Week 7 Preview: What to watch at Top of the Rockies

Aaden Valdez, Pueblo East, goes for a pin earlier this season. Valdez and the Eagles will be right in the mix at the Top of the Rockies this weekend. Photo by Nick Jurney

It’s no secret that the Top of the Rockies has long been one of the greatest late-season Litmus tests in the state of Colorado.

This year’s edition is no different.

If you followed along with last week’s Arvada West Invitational, you know that some of the state’s very best — including the top three teams in both 4A and 5A — duked it out in glorious fashion. It was 4A (and specifically the Steel City) that came out looking like the cream of the crop — Pueblo East reigned victorious, while Pueblo County was second and Windsor third.

But 5A powers, including Pomona, Grand Junction, and Grandview, along with 3A’s Jefferson, are looking for another tussle.

Well, take the A-West showdown, throw in the defending 3A champ (Alamosa), pepper in another top-ranked 5A power with nationally-ranked weapons (Ponderosa, Mosha Schwartz and Cohlton Schultz), mix in contenders from other states (Rio Rancho, N.M.; Kelly Walsh, Wyo.; and more), and you have an electric mixture worthy only of the Top of the Rockies.

Let’s break down some of the things to watch at Centaurus High School this weekend.

Who’s there? 

The 20th TOR tournament features a real who’s who of wrestling talent. Defending champions from two classifications are scheduled to be in attendance — Alamosa (3A) and Grand Junction (5A). Joining them are three state title-winners from 2017 — Rocky Ford (2A), Pueblo County (4A) and Pomona (5A).

All five of those teams are still highly ranked in their respective divisions and are sure to bring their very best to TOR. And they’re going to need it. Here’s the full list of squads that are pulling into Lafayette this weekend:

  • Adams City
  • 3A #1 Alamosa
  • 5A #9 Arvada West
  • 5A #6 Brighton
  • 4A #5 Broomfield
  • Centaurus
  • Cherry Creek
  • Cheyenne East (4A #5, Wyo.)
  • Ft. Lupton
  • Ft. Morgan
  • Franklin (TX)
  • Grand Island (Class A #8, Neb.)
  • 5A #2 Grand Junction
  • 4A #4 Grand Junction Central
  • 5A #3 Grandview
  • 3A #3 Jefferson
  • Kelly Walsh (4A #1, Wyo.)
  • Legacy
  • 5A #5 Monarch
  • Mountain Vista
  • Overland
  • 5A #1 Pomona
  • 5A #4 Ponderosa
  • Poudre
  • 4A #3 Pueblo County
  • 4A #2 Pueblo East
  • 4A #8 Pueblo South
  • Rio Rancho (N.M.)
  • 2A #4 Rocky Ford
  • 5A #7 Rocky Mountain
  • Scottsbluff (Class B #4, Neb.)
  • 4A #7 Thompson Valley

For those counting, that’s TWENTY ONE (21!!!!) teams ranked in the top 10 from four Colorado classifications and three different states.

(Note: it could potentially be as many as 23 ranked teams from five states, but updated team rankings from Texas and New Mexico weren’t found.) 

Pueblo County won last year’s TOR with 202.5 points. With a field this loaded, getting anywhere near that total should be good enough to bring home the coveted team trophy.

What are the good weights?

Do you have the brackets in front of you? Probably not yet. But maybe you do, if you’re reading this on Friday or Saturday (Find brackets and results from Top of the Rockies here).

But let’s pretend that you do have the brackets in front of you and you’re looking for the good weights to watch.

Well, look at the first page (106). And then go to the second (113). And flip all the way through. You see that? Every weight is a good weight at TOR 2019. All 14 of ’em are sure to produce high-quality matches from high-quality contenders.

Here are a few potential highlights (based on Tim Yount/On the Mat rankings from Week 6).

