Here we go again.
It’s one of the most exciting weekends of the prep wrestling calendar (probably second only to next weekend, of course).
This week, hundreds of hungry grapplers will hit the mat in the hopes of achieving a dream — or at least making it one step closer to doing so.
The top four wrestlers in each of the 56 brackets split among 16 regions and four classifications will qualify for the state tournament at Pepsi Center, designated as the Colorado High School wrestling mecca for one shining weekend each February.
That makes 896 total wrestlers who will punch a ticket to the big show this weekend — but first, there’s a whole lot of wrestling to be done.
Here’s a quick glance at each regional tournament in Class 4A and Class 5A, with rankings provided as always by Tim Yount and On the Mat:
4A Region 1
Where: Thomas Jefferson High School
Who: Windsor (#3), Central-Grand Junction (#6), Longmont (#9), Thomas Jefferson, Montrose, Palisade, Lincoln, Evergreen, Silver Creek, Wheat Ridge, Battle Mountain, Kennedy, Standley Lake, Summit
The Tilt: As is tradition, the top 12 teams from last year’s state tournament are split up scientifically among the four regions, with the remaining bunch grouped in based on geographic proximity (for the most part). That leaves defending champion Windsor as the team to beat here in Region 1. Led by a trio of two-time champs: Will VomBaur (120), Dominick Serrano (132), and Isiah Salazar (182), the Wizards have as good of a team as you’ll find in Colorado when at full strength, and one of the keys to their title defense hopes will be the numbers they send to The Can. Elsewhere, Longmont’s Drake Engelking (#1, 170) hopes that second straight regional title precedes a second straight state title.
Weight Watch: The 170 bracket has the most top-10 wrestlers (four) in the same division, but the 106 and 113-pound brackets are going to be some of the most electric. That’s where Windsor fields the Parker Bros. — Brady (#8, 106) and Jacob (#7, 113) — who can both position themselves (and the Wizards) nicely at state with high podium finishes.
Brackets/results: Region 1 – Thomas Jefferson
4A Region 2
Where: Discovery Canyon HS
Who: Pueblo East (#1), Pueblo West (#10), Discovery Canyon, Canon City, Mitchell, Vista Ridge, Sand Creek, Widefield, Harrison, Liberty, Durango, George Washington, Palmer, Falcon
The Tilt: Newly annonted #1 Pueblo East is the team to beat at Region 2. That’s even more true with the Eagles reaching full strength for the first time since, well, last year’s regional primer. Two-time heavyweight state champion Andy Garcia (#1) rejoined the squad after missing several weeks with a knee injury. 2016 state champion Jace Trujillo (#6, 132) is back in the mix after being in and out of the lineup all season. And the heavy-hitters, including Aaden Valdez (#2, 138), Dom Robles (#1, 220), and unbeaten Zion Freeman (#1, 195) are already in full stride as they run toward state glory.
Weight Watch: With Trujillo in the fray, the 132-pound class is certainly one of the most intriguing and unpredictable out of the bunch. Trujillo joins Clint Brown of Falcon (#3) and Canon City’s James Ruona (#4), along with Seth Long of Widefield (#9) in a crowded field that could elicit fireworks. Speaking of fireworks, a Patrick Allis/Ryan Roth championship bout at 126 would certainly be worth the price of admission (and may even provide a state finals preview). Plus, all eyes will be on 113 to see if former #1 Jett Strickenberger (Discovery Canyon) can return to the lineup for the state push.
Brackets/results: Region 2 – Discovery Canyon
4A Region 3
Where: Lewis-Palmer HS
Who: Pueblo County (#2), Pueblo South (#7), Coronado (#10), Cheyenne Mountain, , Mesa Ridge, Air Academy, Lewis-Palmer, Denver South, Palmer Ridge, Vista PEAK, Denver North, Littleton, Golden
The Tilt: Pueblo County can already lay claim to the 2019 state championship — the dual state championship, anyway. But that’s nothing to scoff at; in fact, the Hornets should feel good about their chances to overtake both Windsor and East when it comes time for another showdown at The Can. But first, it’s all about performing at the Region 3 tournament and getting the depth necessary to put together a quality team performance. Brendon Garcia, aiming for a fourth regional title, is back to #1 at 113 and all appears to be well for the Wyoming commit heading into his final February as a prepster. Worth noting: Colorado Springs Metro champion Cheyenne Mountain can surprise with its depth.
Weight Watch: What’s more exciting than a #1 vs. #2 matchup? Nothing. That’s what. We could see one at 160 pounds, should top-ranked Christopher Fasano of Pueblo County and #2 KJ Kearns of Coronado reach the apex. There are a number of other potential matchups between top-three wrestlers, including at 195 pounds where Hornet frosh Bryce Garcia enters ranked #2 ahead of Mesa Ridge’s Jared Volcic (#3).
Brackets/results: Region 3 – Lewis Palmer
4A Region 4
Where: Mead HS
Who: Broomfield (#4), Pueblo Centennial (#5), Thompson Valley (#8), Greeley Central, Loveland, Roosevelt, Skyline, Mountain View, Frederick, Mead, Erie, Greeley West, Northridge, Niwot
The Tilt: With two top-five teams (three in the top 10), this might be the most interesting region in terms of the team race. Broomfield enters with a slight edge, led by top-ranked wrestlers in Ryan Vigil (106) and Darren Green (138). But Pueblo Centennial is hardened by the Steel City edge, fueled by the further motivation of their longtime head coach Gary Adamson retiring. What better way to send a legend out than with a regional crown? (Side note: will Pueblo teams win three of the four regions? It’s quite possible).
