Five Count: Week 9 Preview

Shh, everyone be quiet.

Do you hear that? It’s almost here.

February is coming.

Yes, the prep wrestling season is nearing its climactic end, with regional tournaments kicking off this weekend for the girls and in just two weeks for the boys.

Heck, there’s even a state tournament scheduled for this week — the first of its kind in the state of Colorado.

Let’s take a look at five things to watch during Week 9 of the prep wrestling season — and let’s all take a moment to enjoy this final month of mat madness, shall we?

1: Steel City scrum

Pueblo loves prep sports. It’s one of the finest high school sports towns in all of Colorado, bar none. And boy, has Pueblo been spoiled over the past several years when it comes to its prep wrestling scene.

Pueblo County won back-to-back 4A crowns in 2016 and 2017. The Hornets finished third last year, missing out on a three-peat by just 3.5 points.

Pueblo East has been in the top five in each of the past two years, missing out on its first ever team title by just one-half of a point last year. These two squads, separated by fewer than 10 miles, have tangled at tournaments all across the state this season — the East Invite, NCCT, and TOR, to name a few. Pueblo East is ranked No. 2. Pueblo County is ranked No. 3.

On Thursday (Jan. 31), they’ll finally square off in what has become an annual battle for Steel City (and South-Central League) supremacy.

The Hornet’s nest is the site of this year’s tussle, which is great news for spectators and wrestlers alike. Expect a full house and a fun frenzy, if nothing else.

Potential matchups include:

  • 106: No. 3 Anthony Franklin (E) vs. No. 5 Eric Griego (PC)
  • 120: No. 2 Brendon Garcia (PC) vs. No. 4 Xavier Espinoza (E)
  • 132: No. 2 Nathan Bonham (PC) vs. No. 7 Jace Trujillo (E)
  • 138: No. 2 Aaden Valdez (E) vs. No. 4 Richie Palomar (PC)
  • 195: No. 1 Zion Freeman (E) vs. No. 3 Bryce Garcia (PC)
  • And more!

And the dual between these two Pueblo titans will be a nice primer for…

2 (TWOOOOOOO): Colorado Dual State Championships

You’ve asked for it. You’re getting it. The first ever Colorado high school dual meet state championship tournament(s) are going down this weekend at Pueblo West and Pueblo Central high schools.

Originally spearheaded by Cyclone coaches Ryan Schumann and now Jarrod Purvis, the highly anticipated state dual tournament has been a long time coming.

Sure, the big CHSAA trophies will still get handed out at Pepsi Center in February, but this is a great first step toward offering a different sort of championship level event — one with different strategies and a higher emphasis on the team aspect. For this first event, classes 2A and 3A are combined, as are 4A and 5A. But if nothing else, it’s a fun (and exciting) start toward something much bigger.

Competing for the first ever 2A/3A dual state championship are:

  • Alamosa (3A #1)
  • Buena Vista
  • Colorado Springs Christian School
  • Eagle Valley (3A #4)
  • Fowler
  • James Irwin
  • Pueblo Central
  • Rocky Ford (2A #2)

And in the 4A/5A division:

  • Pool A: 
    • Cherokee Trail
    • Falcon
    • Pomona (5A #1)
  • Pool B:
    • Broomfield (4A #4)
    • Canon City
    • Cheyenne Mountain (4A #8)
    • Coronado
  • Pool C: 
    • Lakewood
    • Pueblo County (4A #3)
    • Thompson Valley (4A #9)
    • ThunderRidge
  • Pool D: 
    • Ponderosa (5A #4)
    • Pueblo West
    • Vista Ridge
    • Windsor (4A #1)

How great is that?! What a field. What an event. Let’s hope this is the start of something huge.

3: Girls Regional Tournaments

Girls wrestling got a huge boost in January when it was approved by the CHSAA Equity Committee. That means it’s still on track to be sanctioned as a varsity sport by the 2020/21 season.

The sport will take another big step this weekend when it holds its two regional tournaments — one at Mead High School, one at Eaglecrest High School.

Qualifiers from the regional tournaments will advance to the Girls State Championship tournament on Feb. 9 in Thornton. Here’s a quick glance at the two regional tournaments.