106

  • Davion Chavez, Alamosa (3A #2)
  • Mac Martinez, Pueblo South (4A #1)
  • Ryan Vigil, Broomfield (4A #2)
  • Anthony Franklin, Pueblo East (4A #4)
  • Kenny Sailas, Brighton (5A #1)
  • Jeremiah Steele, Pomona (5A #2)
  • Mitch Romero, Arvada West (5A #4)
  • Andrew Leyba, Grand Junction (5A #5)
  • Landon Trujillo, Cheyenne East (4A #5, Wyo.)
  • Juan Pedro, Jr., Grand Island (Class A #4, Neb.)

Worth noting: Sailas pinned Romero in the finals of the A-West tournament last weekend, while  Chavez and Martinez both claimed top honors at their respective events.

113

  • Elijah DeLaCerda, Alamosa (3A #1)
  • Angelo Lozado, Jefferson (3A #2)
  • Luke Plesant, Grand Junction Central (4A #4)
  • Vince Cornella, Monarch (5A #1)
  • Kieran Thompson, Grand Junction (5A #2)
  • Dylan Kruse, Arvada West (5A #3)
  • Blake Cushing, Grand Island (A #3, Neb.)
  • Paul Garcia, Scottsbluff (B #1, Neb.)
  • Christopher Martinez, Franklin (6A #3, TX)

Worth noting: Cornella made waves last season when he defeated Pomona’s Wyatt Yapoujian en route to winning TOR as a freshman. This year Cornella is well-known and well-seasoned. Can anyone knock the champ from the top spot?

120

  • Dillon Jaramillo, Rocky Ford (2A #3)
  • Brendon Garcia, Pueblo County (4A #1)
  • Ariel Siegel, Thompson Valley (4A #2)
  • Dawson Collins, Grand Junction (5A #1)
  • Wyatt Yapoujian, Pomona (5A #2)
  • Grant Bradley, Overland (5A #5)
  • Amos Solano, Cheyenne East (4A #1, Wyo.)
  • Devyn Mostellar, Kelly Walsh (4A #3, Wyo.)

Worth noting: Yapoujian was absent for Pomona last week while highly regarded freshman Daniel Cardenas manned the 120-pound division. It’ll be interesting to see if/how that changes this week. Meanwhile, three-time state champion Brendon Garcia is slotted in at 120 after wrestling the first half of the season at 113 pounds. Garcia has dropped decisions to Vince Cornella (113) and Windsor’s Will VomBaur in recent weeks.

126

  • Joe Chavez, Alamosa (3A #1)
  • Jacob Duran, Ft. Lupton (3A #3)
  • Ryan Roth, Pueblo East (4A #3)
  • Kristian Arguello, Pueblo South (4A #4)
  • Mosha Schwartz, Ponderosa (5A #1)
  • Daniel Cardenas, Pomona (5A #2)
  • Alex Santillan, Grandview (5A #3)
  • Christian DeHerrera, Rocky Mountain (5A #4)
  • Dean Noble, Poudre (5A #5)
  • Noah Gallegos, Cheyenne East (4A #2, Wyo.)
  • Noah Hone, Kelly Walsh (4A #3, Wyo.)

Worth noting: Ryan Roth’s first-period pin over Windsor’s top-ranked Vance VomBaur last weekend was a bit of a shock, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Roth has been producing solidly all season. Schwartz is nationally ranked and recognized for a reason, and should Cardenas bump back up to 126 (or if Yapoujian slots in here) for Pomona, the full top-five from Class 5A would be in the mix.

132

  • Joziah Maestas, Rocky Ford (2A #2)
  • Andrew Sansburn, Jefferson (3A #2)
  • Nathan Bonham, Pueblo County (4A #2)
  • Justin Pacheco, Pomona (5A #1)
  • Traevin Osborn, Ponderosa (5A #2)
  • Kolten Strait, Rocky Mountain (5A #3)
  • Miguel Mendoza, Overland (5A #4)
  • Jace Palmer, Kelly Walsh (4A #2, Wyo.)
  • Shawn Smith, Cheyenne East (4A #3, Cheyenne East)
  • Jerryd Hernandez, Scottsbluff (B #1, Neb.)

