DENVER — It’s not as if Niwot wrestling coach Scott Sanchez has a canned speech he opens up every time he prepares a Cougars wrestler for his first experience at the state finals.
Yet years of experience nonetheless have taught Sanchez that keeping it simple inevitably remains the best approach whenever a newbie hits the bright lights of the Pepsi Center floor.
That strategy paid dividends for the Cougars on Thursday. Each of Niwot’s two representatives at state, sophomore Clay Robinson and junior Joey Lambert, were making his first state appearances. Both Niwot athletes came out victorious in their state debuts to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals.
“It is a whole other atmosphere with the lights and all that,” Niwot coach Scott Sanchez said. “We just tell them to wrestle their style and don’t change up. Do what’s been successful to get to this point and good things will happen.”
Robinson felt as if he wrestled tentatively during a regional final defeat last week, and he made certain to not make the same mistake Thursday. Robinson quickly asserted control in his 106-pound first-round match against Randen Espinoza of Palisade, ultimately recording a pin at the 1 minute, 20 second mark.
Lambert, competing at 132 pounds, also came away with a pin in his state debut, taking down Tristen Wolf of Conifer at the 4:40 mark.
Lambert (26-13) will take on Isaac Naro of Pueblo South in the quarterfinals on Friday, while Robinson (34-6) will face Broomfield’s Darek Huff.
“One of my friends who I wrestled with for a long time who wrestled last year said, ‘Don’t look up,'” Robinson said. “I was trying my hardest not to get nervous and to not get overwhelmed.”
ERIE, MEAD FIT TO SPLIT
Both Erie and Mead split their four first-round matches, with victories highlighted by each team’s most prominent state title contender.
Erie received victories via pins from 132-pounder Brandon Wetsch and 160-pounder Ladd Bunker. Wetsch took down Michael Brierton of Palmer Ridge at the 1:28 mark, and Bunker was even more impressive in the opening round of the 160-pound bracket, needing only 57 seconds to eliminate Pueblo South’s Mitchel Chavez from title contention.
“This year the goal is to take gold,” said Wetsch, a junior who is making his third consecutive state appearance. “I made sure to get my head positioned right and attack first.”
Mead recorded victories from 113-pounder Sage Budd in addition to 182-pound state title contender Kyle Couch, who recorded a first-round pin against Jake Beighey of Green Mountain in just 35 seconds.
“Gabe Alvarado’s match (at 170 pounds) was tough — we gave away some points and thought that maybe there were some other ones there we didn’t get,” Mead coach Ty Tatham said. “That was a little bit tough, but everyone wrestled well. Everybody went out there and wrestled hard and got after it. On this night, that’s what you want to see. Hopefully it will continue the next two days.”
Budd will have a tough challenge in Friday’s quarterfinals as he takes on Broomfield’s Drew Romero, a two-time state champion.
LONG NIGHT FOR LONGMONT
It was a rough opening day for Longmont. The Trojans qualified five wrestlers for state, but only one recorded a victory during Thursday’s opening rounds.
That honor went to 195-pound junior Jaime Ramos-Vega, who pinned Rhett Hanson of Mullen at the 1:43 mark. Ramos-Vega will take on Joey Sanchez of Eagle Valley in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Follow Pat on Twitter: @prooney07
CLASS 4A FIRST ROUND
DENVER — First-round results Thursday from the Colorado Class 4A state high school wrestling tournament held at Pepsi Center.
Team Scores — Windsor 34; Discovery Canyon 25; Thompson Valley 24; Broomfield 17; Roosevelt 16; Pueblo Central 15; Pueblo Centennial 14; Berthoud 10; Mesa Ridge 10; Montezuma-Cortez 10; Air Academy 8; Eagle Valley 8; Erie 8; Golden 8; Montrose 8; Niwot 8; Falcon 7.5; Palmer Ridge 7.5; Durango 6; Elizabeth 6; Mead 6; Valor Christian 6; Ft. Morgan 5.5; Arvada 4; Canon City 4; Cheyenne Mountain 4; Greeley Central 4; Longmont 4; Pueblo County 4; Weld Central 4; Palisade 3.5; Vista Ridge 3.5; Mullen 3; Northridge 3; Pueblo East 3; Sand Creek 3; Conifer 2; Evergreen 2; Frederick 2; Lewis-Palmer 2; Pueblo West 2; Rifle 2; Summit 2; Thomas Jefferson 2; Woodland Park 2.
106 pounds — Dalton Robertson, Weld Central dec. Junior Casillas, Vista Peak, 8-4; Procopio Valdez, Mesa Ridge dec. Tyler Erzen, Elizabeth, 4-3; Michael Ramirez, Pueblo South maj. dec. Vincent Hoffman, Mullen, 15-5; Vladyslav Kazakov, Thompson Valley pinned Anthony Nieto, Erie, 1:46; Sam Turner, Discovery Canyon tech. fall Adam Lee, Denver West, 16-0; Josh Villa, Windsor pinned Terrell Banuelos, Montrose, 2:46; Clay Robinson, Niwot pinned Randen Espinoza, Palisade, 1:20; Darek Huff, Broomfield pinned Abraam Arreguin-Almanz, Mitchell, 2:52.
