With brackets that rival the state tournament and an aura of exclusivity, the annual Top of the Rockies Invitational Wrestling Tournament is one of the sport's must-see events of the regular season.

If you are permitted to see it, that is.

The Centaurus-based tournament doesn't simply hand out invitations. Warriors athletic director Paul Roper, one of the masterminds behind the tournament, has preserved the competitive nature of the tournament by being extremely selective in which schools attend the 32-team cross-classification event.

This season, local schools Holy Family and Mead have cracked the invite list for the two-day event (Friday and Saturday, Centaurus High School).

"I had inquired to see if we could possibly get into it, and it was kind of like a job interview, really," Holy Family assistant coach Juan Lucero said. "They were asking about the kids we had coming back and what they did at state. They wanted to make sure we were bringing something to the table."

The Tigers absolutely are. They have a four wrestlers in the top four of their Class 3A weight classes in Tim Yount's On The Mat Rankings, including brothers Julian Prieto (No. 3 at 120) and Joesph Prieto (No. 4 at 126). Vincent Casados (113) and Daniel Jansen (220) also are ranked fourth.

Lucero is the Tigers' former head coach, but now has an assistant role after increasing his duties as an executive project manager for IBM. Joe Domko has taken over fulltime, but Lucero still is a big part of the program.


"With our four ranked kids, it'll be good to get them some top-level competition," Lucero said. "We'll get a chance to see a lot of top-ranked kids from the other classifications and see how we stack up."

Mead, an on-the-rise program now in 4A, also is eager for its first appearance at Top of the Rockies.

"We're just excited to be included in such a prestigious tournament, and I think some of our kids are going to get their eyes opened to another level of wrestling," said Mead coach Ty Tatham, who used to take his Longmont Trojans teams to the tourney when he was the coach at LHS. "Some of our kids are right there, but after the tournament, it's going to change our perspective of things, win or lose."

Kyle Couch has been the Mavericks' top wrestler this season, checking in at No. 4 at 182 pounds.

"It's an opportunity for him to not only wrestle against the best kids in 4A, but the best kids in the state," Tatham said. "He's a competitor, so I think he's going to relish being in that atmosphere."

Roper will unveil the brackets Thursday for a tournament that brings in its share of brawny programs. Class 5A's top three teams -- Pomona, Rocky Mountain and Ponderosa -- will be on hand, as well as 4A's top two (Windsor and Broomfield). In addition, 3A giant Alamosa and legendary coach Gary Ramstetter will be in the mix, as well as the Mean Moose's four ranked wrestlers.

A handful of 5A top-ranked wrestlers are slated to appear in the tournament, including Greeley West's Austin Waterman (heavyweight), Ponderosa's Dylan Gabel (170), Mountain Range's Randy Boerner (152) and Arvada West's Payton Tawater (126) -- and that's not including the four No. 1 wrestlers top-ranked Pomona will have in its aresenal.

In 4A, Arvada's Garet Krohn (195), Thompson Valley's Francsico Marquez (160) and Fort Morgan's Ian Wingstrom (126) are in the fold, but local stalwart Broomfield is perhaps the biggest draw in regards to 4A star power.

The Eagles have a whopping four wrestlers designated No. 1 by Yount's rankings: Derek Huff (106), Drew Romero (113), Phil Downing (145) and Zach Stodden (170). Windsor will bring two No. 1s: Kennen Lenteri (152) and Cosme Martinez (182).

Sheridan's Levi Maes is the top-ranked wrestler in 3A at 126 pounds. Of course, classification matters little here, as the brackets will splice all of the wrestlers.

Out-of-state squads Cheyenne Central (Wyo.), Grand Island (Neb.), Omaha North (Neb.), Rio Rancho (N.M.) and Scottsbluff (Neb.) also are in the field.

Follow Paul on Twitter: @PaulWillis21