Weight Watch: Of course, all eyes will be on 152 pounds, where spectators will flock to get a glimpse of Greeley Central’s Andrew Alirez, a state and national powerhouse who seeks his fourth regional title. But there are other particularly intriguing brackets as well, including 120 pounds. Mountain View’s Malachi Contreras (#2), Broomfield’s Presley Madril (#3), and Thompson Valley’s Ariel Siegel (#3) are among those in the mix there, all with state tournament experience and aspirations driving them. The heavyweight field is also considerably loaded, with four wrestlers ranked in the top-10 and another two in the top-15 battling for the top four spots.
Brackets/results: Region 4 – Mead
5A Region 1
Where: Fruita Monument HS
Who: Pomona (#1), Monarch (#6), Arvada West (#10), Fruita Monument, Denver East, Chaparral, Thornton, Gateway, Mountain Vista, Columbine, Rampart, Boulder, Highlands Ranch, Aurora Central
The Tilt: Go West, young men — and feast your eyes on arguably the toughest region in the 5A division. Not only does Region 1 feature the top-ranked Pomona Panthers, along with top-10 teams in Monarch and A-West, but it also boasts top-ranked talent from top to bottom. Four of these brackets — 113, 120, 132, and 145 — feature a #1 wrestler. Four others have a #2-ranked wrestler. And leading the charge are the Panthers, guided by freshman phenom Daniel Cardenas (#1, 120) and the electric three-time state champion Theorius Robison (#1, 145).
Weight Watch: In his second season, Monarch’s Vince Cornella has been one of the most dominant pound-for-pound wrestlers in the state. He’ll get maybe his best in-state test — one week before he intends to officially defend his state title — here at the Region 1 meet. Cornella (#1) enters a 113-pound division that also includes the #2 and #3-ranked wrestlers — Denver East’s Armando Garcia and Arvada West’s Dylan Kruse. Can anyone tame Cornella? This is were we find out.
Brackets/results: Region 1 – Fruita Monument
5A Region 2
Where: Adams City HS
Who: Ponderosa (#2), Grandview (#3), Brighton (#5), Douglas County, Doherty, Adams City, Legend, Smoky Hill, ThunderRidge, Rangeview, Centaurus, Heritage, Fairview, Hinkley
The Tilt: Not that any of these tournaments is particularly easy, but Region 2 might also lay claim to being the toughest out of the bunch. Grandview has come on remarkably strong in the second half of the season, with top-ranked Stanford commit Fabian Santillan (138) leading the charge. Santillan hasn’t lost in the state of Colorado this year — though Ponderosa heavyweight Cohlton Schultz hasn’t lost in the state of Colorado ever. Schultz aims for history this weekend and next as he seeks his fourth regional and state crowns — and he can also help the Mustangs push for a regional title of their own. Brighton can’t be counted out, especially with the bookends of top-ranked Kenny Sailas at 106 and $2 Santana Solano at 220.
Weight Watch: Four of the top-five wrestlers in 5A are expected to be in the 138-pound bracket, including Santillan, Adams City’s Joshua Deaguero (#3), Legend’s Kade Syddall (#4), and Douglas County’s Jared Cabunoc (#5). All four will have a good idea of where they stand — and one final week to make adjustments — after Saturday
Brackets/results: Region 2 – Adams City
5A Region 3
Where: Westminster HS
Who: Grand Junction (#4), Poudre (#8), Valor Christian, Cherokee Trail, Overland, Cherry Creek, Horizon, Arapahoe, Bear Creek, Ralston Valley, Chatfield, Westminster, Pine Creek, Lakewood
The Tilt: The best team from the Western Slope isn’t in the Western Slope region? That’s the beauty of the top-12-team-shuffle that happens with the regional tournaments each year. Defending state champion Grand Junction heads eastbound on I-70 this weekend to test its mettle at the Region 3 meet. Though the Tigers are the only top-10 team in the mix, there is no shortage of competition. Poudre, Valor Christian, Cherry Creek, and Cherokee Trail, and others all boast regional title contenders at multiple weights.
Weight Watch: All eyes are on the 170-pound division, where top-ranked Kai Blake of Cherry Creek and second-ranked JT Skalecki of Grand Junction appear to be on a collision course. The two met in the regional championship match a year ago, with Skalecki picking up a 4-2 decision in sudden victory. They met again at state, with Skalecki scoring an 11-2 major decision. But at this year’s Top of the Rockies, it was Blake who emerged victorious by way of a 5-3 win — in sudden victory. What will it take this time, should they meet again?
Brackets/results: Region 3 – Westminster
5A Region 4
Where: Legacy HS
Who: Legacy (#6),Rocky Mountain (#7), Castle View (#10), Fountain-Fort Carson, Prairie View, Eaglecrest, Northglenn, Fossil Ridge, Regis Jesuit, Mountain Range, Fort Collins, Far Northeast, Rock Canyon
The Tilt: There are three top-ranked wrestlers in the field at Region 4: Prairie View’s Austin McFadden (152), Legacy’s Grady Funk (160), and Rocky Mountain’s Alec Hargreaves (195). But when it comes to the regional tournament, rankings only matter so much. In the end. all that matters is the top four on the podium at the end of the day. Plenty of weight classes will have entertaining battles for positioning, and the team race between Rocky Mountain, Legacy, and Castle View promises to be arguably the most exciting of all the 5A tournaments.
Weight Watch: Let’s keep an eye on 152 pounds, where there are five wrestlers bunched together in rank with only four podium spots to divvy up. Among them are McFadden, Tyler Maccagnan of Eaglecrest (#3), Antonio Segura of Regis (#4), Dakota Key of Legacy (#5), and Austin Yeager of Fossil Ridge (#8).
Brackets/results: Region 4 – Legacy