113 pounds — Drew Romero, Broomfield dec. Emmanuel Sandoval, Montrose, 10-4; Sage Budd, Mead dec. Davis Baxter, Pueblo South, 7-2; Jesse Ortiz, Frederick dec. Caleb McElfresh, Mitchell, 8-2; Collin Williams, Thompson Valley pinned Jeremiah Gonzales, Pueblo Central, 1:02; Brandon Gonzalez, Mesa Ridge dec. Brandon Rivas, Greeley Central, 9-4; Rylen Thalhammer, Palmer Ridge pinned Matthew Lavengood, Durango, 3:58; Austin Veen, Valor Christian dec. David Brown, Delta, 4-2; Joel Salomon, Windsor pinned Brad Kadlubowski, Lewis-Palmer, 3:47.
120 pounds — AJ Rees, Discovery Canyon pinned Darian Manzanares, Pueblo Centennial, 1:33; Tylar Francis, Roosevelt pinned Dylan Alvarez, Broomfield, 3:34; Juan Lopez, Northridge maj. dec. Donald Sisneros, Mullen, 16-2; Nick Wittrock, Summit dec. Leon Sanchez, Mesa Ridge, 5-3; Gavril Houston, Elizabeth dec. Domnick Archuleta, Greeley Central, 5-3; Marcus Martinez, Pueblo South dec. Oscar Ruelas, Rifle, 4-2; Aaron Carrera, Pueblo East maj. dec. Levi Gross, Montezuma-Cortez, 9-1; Jonathan Lewis, Windsor maj. dec. Zion Rivera, Thomas Jefferson, 9-1.
126 pounds — Bobby Amond, Cheyenne Mountain pinned Jeriah Garcia, Denver South, 1:05; Ben Hewson, Thompson Valley pinned Matteo Ambriz, Windsor, 2:57; Jimmy Fate, Berthoud pinned Shane Anderson, Delta, 2:55; Layth Dieyleh, Thomas Jefferson dec. Trenton Fair, Pueblo East, 15-9; Dalton Hannigan, Palisade tech. fall Eloy Valdez, Longmont, 16-0; Jacob Kay, Evergreen dec. Tyler Hanenberg, Air Academy, 6-0; Brandon Aragon, Pueblo Central dec. Keaton Regenor, Discovery Canyon, 2-1; Ian Wingstrom, Ft. Morgan tech. fall Isaac Rider, Rifle, 18-3.
132 pounds — Tanner Williams, Thompson Valley pinned Nate Butler, Air Academy, 5:47; Alex Kingsley, Berthoud pinned Kenny Ojeda, Thomas Jefferson, 2:54; Joey Lambert, Niwot pinned Tristen Wolf, Conifer, 4:40; Isaac Naro, Pueblo South dec. James Engle, Pueblo Centennial, 7-0; Sonny Espinoza, Pueblo Central pinned Conor Lococo, Windsor, 2:00; Steve Turner, Discovery Canyon pinned Coy Zang, Rifle, 2:30; Travis Myers, Pueblo West dec. Justin Ray, Palisade, 4-3; Brandon Wetsch, Erie pinned Michael Brierton, Palmer Ridge, 1:28.
138 pounds — Ryan Daves, Montezuma-Cortez pinned Matt McFadden, Cheyenne Mountain, 1:33; Jacob Gerken, Ft. Morgan dec. Tyler Thalhammer, Palmer Ridge, 5-1; Hunter Shively, Conifer dec. Eric Palomino, Northridge, 3-1; Dallas Rohrig, Rifle dec. Erik Romero, Pueblo West, 8-6 OT; Joseph Sisneros, Mullen maj. dec. Matt Combs, Mountain View, 11-3; Parker Simington, Thompson Valley dec. Jayme Wilson, Widefield, 7-3; Matt Sandoval, Montrose dec. Nathaniel Rykerd, Lewis-Palmer, 4-3; Jace Lopez, Roosevelt pinned Noel Estrada, Thomas Jefferson, 1:10.
145 pounds — Phil Downing, Broomfield pinned Nick Rocha, Pueblo Centennial, :56; Austin Zuniga, Pueblo South dec. Paris Salas, Golden, 6-0; Dominique Hughes, Mesa Ridge pinned William Schell, Erie, 2:17; Dylan Burgett, Elizabeth pinned Trevor Garcia, Palisade, 3:34; Chad Ellis, Berthoud dec. Austin Sethman, Air Academy, 6-2; Kennan Wyatt, Pueblo Central maj. dec. Zach Chavez, Thompson Valley, 10-0; Erik Guy, Palmer Ridge, tech. fall Justice Ramos, Montezuma-Cortez, 15-0; Tyler Oberg, Discovery Canyon dec. Paul Robeson, Greeley Central, 7-2.
