BROOMFIELD - So much for expectations. Legacy entered the wrestling season in November minus a bunch of seniors and was a decidedly different team in terms of experience.
However, Saturday's performance while hosting the Class 5A Region 2 qualifying meet was probably not what many foresaw - the Lightning placed eight competitors in the top four of weight classes to continue their seasons, finished second to Brighton in the team chase and will be seriously upbeat on Thursday, when the state field gathers at the Pepsi Center.
"I know that people didn't expect a whole lot, but these guys worked hard and I know what they're capable of," coach Mike Thompson said. "They stepped up to the plate."
The Lightning has three champions - Mitchell Mueller (132 pounds), Aidan Funk (160) and Drian Hays (170).
Hays was particularly impressive. For the second straight season, he pinned his way through regionals, notably with a hard-fought fall in 5 minutes, 19 seconds against Brighton's Tarron Adams. Now 41-3, the junior said he also wrestled Adams in the first match of the season and, while jumping between 170 and 182, "the kids at 170 seem smaller ... I put in the work in the off-season, I've lifted almost every single day and I'm a lot stronger."
Funk, also a junior and 35-7, got past Earl Camer Manzanares 3-2 and called him "a strong kid ... this feels great."
Senior Mitchell Mueller also pinned his way through four bouts and said "it was exciting. I wrestled (Brighton's Bryson Krohn, his foe in the final) twice, but had never pinned him before. I was really nervous going in."
Sophomore Keegan Hoffman (fourth, 113), freshman Joey Joiner (second, 126), freshman Dakota Key (fourth, 138), senior Aaron Otterson (fourth, 145) and junior Brandon Wills (fourth, 182) also will be taking the Pepsi challenge.
"A lot of new freshman have been picking up the slack," Funk said.
And "even if we have kids winning only one or two matches," Hays added, "it's still points for us."
Fairview has two qualifiers, seniors Skyler Calderoni (132) and Duncan Heath (195). Both finished third.
Teamwise, Brighton, which qualified a whopping 12, finished with 271 points to easily outdistance the Lightning (207.5). The top-heavy group also contained the likes of Ponderosa, Mountain Vista, Lakewood and Northglenn.
Individually, all three state champions advanced. Lakewood's Gabriel Dinette won at 145 as did two impressive brothers, Cohlton Schlutz, a sophomore, Ponderosa (220) and Trenton Schultz, a senior, Mountain Vista (195).
Legacy, which has won seven league titles and four regional crowns since Thompson opened the program with freshman and sophomores in 2000, also owns a state runner-up finish and remains optimistic about heading to downtown Denver.
"I definitely think we have some kids who can place down there, we have a couple kids who can make the finals," Thompson said. "If we do that we'll be in the top 10. And I don't think anybody thought we'd be there.
Class 5A Region 2
At Legacy High School
Team scores — Brighton 271, Legacy 207.5, Ponderosa 161, Mountain Vista 123, Lakewood 121, Northglenn 103, Overland 100, Heritage 81.5, Cherry Creek 78.5, Chatfield 55, Denver South 52.5, Eaglecrest 45, Fairview 45, Ralston Valley 44, FNE Warriors 11.
106 — Johnny Sanchez, Bri., dec. Ricky Nava, NG, 12-5.
113 — Jarron Martinez, Bri., dec. Bo Cole, CC, 8-1.
120 — Dessmund Prospero, Bri., dec. Isaiah Bradley, Over., 10-5.
126 — Preston Weaver, MV, dec. Joey Joiner, Leg., 6-4.
132 — Mitchell Mueller, Leg., pinned Bryson Krohn, Bri., 3:45.
138 — Sean Kelly, Over., dec. Orlando Gallegos, Bri., 10-4.
145 — Parker Benekas, Pond., pinned Nolan Stritchko, MV, 2:48.
152 — Gabriel Dinette, Lake., pinned Nathan Baca, Bri., 4:28.
160 — Aidan Funk, Leg., dec. Earl Camer Manzanares, Chat., 3-2.
170 — Drian Hays, Leg., pinned Tarron Adams, Bri., 5:19.
182 — Jayden Woodruff, Pond., pinned Jake Debruyn, Lake., 3:45.
195 — Trenton Schultz, MV, tech. fall Kaelin Chin, Over., 16-1.
220 — Cohlton Schutz, Pond., pinned Ian Helwick, Bri., 0:46.
285 — Tanner Aitken, Bri., dec. Hayden Still, Lake., 7-1.
Other local state qualifiers
113 — Keegan Hoffman, Leg. (fourth).
132 — Skyer Calderoni, Fair. (third).
138 — Dakota Key, Leg. (fourth).
145 — Aaron Oterson, Leg. (fourth).
182 — Brandon Wills, Leg. (fourth).
195 — Duncan Heath, Fair. (third).