WRESTLERS TO WATCH
JEREMY ASHTON, Jr., Mead — Mavericks junior got a taste of the big time last year, making it all the way to the finals. Would love nothing more than another shot.
KEEGAN BEAN, Jr., Lyons — Had a stellar 2015-16 season that included various tournament wins. Ended up a few matches short of the podium at 170 pounds.
URIEL CONTRERAS, Sr., Skyline — An injury plagued junior season still resulted in a state berth. It will be interesting to see what he does with a full season under his belt come February.
DRAKE ENGELKING, So. Longmont — Nowhere to go but up for the sophomore, who made it all the way to finals in his first high school season. Eager to avenge tech fall loss in the finals too.
ADAM EVERTZ, Sr., Erie — Will be the backbone of a good Tigers team that moves back up to 4A this season. He will try to improve on a 6th place state finish last season.
DRIAN HAYS, Jr., Legacy — Won a regional title last season and has a chance to make the podium this year for a new-look Lightning squad.
JAKE LONGSTRETH, Sr., Frederick — Has carried the flag for the Warriors program the last few years and hopes to be joined at the Pepsi Center by a few more teammates this time around.
NATHAN MORRIS, Sr., Longmont — Has a great partner in the room with Engelking, a positive thing that will only make the two of them better.
SAWYER NOVARA, Sr., Silver Creek — As tough as they come at the lighter weights, he should be in the mix for a top six finish in February.
COLE POLLUCONI, Jr., Monarch — Just one of the many talented Coyotes that could help them reach new team heights. Was a finalist at 132's last year.
XANDER RENS, So., Monarch — The hype around Rens was real and rightfully so. The state tournament didn't go his way last year and is ready to make amends.
TOMMY STAGER, Sr., Niwot — Air Force commit could become the first Cougars champion since 1993; last of the family legacy to grapple for Niwot.
MASON WATT, Jr., Broomfield — The Eagles heavyweight placed fourth last season in arguably the toughest weight class in the state and will be a factor again in February.
KOLSEN WELHAM, Sr., Holy Family — The Tigers senior will be tough to beat this year after coming so painfully close in 2015-16.
* All regional tournaments Feb. 10-11.
2A Northeast Region 3 — Local team: Lyons. Location: Northeastern Junior College.
3A Northern Region 2 —- Local team: Holy Family. Location: Eaton High School.
4A Northern Region 2 — Local teams: Frederick, Mead, Niwot, Silver Creek. Location: Frederick High School.
4A South Metro Region 3 — Local teams: Erie, Longmont. Location: Cheyenne Mountain High School.
4A Metro Region 4 — Local team: Skyline. Location: Montrose High School.
5A Region 1 -— Local team: Monarch. Location: Palmer High School.
5A Region 2 —- Local teams: Fairview, Legacy. Location: Legacy High School.
5A Region 3 — Local teams: Boulder, Broomfield. Location: Cherokee Trail High School.
5A Region 4 — Local teams: Centaurus. Location: Arvada West High School.
State tournament — All classifications will be held Feb. 16-18 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Coach: Gilbert Espinoza (3nd year).
Last year: Didn't score at 5A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: None.
Others to watch: Liam Henderson (Sr.); Steve Marics (Sr.); Soren Sovendal, (Jr.); Andrew Stevens (So.).
Outlook: "It's still a work in progress," said Espinoza, whose team lost four wrestlers from last years team that didn't come out this season. It has made the rebuilding process that much tougher and he will have go to battle with a young and inexperienced team.
Coach: Pat DeCamillis (4th year).
Last year: Finished 14th at 5A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: Presley Madril (So., 106); Mason Watt (Jr., Hwt.).
Others to watch: None.
Outlook: The Eagles are always in contention and this year should be no different despite the huge turnover. Watt, who finished fourth in a loaded heavyweight field as a sophomore, will lead the Broomfield charge.
Coach: Cesar Valenzuela (1st year).
Last year: Finished 27th at 5A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: None.
Others to watch: Angel Mata (Jr., 160); Atiba Obika (Sr., 145); Gabe Farraca (Sr., 138); Colin Roberts (Sr., 170).
Outlook: "My goal right now is to invigorate the wrestling room and find a way to get it back to the way it used to be," said Valenzuela, a 2011 Centaurus alum whose brothers were state champs. He is the right man for the job and will build Centaurus into something special again. As for this year, he says, "(Longtime coach) Cisco (Gonzales) didn't leave the cupboard bare."
Coach: Steve Gratton (8th year).
Last year: Finished 34th at 3A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: Adam Evertz (Sr., 120); Ernie Quintana (Sr., 145).
Others to watch: Trevor David (Sr., 170); Quintin Hyrup (Sr., 152); Adrian Rincon (Sr., 132); Zach Roper (Sr., 182).
Outlook: The Tigers once again have a fantastic line-up, highlighted by Evertz and Quintana — who will win a lot of matches. Erie jumps back into the 4A mix after a season in 3A and has a chance to make some noise with a strong group of underclassmen.
Coach: Jim Opperman (1st year).
Last year: Did not score at 5A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: None.
Others to watch: Duncan Heath (Sr.).
Outlook: Much like their cross-town rival, Fairview's numbers are down from years past. But in Opperman, a coaching legend in Colorado, the Knights have a leader that can get the program back to relevance. "We have a promising sophomore class, it's just going to take some time."
Coach: Joey Gardner (2nd year).
Last year: Finished 40th at 4A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: Jake Longstreth (Sr., 195).
