One-half of a point.
Zero. Point. Five.
50 percent of one point.
That’s what decided last year’s Class 4A team title race, with the fraction of a difference falling in favor of the Windsor High School Wizards.
Windsor’s magical tournament run saw it score 159.5 points to overcome a contingent from one of the state’s most hammer-filled little burghs — the Steel City.
Pueblo East finished in second place with 159 and Pueblo County, which won team titles in 2016 and 2017, was third — a measly 1.5 points away from a third straight championship crown.
Yes, last year’s Class 4A race was super, ultra, extremely tight — and if it’s possible, this year’s might match the drama still.
Those three teams combined to produce 15 of the 28 state finalists — at least one representative in all but two weight classes — and six of the 14 state champions last year.
Proof positive that this is still a three-horse (or, Wizard-Eagle-Hornet) race?
13 of those 15 finalists are coming back: Five from Pueblo East, four from Pueblo County and four from Windsor.
Defending Team Champion: Windsor
Windsor found itself celebrating on the floor of Pepsi Center last February, but the title didn’t come without its fair share of improbability.
The Wizards’ championship hopes took a blow on the first morning of the state tournament, when the first group of wrestlers stepped on the scales.
Their sophomore 106-pounder, Jacob Parker, missed weight. That could have killed the momentum before it even got out of bed that morning.
But the result was something else. Instead of blaming and bemoaning the fact that a lean, hard-working teenager was a mere couple drips of water over the 108-pound weight limit, the Wizards were galvanized.
The Brothers’ VomBaur, Will (112) and Vance (120), stormed into the finals, with Will capturing his second championship in three years. Defending state champ Dominick Serrano, by all accounts one of the top talents in the country, breezed through another unbeaten campaign.
Isaiah Salazar, another defending state champ, put an exclamation point on his season with a crucial pin in the final match. Every single Wizard who stepped onto the mat, even those who didn’t place, scored a point — a result that proved absolutely critical.
Coming back for the Wizards are those four finalists (and three champions) along with Jacob Parker (106), Ronny Minjarez (5th, 138), Dylan Wood (145), Cody Eaton (3rd, 152), and Tyler Grasmick (182).
Defending Individual Champions
(Name, School, 2018 grade/weight)
- Brendon Garcia, Pueblo County, jr./106 (2017-so./106; 2016-fr./3A 106)
- Will VomBaur, Windsor, jr./113 (2016-fr./106)
- Patrick Allis, Discovery Canyon, jr./120
- Dominick Serrano, Windsor, so./126 (2017-fr./120)
- Andrew Alirez, Greeley Central, jr./145 (2017-so./126; 2016-fr./120)
- Drake Engelking, Longmont, jr./160
- Isaiah Salazar, Windsor, so./170 (2017-fr./3A 152)
- Andy Garcia, Pueblo East, so./285 (2017-fr./285)
Class 4A has more returning state champions than any other class, with eight individuals (holding a combined 16 titles) coming back to defend their crowns.
There are also two wrestlers vying for history this season, as Brendon Garcia and Andrew Alirez make up one-half of the statewide contingent that aims to join the four-timers’ club.
Meanwhile Dominick Serrano, Isaiah Salazar, and Andy Garcia all seek to win their third titles in as many tries. Clearly, Class 4A does not lack excitement or talent.
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)
- Jacob Gonzales, Pueblo Centennial, jr., 2nd
- Jett Strickenberger, Discovery Canyon, fr., 3rd
- Kenneth Crosby, Falcon, fr., 4th
- Cody Thompson, Loveland, fr., 5th
- Bobby Macias, Thomas Jefferson, jr., 6th
- Ariel Siegel, Thompson Valley, so., 3rd
- Xavier Espinoza, Pueblo South, jr., 4th
- Ethan Hays, Roosevelt, so., 6th
- Vance VomBaur, Windsor, fr., 2nd
- Malachi Contreras, Mountain View, so., 4th
- Jace Trujillo, Pueblo East, jr., 5th
- Ryan Roth, Pueblo East, jr., 2nd
- James Ruona, Canon City, jr., 3rd
- Isaias Estrada, Thomas Jefferson, fr., 4th
- Aaden Valdez, Pueblo East, so., 2nd
- Dre Martinez, Central-Grand Junction, jr., 3rd
- Nick Wilson, Pueblo West, so., 4th
- Jax Garoutte, Pueblo County, so., 2nd
- Ronny Minjarez, Windsor, jr., 5th
- Cole Stephenson, Lewis-Palmer, so., 6th
- Trevor Singleton, Pueblo County, jr., 3rd
- Kevin Hooks, Cheyenne Mountain, jr., 4th
- Cole Hernandez, Pueblo Centennial, jr., 6th
- Christopher Fasano, Pueblo County, jr., 2nd
- Cody Eaton, Windsor, so., 3rd
- Tony Ulaszek, Greeley Central, jr., 4th
- Ronnie Salazar, Vista Ridge, jr., 6th
- Marcus Martinez, Pueblo South, jr., 3rd
- Payton Polson, Valor Christina, jr., 4th
- Brady Badwound, Air Academy, jr., 5th
- Zachery Vannaman, Pine Creek, jr., 6th
- Jayson Davis, Pueblo County, jr., 2nd
- Jake Welch, Valor Christian, jr., 3rd
- Dillon Derting, Pueblo West, so., 5th
- Ben Robuck Montrose, so., 6th
- Zion Freeman, Pueblo East, jr., 2nd
- Jared Volcic, Mesa Ridge, so., 3rd
- Cian Quiroga, Cheyenne Mountain, jr., 5th
- Dominic Robles, Pueblo East, jr., 2nd
- James Hochanadel, Fort Morgan, jr., 6th
- No additional returning placers
Notes and Miscellany
Listen, Pueblo County is still very good. Pueblo East is still very good. Cheyenne Mountain, Discovery Canyon, Greeley Central: all very good.
The Hornets return five placers from 2018, including finalists in Brendon Garcia (obviously), Jax Garoutte, Chris Fasano, and Jayson Davis. Add in Trevor Singleton, who is fresh off his first trip to the podium, and that lineup stings.
Elsewhere in Colorado’s wrestling hotbed, Pueblo East also boasts a lineup that packs quite a punch.
There is two-time heavyweight champ Andy Garcia, of course, looking to become the school’s first three-time champ. There’s also returning finalists Aaden Valdez, Ryan Roth, Zion Freeman, and Dom Robles. And there’s the always-dangerous Jace Trujillo, a 2016 freshman state champ who has never wrestled a conventionally boring match in his life.
The problem for the Eagles, or at least for a handful like Freeman and Robles, is that the start of their season is being postponed due to their participation in the state championship football game. A good problem to have, one might say.
One last note: Pueblo County’s Brendon Garcia (109-4), Greeley Central’s Andrew Alirez (120-1), and Windsor’s Dominick Serrano (83-0) have never lost a match in Colorado high school competition. The only setbacks for Garcia and Alirez have come to out-of-state opponents. Not-so-coincidentally, all three are also All-Americans, ranked nationally, and committed to Division I programs (Garcia/Wyoming, Alirez/Northern Colorado, Serrano/Nebraska).