Worth noting: Pacheco (2nd), Sansburn (4th), and Smith (5th) were all in the same bracket at A-West a week ago, and they could all intertwine again here. Bonham has been in and out of the lineup all season, and his return could mean a big bump for Pueblo County.

138

  • Tyler Kenison, Alamosa (3A #2)
  • Zander Condit, Jefferson (3A #3)
  • Aaden Valdez, Pueblo East (4A #2)
  • Darren Green, Broomfield (4A #3)
  • Andres Martinez, Grand Junction Central (4A #4)
  • Gage Juergensen, Thompson Valley (4A #5)
  • Fabian Santillan, Grandview (5A #1)
  • Joshua Deaguero, Adams City (5A #2)
  • Alex Alvarez, Poudre (5A #3)
  • Adrian Rodriguez, Franklin (6A #4, TX)

Worth noting: An early contender (on paper, at least) for the most entertaining bracket. Darren Green is coming off a second-place performance at the Battle for the Belt in Calif., while Valdez and Santillan churned out fireworks in the finals of the A-West Invite. Santillan won 6-5, and surely spectators (and the wrestlers) wouldn’t be dissatisfied with a rematch. But Deaguero, Alvarez, Martinez, Condit, and company will have something to say about that as well.

145

  • Jax Garoutte, Pueblo County (4A #1)
  • Theorius Robison, Pomona (5A #1)
  • Joey Joiner, Legacy (5A #5)
  • Analu Benabise, Kelly Walsh (4A #2, Wyo.)
  • Devontae Gutierrez, Scottsbluff (B #1, Neb.)
  • Kaleb Jewett, Franklin (6A #1, TX)

Worth noting: Three, potentially four No. 1’s from three different states could be set to rumble at the Rockies. Robison, however, was forced to injury default out of the Doc Buchanan earlier this month and wasn’t able to compete last week. Garoutte has been one of the best pound-for-pound grapplers in the state regardless of classification this year, even knocking off Robison in Reno back in December. Adding Gutierrez, Jewett, and others into the mix could make for showstopping action.

152

  • Nicholas Gallegos, Jefferson (3A #1)
  • Kolten Hilis, Alamosa (3A #3)
  • Trevor Singleton, Pueblo County (4A #3)
  • Jayden McLaughlin, Thompson Valley (4A #5)
  • Dylan Ranieri, Grandview (5A #1)
  • Kayden Johnson, Ponderosa (5A #3)
  • Josh Kraus, Kelly Walsh (4A #1, Wyo.)
  • Jackson Hesford, Cheyenne East (4A #3)

Worth noting: Another weight class with multiple No. 1’s from multiple states, the 152-pound division is full of wiry wrestlers. Gallegos is a tough out and could figure to be among the favorites here fresh off climbing the podium at A-West.

160

  • Koby Galicia, Fort Lupton (3A #4)
  • Christopher Fasano, Pueblo County (4A #1)
  • Chase Engelhardt, Thompson Valley (4A #3)
  • Roman Cruz, Pomona (5A #2)
  • Grady Funk, Legacy (5A #4)
  • Dakota Key, Legacy (5A #5)
  • Kevin Anderson, Kelly Walsh (4A #3, Wyo.)

Worth noting: Fasano sometimes get overlooked in a star-studded Pueblo County lineup, but he’s been just as good (if not better) than anyone else in the Hornet room — or even in the state. Fasano has titles from NCCT, Reno, and Arvada West already under his belt. Can anyone in this group prevent him from a TOR title?

170

  • Marcus Martinez, Pueblo South (4A #4)
  • Jay (JT) Skalecki, Grand Junction (5A #1)
  • Kai Blake, Cherry Creek (5A #2)
  • Brice Hartzheim, Grandview (5A #4)
  • Kole Kraus, Kelly Walsh (4A #1, Wyo.)

