. That’s just what Doherty’s Tyson Beauperthuy has done all season, albeit fairly quietly. That is until last week, when the junior topped second-ranked Dylan Ranieri of Grandview 11-7 for the Region 2 title. Now Beauperthuy is positioned as a top seed on the bracket’s bottom half, while Ranieri is slotted in the top half along with Valor Christian’s Jack Howell and Prairie View’s Austin McFadden.
160: Pine Creek’s Zachery Vannaman and Legacy’s Grady Funk are the only two returning placers in the bracket, with Vannaman getting the nod as the top seed after winning his regional. Other contenders include Rocky Mountain’s Trey Hardy, Adams City’s Marquez Salazar, and Monarch’s Nathan Fitzpatrick.
170: Cherry Creek’s Kai Blake and Grand Junction’s Jay (JT) Skalecki have met in the regular season, the regional, tournament, the state tournament, and they’ve flip-flopped in Tim Yount’s On the Mat rankings all year. It all comes to a head this weekend — should they meet one last time, that is. Blake got the better of Skalecki in last week’s regional final, thus getting a top seed in the bracket. Skalecki moves to the lower half along with Grand View’s Brice Hartzheim and Pine Creek’s Draygan Colonese.
182: Valor’s Jake Welch and Pomona’s Franklin Cruz lead the charge of title contenders in the 182-pound division, both of whom have experience wrestling deep into Saturday’s placing rounds. Could these two be set on a collision course again? Welch leads the season series 2-0, with the wins coming by a combined four points.
195: 2018 runner-up Alec Hargreaves has some unfinished business in the 195 pound division. But the Rocky Mountain junior, who carries a 32-3 record on the year, isn’t alone in that. His challengers include Grandview’s Joe Renner and Fruita Monument’s Keegan Bailey, who placed 4th and 3rd in this bracket last year, respectively. Renner and Bailey could meet as early as the semis.
220: Speaking of unfinished business, last year’s team state championship celebration was a touch bittersweet for Grand Juncion’s Hunter Tobiasson, who came up just short of an individual state title as well last year. Tobiasson enters as one of two unbeaten wrestlers in Class 5A with a 38-0 record.
285: Cohlton Schultz has done it all. He’s won at the youth level. He’s won at the local level. He’s won at the state level. He’s won at the national level. He’s won at the world level. In his final act as one of Colorado’s all-time greats, Schultz now attempts to cap an undefeated senior season with his fourth state championship for the Ponderosa Mustangs. What a way that would be to end a magical night, a magical season, and a historic run.