Others to watch: Cole Hoffman (So., 132); Cruz Jiminez (So., 113); Victor Rangel (Fr., 145).
Outlook: Jake Longstreth will lead this young squad of Warriors, with the help of some really good sophomores. The freshmen class is up in numbers and will battle for varsity positions.
HOLY FAMILY TIGERS
Coach: Nestor Pino (2nd year).
Last year: Finished 29th at 3A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: Kolsen Welham (Sr., 152).
Others to watch: None.
Outlook: "Still a very raw team," Pino said. It's still a young team that Pino hopes, with his captains Welham and junior Austin Sasser, can makes strides from what was a difficult season last year. Winning and placing tends to takes care of that.
Coach: Mike Thompson (17th year).
Last year: Finished 5th at 5A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: Drian Hays (Jr., 170); Justin Paplow (Sr., 120).
Others to watch: Aidan Funk (Jr., 160); Keegan Hoffman (So., 113); Mitch Mueller (Sr., 138); Aaron Otterson (Sr., 145); Brandon Willis (Jr., 182).
Outlook: It is definitely a new look Lightning squad that graduated a ton, including two-time state champion Ryan Deakin, off of last year's fifth place team. That being said, the groundwork was laid for a successful program the culture of winning is now in place at Legacy. A young team should be just fine when February rolls around.
Coach: Matt Engelking (3rd year).
Last year: Finished 13th at 4A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: Drake Engelking (So.); Nathan Morris (Sr.).
Others to watch: Junior Mosness (Jr.); Dominic Policaro (Sr.); Mason Povich (Jr.).
Outlook: "I'm excited about our young team full of incoming freshman. This years team has a great attitude and a wellness to work hard," Engelking said. "We have a opportunity to have a good wrestling team in a few years, if the young guys continue to improve and work hard."
Coach: Brandon Lohr (2nd year).
Last year: Finished 39th at 2A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: Keegan Bean (Jr.).
Others to watch: Karson Bean (Fr.).
Outlook: The Bean brothers will have an impact on the state tournament in February and will keep Lyons on the wrestling map. Lohr, after the loss of heavyweight Aaron vasquez to a knee injury, will go through the season with just six kids on his roster.
Coach: Ty Tatham (8th year).
Last year: Finished 13th at 3A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: Jeremy Ashton (Jr., 126); Caleb Mendez (Sr., 145).
Others to watch: Derek Allen (Sr., 220); Jeremiah Cortez (Sr., 138); Joey Garcia (Sr., 170); Brennan McDermitt (Sr., 170), Evan Hansen (Jr., 182), Luis Miramontes (Jr., 285).
Outlook: "We have two returning state place winners in Ashton (2nd, 126) and Mendez (5th, 145) and look to add more in a pretty tough 4A regional. We are a blend of experience and youth and are looking for competitive growth over the course of the season," Tatham said.
Coach: Ezra Paddock (10th year).
Last year: Finished 19th at 5A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: Parker McQuade (Jr., 126); Cole Polluconi (Jr., 132); Nate Pritchard (Jr., 152); Xander Rens (So., 120).
Others to watch: Keegan Feenstra (So., 182); Zach Hacker (So., 106); Porter McQuade (Sr., 152); Tristan Perez (Fr., 145); Evan Williams (Sr., 220).
Outlook: "Our team has worked really hard in the off-season. Wrestling and traveling all spring and summer to find great competition. They are eager to take the next step and become one of the elite 5A teams in Colorado. We have put together our most competitive schedule to date, so they will be battle tested come February," Paddock said.
Coach: Bobby Matthews (2nd year).
Last year: Finished 25th at 4A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: Alex Gazdick (Jr., 132); Tommy Stager (Sr., 145)
Others to watch: Brandon Barton (Jr., 152); Dylan Bonge (Sr., 138); Saul Escarcega (Jr., 195); Fox Garza (Sr., 220); Nathan Hemenway (Jr., 182); Jose Lopez (Jr., Hwt.); JoRay Salcido (Jr., 160)..
Outlook: The numbers are high this season (30) which helps build a young team. Each weight should have at least two guys in it. Filling all 14 weights is a huge asset moving through the very tough Northern Conference. "We are green but so far the guys are picking things up very quickly. Tommy looks energized and motivated to make a serious run at the title this year. Alex learned a lot from last year and is looking to win a medal at state this season. Dylan is looking to get over the hump at regionals and punch his ticket to the Pepsi Center," Matthews said.
SILVER CREEK RAPTORS
Coach: John Finkbiner (2nd year).
Last year: Finished 21st at 4A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: Tanner Eshleman (Sr.); Sawyer Novara (Sr.); Jacob Williams (Jr.).
Others to watch: None.
Outlook: It's a program on the rise and the Raptors have the parts in place to make a move up the 4A leader board. Novara missed out on the podium last year at 106 pounds and is eager to redeem himself.
Coach: Mike Silva (1st year).
Last year: Finished 42nd at 4A state tournament.
Returning state qualifiers: Uriel Contreras (Sr., 113).
Others to watch: Ricky Childers (So., Hwt); Ben Kalisher (So., 152); Alex Ortiz (Jr., 220); Angel Perez (Jr., 170); Jose Perez (Fr., 113); Antonio Rueda (So.); Caden Silva (Fr., 152).
Outlook: "We have a few veterans mixed with some young talent. If we can fall into the right weight classes and spread it out, we can be pretty good," said Silva, who guided the football team to a great season. "Excited to get a full line up out there, and try to turn things around here."