For one reason or another, small-school wrestling always gets a bad rap.
Maybe it’s because the schools in Class 2A, which only feature populations upwards of a whopping 303 students, have a smaller talent pool from which to pull.
Maybe it’s because rural areas in Colorado aren’t exactly booming with opportunities for newly relocating families.
Or, maybe it’s because, sure, there are a few more headlocks and topsy-turvy matches at the state tournament.
But Class 2A wrestling always has a few things in greater supply than any other class. Among them are passion and tradition.
Why, just take a look at the programs that currently sit atop the state records for all-time state championships. Tied for the most in state history is Rocky Ford with 12, while Wray sits at No. 2 with 11. Those are two premier Class 2A programs with a lot of history and a lot of grit.
Those schools also happen to be the last two title winners in the 2A class, with Rocky Ford claiming its 12th crown in 2017 and Wray nabbing its 11th in dynamic fashion in 2018.
The thing about traditions is that they always carry on. And it seems as though these two teams, which always paint Pepsi Center with waves of prideful purple and rambunctious red, will be carrying on their battle for state supremacy this season.
Who else is in the mix? We’re glad you asked.
Defending team champion: Wray
The Wray Eagles, as mentioned above, stormed their way to the 2018 title with a flurry of falls and gutsy upsets. After the last few years of 2A championships were decided in the waning hours of Saturday night, the Eagles decided to do away with the drama and wrap up the title before the Parade of Champions even began.
The result was a 50.5 point margin of victory and the first state championship by the Wray wrestlers in 30+ years.
Two individual champions paced the way for Wray — Cade Rockwell at 113 and Carlos Tarin at 170 — both of which return this season along with six additional placers.
Defending Individual Champions
(Name, School, 2018 grade/weight)
- Seth McFall, Fowler, jr./106
- Cade Rockwell, Wray, so./113
- Trey Geyer, Cedaredge, fr./120
- Sean Dale, Cedaredge, so./126
- Wesley VanMatre, John Mall, so./132 (2017 fr./120)
- Carlos Tarin, Wray, jr./170
The first five weight classes were claimed by underclassmen a year ago, a trend which seems to echo throughout each classification. The lone freshman champ was Cedaredge’s Trey Geyer, who kick-started back-to-back homeruns (to mix a sports metaphor) for the Bruins in the state finals.
Wray gets its two defending champs back for another run, while Wesley VanMatre of John Mall is now halfway to high school wrestling’s most elite club.
Other Returning Placewinners
These wrestlers also found the podium in 2018 and will be angling for that top spot this season.
(Name, school, 2018 grade, 2018 place)
- Max Salazar, Sanford, jr., 2nd
- Cole Rockwell, Wray, so., 3rd
- Marc Barkdoll, Wiggins, jr., 4th
- Michael Romero, Swink, so., 5th
- Zack Ruiz, Rye, so., 6th
- Logan Lewis, Highland, so., 2nd
- Michael Atencio, Rye, fr., 3rd
- Adrian Nieto, Cedaredge, fr., 4th
- Jose Garcia, Dolores Huerta, 5th
- Dillon Jaramillo, Rocky Ford, jr., 6th
- Dante Chirichingo, Highland, so., 3rd
- Joziah Maestas, Rocky Ford, fr., 4th
- Austin Crum, Holly, jr., 6th
- Junior Arambula, Wray, fr., 2nd
- Oran Huff, Lyons, fr., 4th
- Isiah Wellman, Mountain Valley, jr., 5th
- Presley Pene, Hotchkiss, jr., 6th
- Tyler Collins, Wray, fr., 3rd
- Traycer Hall, Hotchkiss, fr., 5th
- Jade Cozart, Cheyenne Wells, jr., 6th
- Tannen Kennedy, Meeker, jr., 2nd
- Sackett Chesnik, Paonia, jr., 3rd
- Keenan Hayes, Hayden, fr., 4th
- Justin Traxler, Akron, jr., 5th
- Joaquin Martinez, Dolores Huerta, jr., 6th
- Woody Aguilar, Limon, jr., 3rd
- Jared Bauer, Crowley County, jr., 4th
- Kaleb Fisher, Swink, jr., 6th
- Grey Neal, Paonia, so., 3rd
- Cade Hillman, Wray, jr., 4th
- Dustin Sanchez, Ignacio, jr., 6th
- Trent Elliott, Merino, fr., 3rd
- Jesse Burns, Paonia, jr., 4th
- Carson Reese, Akron, jr., 5th
- James Amick, Meeker, jr., 6th
- Jace Logan, Soroco, jr., 2nd
- Anthony Felice, Paonia, jr., 3rd
- Austin Overholt, Norwood, jr., 4th
- Jesse Tapia, Rocky Ford, so., 5th
- Braden Witzel, Burlington, jr., 6th
- William Gabriel, Nucla, jr., 2nd
- Dawson Roesch, County Line, jr., 4th
- Toby Waddell, Cedaredge, jr., 6th
- Dawson Worley, Cheyenne Wells, jr., 4th
- Jayce Bauer, County Line, jr., 3rd
- Jose Molina, Wray, fr., 4th
- Taj Van der Linde, Cedaredge, jr., 5th
- Brayden Dillingham, Calhan, jr., 6th
- Levi Peterson, Paonia, so., 3rd
- Jeron Lippert, Wray, jr., 4th
- Tyler Mullins, Fowler, so., 6th
Barring drastic shifts and shake-ups, each weight class could (should?) have at least one returning state placer in the mix. Among those returning is Soroco’s Jace Logan, who has made an impressive run of three straight finals and seeks his first elusive state title in his senior campaign.
Notes and Miscellany
A team that hasn’t been mentioned yet (but is certainly worthy of mention) is Paonia, the runner-up from a year ago. One of the more impressive things about the Eagles’ second place finish in 2018 is that they made that run without featuring a single state champion — though they do have five returning placers.
Cedaredge returns a dangerous contender that is full of youth, and battle-tested youth at that. The Bruins’ have a returning champion sophomore (Trey Geyer) and junior (Sean Dale) to go with three additional wrestlers who reached the podium.
And in Rocky Ford, the Meloneers reload having won two of the last three Class 2A championships. Senior Dillon Jaramillo is a three-time placer and a 2017 state champion, and he’s joined by a strong contingent of underclassmen.
There’s only one way to find out how this season will end. Let’s get to wrestling, already!
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