10 WRESTLERS TO WATCH

Andre Aragon, Centaurus: After missing his sophomore year, Aragon came back to qualify for the 5A state tournament in 2012 and will be looking to do better than a 1-2 mark there as a senior.

Kyle Couch, Mead: Third place at state as a freshman and again as a sophomore, his junior campaign will be marked by another podium goal and a move up to Class 4A.

Phil Downing, Broomfield: Alongside Romero, the Eagles junior will be attempting to become Broomfield High's first-ever three-time state champion after winning the past two years.

Julian Prieto, Holy Family: Like his twin brother Joseph (sixth at 120), Julian was a state placer (fourth at 113) and will be looking to move up the state podium as a sophomore in 2013.

Drew Romero, Broomfield: He moved to Broomfield and won a 4A state title in 2012 after winning a 3A title in 2011 in LaJunta. As a senior in 2013, he'll be going for his third crown.

Brandon Slepicka, Niwot: The Cougars' lone returning state qualifier, he'll have to help step in for longtime leader Nick Stager and combine with juniors Marcus Cano and Joey Lambert, and sophomore Clay Robinson for the Cougars to win duals this season.

Axel Wessel, Boulder: One podium spot away from the 5A 182-pound title a year ago, it would appear the state championship is there for the taking for the Panthers senior.

Brandon Wetsch, Erie: He placed fourth at 120 as a sophomore and will look to improve on his 26-8 record from last season.

Forrest Wetterstrom, Longmont: As a junior in 2012, Wetterstrom took sixth place in 4A at 170 pounds and is looking to get to the top of the podium as a senior, especially now that four of the five who placed ahead of him have graduated.

Frederick’s Jesse Ortiz, right, pins Erie’s Mitch Vang during a dual match between the rival schools last winter.
Frederick's Jesse Ortiz, right, pins Erie's Mitch Vang during a dual match between the rival schools last winter. ( Joshua Buck )

Jesse Ortiz, Frederick: After winning the Boulder Valley Invitational title and going 1-2 at state in his freshman year, the 106-pounder has a bright future with the Warriors.




POSTSEASON INFORMATION

All regional tournaments Feb. 15-16

2A Northeast Region -- Local team: Lyons. Location: Northeastern Junior College.

3A Northern Region-- Local team: Holy Family. Location: Eaton High School.

4A North Region-- Local teams: Erie, Frederick, Longmont, Mead, Niwot, Silver Creek, Skyline. Location: Frederick High School.

4A Central Region -- Local team: Broomfield. Location: Mullen High School.

5A Metro Region 1 -- Local team: Legacy. Location: Smoky Hill High School.

5A North Region -- Local teams: Centaurus, Fairview, Monarch. Location: Loveland High School.

5A Metro Region 4 -- Local team: Boulder. Location: Standley Lake High School.

State tournament -- All classifications will be held Feb. 21-23 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.




BOULDER PANTHERS

Coach: Glen Kingsley, 7th year

Last year: Finished 21st at 5A state.

Returning state qualifiers: Axel Wessel (Sr., 182).

Others to watch: Martin Selby (So., 138), Leete Skinner (Jr., 132), Theo Colucci (Sr., 220), Jason Georgis (So., 120), Morgan Reynolds (So., 106).

Outlook: The Panthers are a young team but most of the wrestlers this year were behind a solid team last year and could surprise some people with the work they have put in. Anchored by Wessel and Colucci, Kingsley said this group is the most active offseason Panthers team he has had in a many years.

Erie’s Brandon Wetsch, right, wrestles against Pueblo West’s Travis Myers during the first round of the state tournament last winter.
Erie's Brandon Wetsch, right, wrestles against Pueblo West's Travis Myers during the first round of the state tournament last winter. ( MARK LEFFINGWELL )


BROOMFIELD EAGLES

Coach: Joe Pereira, 3rd year

Last year: Finished 4th at 4A state.

Returning state qualifiers: Drew Romero (Sr., 113), Phil Downing (Jr., 145), Zach Stodden (Jr., 170), DJ Zissimos (Jr., 220), Connor Eakes (Sr., 195).

Others to watch: Darek Huff (So., 106), Dylan Alvarez (Jr., 120), Jared Albo (Jr., 152).

Outlook: The Eagles have a well-balanced, experienced lineup with the possibility of sending a large contingency of wrestlers to the state tournament and placing many of them. They'll be looking to make a run for the 4A state championship again in 2013. The group will need to continue to improve on its technique and mental toughness while learning lessons about top performance throughout a grueling in-state and national schedule.


CENTAURUS WARRIORS

Coach: Cisco Gonzales, 11th year

Last year: Finished 49th at 5A state.

Returning state qualifiers: Andre Aragon (Sr., 120).