152 pounds — Kennan Willits, Pueblo County pinned Jeremiah Clymer, Mountain View, 3:06; Caleb Miranda, Pueblo Centennial pinned Joe Johnson, Thomas Jefferson, 5:09; Nick Tarpley, Durango dec. Jarod Albo, Broomfield, 3-2; Kennen Lanteri, Windsor maj. dec. Jeremy Jaquess, Sand Creek, 11-3; John Holst, Valor Christian dec. Hunter Brasfield, Delta, 11-4; Jeff Burbach, Discovery Canyon pinned Devin Rothrock, Golden, 4:41; Mark Espinoza, Pueblo South dec. Drake Greeott, Longmont, 15-9; Cody Soulka, Falcon pinned John Leonard, Elizabeth, :50.
160 pounds — Francisco Marquez, Thompson Valley pinned Connor Orban, Broomfield, 3:34; Spencer Urban, Roosevelt pinned Ricky Ray, Discovery Canyon, 4:53; Ladd Bunker, Erie pinned Mitchel Chavez, Pueblo South, :57; Kyle Soulka, Falcon tech. fall Adam Bryan, Palmer Ridge, 16-1; Thomas Chisholm, Woodland Park dec. Ivan Wolf, Longmont, 4-3; Marcus Velasquez, Montrose pinned Kevin Paredes, Elizabeth, 2:47; Seager Oliver, Montezuma-Cortez pinned Johnny Ray Vallejo, Pueblo Central, 2:34; Vinny Gonzales, Windsor dec. Caleb Smith, Pueblo West, 12-6.
170 pounds — Adrian Mack, Discovery Canyon pinned Brad Blackstock, Golden, :52; Chandler Montes, Pueblo Central dec. Cole Nielsen, Eagle Valley, 8-1; Chaz Polson, Valor Christian dec. Justin Barron, Falcon, 13-8; Joseph Keller, Windsor pinned Sheldon Berg, Mesa Ridge, 1:49; Josh McLaughlin, Thompson Valley dec. Michael Ibarra, Mullen, 7-1; Caleb Cuneio, Air Academy pinned Fernando Ramos Vega, Longmont, 5:43; Joseph Glenn, Lewis-Palmer dec. Gabe Alvarado, Mead, 6-3; Zach Stodden, Broomfield maj. dec. Justin Barham, Glenwood Springs, 15-3.
182 pounds — Kyle Couch, Mead pinned Jake Beighey, Green Mountain, :35; Ty LaFramboise, Eagle Valley dec. Tony Molinaro, Pueblo County, 10-4 3OT; Tremell Stanley, Mesa Ridge dec. Alfredo Rosales, Delta, 10-5; Josh Semmler, Roosevelt pinned Dillon Tussey, Conifer, 2:42; Jacob Hawthorne, Vista Ridge tech. fall Braxton Stewart, Palisade, 15-0; Ian Cheatum, Golden pinned Martin Gonzalez, Thomas Jefferson, 2:42; Cosme Martinez, Windsor pinned Luke McAnich, Broomfield, 4:30; Trenton Gustafson, Montezuma-Cortez dec. Anthony Abbott, Canon City, 11-5.
195 pounds — Garet Krohn, Arvada pinned Toby McBride, Ft. Morgan, 3:09; Ben Self, Air Academy dec. Patton Graff, Thompson Valley, 5-2; Joey Sanchez, Eagle Valley dec. James Garrett, Mesa Ridge, 6-1; Jaime Ramos Vega, Longmont pinned Rhett Hanson, Mullen, 1:43; John Lieder, Pueblo Centennial pinned Devon Strover, Harrison, 5:34; Logan Longworth, Weld Central dec. Pheonix Versey, Palmer Ridge, 8-3; Brandon Brauser, Windsor dec. Demetrius Zissimos, Broomfield, 8-7; David Traynor, Discovery Canyon tech. fall Kyle Collins, Delta, 17-2.
220 pounds — Andy Armstrong, Eagle Valley pinned Mason Barber, Mountain View, 1:04; Hunter Reinert, Pueblo South pinned Victor Garcia, John F. Kennedy, :21; Connor Eakes, Broomfield dec. DJ Wolski, Vista Ridge, 7-2; Jacob Winter, Windsor pinned Nate Smith, Falcon, 4:56; Garrett Benell, Canon City pinned Brock Howes, Arvada, :55; Damian Garcia, Pueblo Centennial pinned Noah Lennox, Golden, 5:53; Daniel Gustavson, Durango pinned Jorge Cortez, Mead, 1:55; Evan Lancelot, Pueblo Central pinned Kenny Hardwick, Pueblo County, 4:50.
285 pounds — Dakota Gulley, Golden pinned TreVaughn Hawkins, Denver South, 1:00; Demitrius Miller, Pueblo Centennial dec. Jacob Robles, Pueblo East, 8-7; Tuli Laulu, Sand Creek maj. dec. Marcus Garcia, Delta, 8-0; Austin Harris, Broomfield dec. Chris Palacios, Longmont, 4-1 OT; Jesus Casillas, Montrose dec. Billy Dabney, Cheyenne Mountain, 1-0; Robert Bishop-Cotner, Windsor pinned Tyler Bender, Wheat Ridge, 1:12; Jorge Guerra-Munoz, Greeley Central pinned Zach Rios, Mullen, 5:42; Justin Petrash, Air Academy dec. Matt Isaacs, Thompson Valley, 9-3.