Worth noting: Most of 5A’s top contenders are in the mix here, including the No. 1 and 2 ranked wrestlers. Skalecki and Blake have yet to meet this season, though it’s entirely possible they finally clash here at TOR. Kole Kraus was a Wyoming state placer last year, while Marcus Martinez is coming off back-to-back tournament titles out of the Steel City.

182

  • Brian Paxton, Fort Morgan (3A #3)
  • Jayson Davis, Pueblo County (4A #2)
  • Franklin Cruz, Pomona (5A #2)
  • Elijah Olson, Arvada West (5A #3)
  • Keegan Feenstra, Monarch (5A #4)
  • Joe Renner, Grandview (5A #5)
  • Luke Nathan, Kelly Walsh (4A #2, Wyo.)
  • Oscar Richter, Grand Island (A #5, Neb.)

Worth noting: Another bracket that features a lot of 5A heavy hitters (among others) — including four of the top-five. Davis is another one of Pueblo County’s returning state finalists, while Cruz is coming off a big win over the aforementioned Hornet.

195

  • Jesse (JJ) Tapia, Rocky Ford (2A #3)
  • Zion Freeman, Pueblo East (4A #1)
  • Bryce Garcia, Pueblo County (4A #3)
  • Caleb Burton, Thompson Valley (4A #4)
  • Alec Hargreaves, Rocky Mountain (5A #1)
  • David Powers, Franklin (6A #4, TX)

Worth noting: Tapia’s only loss of the season was to Freeman, who himself has stormed through the Eagles’ slate unbeaten thus far. Meanwhile, Hargreaves’ only losses have come to out of state competition. All of that is just to say: this weight is loaded with heavy hitters.

220

  • James Hochanadel, Fort Morgan (3A #4)
  • Dominic Robles, Pueblo East (4A #1)
  • Bryant Walker, Broomfield (4A #2)
  • Connor Shenk, Grand Junction Central (4A #3)
  • Hunter Tobiasson, Grand Junction (5A #1)
  • Will Ponder, Monarch (5A #4)
  • Jesus Alvarado, Kelly Walsh (4A #2, Wyo.)
  • Zach Higgins, Cheyenne East (4A #5, Wyo.)

Worth noting: The top three in 4A plus the No. 1, returning state finalist in 5A? PLUS two wildcards from Wyoming and a host of other hungry, ranked local competitors? Yeah, sign us up. Tobiasson has been as close to flawless as one can be this year and heads into TOR unbeaten after a decisive major over Robles in last week’s A-West final. Is a rematch possible? Again, sign us up.

285

  • Logan Thompson, Alamosa (3A #1)
  • Andy Garcia, Pueblo East (4A #1)
  • Cohlton Schultz, Ponderosa (5A #1)
  • Santana Solano, Brighton (5A #2)
  • Ethan McPhillips, Grand Island (A #4, Neb.)

Worth noting: All eyes will be on the heavyweight division, even as the tournament rolls well into the wee hours of Saturday night. That’s what happens when one of the nation’s very best competes right here in our own backyard. Schultz has been every bit of the hammer we all expected him to be in his senior campaign, winning titles at Ironman, Reno, and Doc B. Next up? One final TOR tussle. Meanwhile, Garcia, a two-time 4A champ, was absent for the Eagles last week. His return would be huge for team race implications.

When does it start?

The action gets underway at 1 p.m. on Friday from Centaurus High School in Lafayette.

Friday’s action will run through the second championship and consolation rounds.

Saturday’s schedule is as follows:

  • 8:30 a.m. — Quarterfinals, third and fourth round consolations
  • 12:30 p.m. — Semifinals, consolation round five
  • 2 p.m. — Consolation semifinals, 5th place matches
  • 6 p.m. — Parade of Champions, Finals matches

It’s going to be one heck of a battle for the Top of the Rockies crown. Can’t make it? Follow along on TrackWrestling:

And check us out on Twitter @CoWrestlingNet.

And get pumped up with the one, true Parade of Champions song:

Let’s go!

Nick Jurney
About Nick Jurney 99 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.