Region 1: Mead High School

  • Teams: Adams City, Brighton, Brush, Burlington, Central – Grand Junction, Chaparral, Chatfield, Delta, Fort Lupton, Fruita Monument, Grand Valley, Holyoke, Horizon, James Irwin, Lewis – Palmer, Longmont, Loveland, Manitou Springs, Mead, Montrose, Mountain Range, Mountain View, Mountain Vista, Mullen, Northglenn, Northridge, Olathe, Palmer Ridge, Poudre, Prairie View, Skyview, Steamboat Springs, Thompson Valley, Thornton, University, Valley, Wiggins, Yuma
  • Brackets & results from Region 1

Region 2: Eaglecrest High School

  • Teams: Air Academy, Arapahoe, Bennett, Calhan, Coronado, Denver East, Denver North, Denver South, Denver West, Doherty, Douglas County, Durango, Eagle Valley, Eaglecrest, Englewood, Far Northeast, Fountain – Fort Carson, George Washington, Grandview, Heritage, John F Kennedy, Lamar, Las Animas, Legend, Liberty, Mitchell, Overland, Palmer, Peyton, Ponderosa, Pueblo Central, Pueblo County, Pueblo East, Pueblo West, Salida, Sierra Grande/Centennial, Standley Lake, Thomas Jefferson, Thunderridge, Vista Peak, Vista Ridge, Widefield
  • Brackets & results from Region 2

A few of the girls who could be competing for a trip to the state tournament have already garnered national recognition; the Jan. 14 National High School Girls Rankings, which were developed by USA Wrestling, FloWrestling, and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, saw a handful of Coloradans listed, including Skyview’s Jaslyn Gallegos (#5 at 106) and Jefferson’s Cayden Condit (#8 at 112, has a 25-6 record while competing in boys season).

4: The Valley Tournament(s)

This is always the weekend where there is not one, but two Valley tournaments: the Valley Viking Invitational (hosted by Valley High School), and the Valley Classic (hosted by Center High School in the San Luis Valley).

Here’s a quick glance at both Valley flings:

Valley Viking Invite (the one at Valley HS)

  • Teams: Bennett, Delta, Eaton, Glenwood Springs, Greeley Central, Highland, Holy Family, Lyons, Platte Valley, Riverdale Ridge, Steamboat Springs, Sterling, University, Valley, Weld Central, Wiggins
  • What to watch: Greleey Central’s Andrew Alirez (No. 1, 4A 152) wasn’t with the Tigers last weekend as he competed independently at the Dave Schultz Memorial Invitational in Colorado Springs. Alirez placed fourth at the senior-level freestyle tournament that featured national champions and internationally renowned competition. The three-time Colorado state champ knocked off two-time NCAA Division I national champion Dean Heil (formerly of Oklahoma State) en route to his impressive finish. Now Alirez returns to the Tigers to complete his quest for a fourth state title.
  • Brackets and results

Valley Classic (the one in the San Luis Valley)

  • Teams: Centauri, Center, Crowley County, Custer County, Del Norte, Durango, Hotchkiss, John Mall, Manzanola, Merino, Monte Vista, Mountain Valley, Norwood, Nucla, Paonia, Piedra Vista, Rye, Salida, Sanford, Sargent, Sierra Grande, Sierra Grande/Centennial, Soroco, Swink, West Grand
  • What to watch: Rye has never had an individual state champion, but sophomore Michael Atencio seems primed to change that. The Thunderbolt has been jolting opponents at 113 pounds all season, earning a No. 1 ranking in 2A at 113 pounds with an unblemished record and tournament titles at the Santa Fe League meet, Pueblo South Colt Classic, and Centennial Bulldog Invite, to name a few.
  • Brackets and results

5: Scouting locations for future duals

We’ve seen dual meets in a gym. We’ve seen dual meets on a football field. And on Tuesday, we even saw a dual meet in a mall.

Which got us thinking — what are some other unique locations that should start hosting duals? Here are just a few suggestions, ranked:

  1. Casa Bonita
  2. The stage at Red Rocks
  3. Manitou Incline
  4. A frozen lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
  5. The old speedway along I-25 outside of Fountain (where all those Volkswagons are parked)
  6. The top of one of the Great Sand Dunes
  7. Pueblo Riverwalk
  8. The Gator Farm
  9. The observation deck at Elitch’s
  10. Denver International Airport
  11. The Stanley Hotel
  12. Bishop’s Castle
  13. The Rocky Ford Grand Theatre
  14. A Chipotle
Nick Jurney
About Nick Jurney 151 Articles
Nick Jurney is a former wrestler and previously worked as a sports writer at the Pueblo Chieftain. He now works in marketing for Colorado State University in Fort Collins and helps run the Colorado Wrestling Network. You can follow him on Twitter @NVJurney.