Others to watch: Tyler Harrington (So., 160), Adonis Jaramillo (Sr., 106), Andre Jaramillo (Jr., 106), Tristen Archuleta (Jr., 126), Forrest Lalaguna (Fr., 138), Alex Englebrecht (Sr., 220).

Outlook: If the Warriors' returners can step up and assume leadership roles in the wrestling room and on the mat, Coach Gonzales thinks his team can be in position to earn several berths to the state tournament by regional tournament time. Aragon will be a big part of the Warriors' success in 2013.


ERIE TIGERS

Coach: Steve Gratton, 4th year

Last year: Finished 15th at 4A state

Returning state qualifiers: Brandon Wetsch (Jr., 120).

Others to watch: Ladd Bunker (Jr., 160), William Schell (Jr., 145), Anthony Nieto (So., 106), Jake Schadler (So., 138), Christian Hernandez (So., 120), Zach Starbeck (Jr., 138).

Outlook: With returning state placer Brandon Wetsch at 120 pounds, the Tigers lineup figures to be fairly solid until the higher weights, where there are a few holes. As the team begins to gel, the Tigers hope to improve each week under Coach Gratton and assistant coach Craig Johnson's enthusiasm and experience. Bunker's sophomore season ended in injury after the Boulder Valley Invitational and he is looking for a successful bounce-back season.


FAIRVIEW KNIGHTS

Coach: Jim Lefebvre, 8th season.

Last year: Finished 49th at 5A state.

Returning state qualifiers: None/

Others to watch: Preston Cates (So., 106), Maddy Lignell (Sr., 126), Cliff Lester (So., 126), Jackson Martin (So., 132), Melvin Gutierrez (Jr., 138), Chris Robinson (Sr., 138), James Kiousis (Jr., 160), Cito Balsells (Jr., 182).

Outlook: The Knights' younger, lower weights have all matured from the 2012 season and two seniors, Lignell and team captain Robinson, have returned from season-ending injuries and could be two of six potential state tournament qualifiers in February. Last year's lone state entrant, heavyweight Conner McGraw, graduated and is now playing football in Glendale, Arizona. So, there's plenty of room for new Knights to step in and make their mark in 2013.


FREDERICK WARRIORS

Coach: Gerry Galway, 35th year.

Last year: Finished 38th at 4A state.

Returning state qualifiers: Jesse Ortiz (So., 106), Jake Vargas (Sr., 182), Jaron Balman (Sr., 195).

Others to watch: Tyler Ashton (Sr., 126), Cody Campos (Sr., 132), Nick Letkomiller (Sr., 182), Austin Salazar (Sr., Hvwt.), Dylan Shoop (Jr., 138).

Outlook: If health and eligibility are non-factors, the Warriors should be a competitive in 2013. Under Galway, a good mixture of experience and youth should make for a solid Warriors lineup.


HOLY FAMILY TIGERS

Coach: Joe Domko, first year (sixth total in two stints with Tigers).

Last year: Finished 10th at 3A state.

Returning state qualifiers: Vince Casados (So., 120), Julian Prieto (So., 126), Joseph Prieto (So., 132), Daniel Jansen (Sr., 220).

Others to watch: Gerald DiPetrillo (Sr., 285), Mack Porter (Sr., 152), Matt Pardoe (Jr., 132).

Outlook: The Tigers ended up with three placers at last year's state tournament and they're expecting more this year with the Prieto twins and Vince Casados returning to lead the group. With head coach Joe Domko returning to coach the team after a four-year break, the Tigers are hoping to improve on last year's team finish at the state tournament, as well. The Tigers are a young team, but a core group of sophomores with state experience should make them tough to deal with.


LEGACY LIGHTNING

Coach: Mike Thompson, 13th year

Last year: Finished 24th at 5A state.

Returning state qualifiers: Connor Casady (Sr, 160), Skylar McWee (Sr., 220).

Others to watch: Brian Mooney (Sr., 138), Adam Otterson (Jr., 132), Donovan Cogil (Sr., 113), Luke Robinson (Sr., 195).

Outlook: This year, the Lightning has a lot of young kids coming up as freshmen that Coach Thompson thinks should fit well into the program. With the senior and junior leadership, Thompson thinks this year's group can become a top team at the regional and state tournaments. The Lightning are working toward getting back to their more competitive days when they regularly were league and regional champs and a top-five team in the state and they think this group could be the one to get them moving in that direction.


LONGMONT TROJANS

Coach: Adam Keiswetter, 4th year.

Last year: Finished 34th at 4A state.

Returning state qualifiers: Ivan Wolf (Jr., 126), Drake Greeott (Jr., 145), Jaime Ramos-Vega (Jr., 195), Forrest Wetterstrom (Sr., 170).

Others to watch: Connor Stengel (Sr., 152), Eloy Valdez (So., 126), Fernando Ramos-Vega (So., 160), Colten Montgomery (Sr., 132).

Outlook: The Trojans have some experienced athletes coming back from last year and are looking forward to picking up where they left off at the 2012 state tournament, where three of four qualifiers won matches. With returning varsity experience at every weight and the addition of freshman talent, Keiswetter expects to be strong from 145 to 195. Wetterstrom is looking to get on top of the podium this year after placing sixth last year in his first trip to the state tournament.


LYONS LIONS

Coach: Chip Sullivan, 5th year.

Last year: Finished 46th at 2A state.

Returning state qualifiers: Cameron Grossnickle (Jr., 113), David Plute (Sr., 285).

Others to watch: Will Hickman (Fr., 106), Kelten Tschanz (Sr., 152), Jon Hickman (Fr., 170).

Outlook: Sullivan is looking at a tight-knit group of wrestlers who have been working together for years, which will be joined by a crop of freshmen who he has been coaching since they were in peewees. The Lions have higher numbers this year but still have a couple of open spots in the lineup. Led by an experienced coaching staff, including former Colorado Buffaloes coach Linn Long, the Lions will try to focus their young talent this season.


MEAD MAVERICKS

Coach: Ty Tatham, 4th year.

Last year: Finished 13th at 3A state.

Returning state qualifiers: Kyle Couch (Jr., 152), Austin Van Hooker (Jr., 120), Kyle McNellis (Jr., 138).

Others to watch: Sage Budd (So., 113), Hugo Ramirez (Sr., 160), Marco Clark (Sr., 170), Mat Stinson (Sr., 160), Vaughn Anderson (Sr., 182), Gabe Alvarado (Sr., 182).

Outlook: Bringing in just its second senior class, the program is growing along with the school and has 30 wrestlers on this year's roster. With a solid returning group, the Mavericks need to find everyone a place in the lineup. Making the jump up to Class 4A in 2013 will be a challenge but Tatham feels the schedule he has put in front of the Mavericks will help them make the adjustment.


MONARCH COYOTES

Coach: Ezra Paddock, 6th year.

Last year: Finished 31st at 5A state.

Returning state qualifiers: None.

Others to watch: Landon Alm (Sr., 132), Griff Wendland (Sr., 145), Chad Ciciora (Jr., 160), James Hattel (Jr., 126), Ben Ferrera (So., 113), Preston McQuade (So., 120).

Outlook: The Coyotes graduated 10 wrestlers from last year's varsity lineup, so they'll have to deal with some inexperience at the varsity level in 2013. As a result, Paddock expects his team to make mistakes early in the season. But Paddock says this group of kids is determined to get better every day. The Coyotes hope to keep improving all season, correcting their mistakes and be wrestling their best come regional tournament time.


NIWOT COUGARS

Coach: Scott Sanchez, 8th year.

Last year: Finished 31st at 4A state.

Returning state qualifiers: Brandon Slepicka (Jr., 220)

Others to watch: Clay Robinson (So., 106), Marcus Cano (Jr., 126), Joey Lambert (Jr., 132).

Outlook: "We have a solid returning squad with excellent leadership," Cougars head coach Scott Sanchez said. After graduating state placer Nick Stager, Slepicka will return as the Cougars' lone state qualifier. Look out for Robinson, whose promising freshman season was cut short by injury. The Cougars also return Lambert and Cano, who placed at regionals last year.


SILVER CREEK RAPTORS

Coach: Michael Silva, 12th year.

Last year: Finished 38th at 4A state.

Returning state qualifiers: None.

Others to watch: Cody Sadler (Jr., 160), Dakota Silva (So., 182), Kenny Jones (Fr., 182), Justin McLean (Fr., 120).

Outlook: With the Silver Creek football team gearing up for the state semifinals and over a dozen wrestlers on the football roster, the Raptors wrestling team will start the season a bit behind schedule. Losing Nathan Dunlavy to graduation and regional placer Danny Bishop to a season-ending injury won't help either. But Coach Silva said the young Raptors are taking these challenges in stride and are focusing on their individual goals 2013.


SKYLINE FALCONS

Coach: Morgan Thompson, 2nd year.

Last year: Finished 15th at 4A Region 4 tournament.

Returning state qualifiers: None.

Others to watch: Braden Richards (Sr., 120), Jesus Contreras (So., 138), Ruben Rivera (So., 106), Abel Rivera (Fr., 132), Steven Feltenberger (Jr., 171), Jr. Gonzales (Sr., 145).

Outlook: With three seniors and one junior, the Falcons will be young again this year in Thompson's second year as head coach but their confidence is up and they're approaching this season as an opportunity to learn and work on execution. "They have an entirely new attitude," Thompson said. "They no longer feel like they're going to get beat up every time they go out there." The Falcons expect Richards to qualify for state.

Follow Brad on Twitter: @BradCochi