Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Ask anyone in the wrestling community to put a red circle in permanent maker around the most important weekend of the season and the majority of them would have circled Feb. 9-10.
This Friday and Saturday, teams from all over Colorado venture to one of 16 regional sites across the four classifications for the right to go to the state tournament the following week at The Pepsi Center in Denver. The top four place winners at each site earn a state berth.
Only one local team will host this weekend, and that is the Broomfield Eagles in what should be one of the more dynamic sites amongst the big schools.
The Eagles, fresh off a brilliant Front Range League tournament that saw them put six in the finals and win five of those, are one of three ranked teams in Region 4 along with Castle View and Ponderosa. Throw in a good Grandview team and anybody that advances out of there will have earned it.
The Eagles have a good chance to get upwards of nine wrestlers to state, led by last years finalist Darren Green (132 pounds), Preston Renner (160), Drew Worthley (182) — who will likely face top-ranked state champion Tate Samuelson of Castle View in the finals if the brackets hold — and Mason Watt (220).
If you are a wrestling fan, Ponderosa heavyweight Cohlton Schultz is well worth the price of admission. He is on track to go down as one of the states all-time greats.
The Region 3 tournament at Poudre High School in Fort Collins will have locals Monarch (ranked No. 6), Legacy (No. 10), Fairview and Centaurus.
The Lightning and the Coyotes have a chance, along with the hosts, to make some serious noise and send a bunch of kids to state. Monarch freshman Vince Cornella (who attends Peak to Peak), Cole Polluconi and Parker McQuade head up the Coyotes contingent. Legacy’s 182-pound Drian Hays and league champion Dakota Key could be two of what Lightning coach Mike Thompson hopes are 12 qualifiers for the Lightning.
The lone remaining 5A team is Boulder. The Panthers will be at Arvada West for Region 1. Senior Soren Sovndal has a chance in a wide open 132-pound bracket — where there is only one top-15 wrestler — to punch his ticket.
In Class 4A, Northridge High School in Greeley is the host for Region 3 and all but one of the local St. Vrain Valley schools will be there. The lone exception is Niwot, as the Cougars will head to Region 4 at Golden.
Longmont’s Drake Engelking (160) and Silver Creek’s Jacob Williams (285) are expected to be on top of the podium on Saturday night and after that it is wide open with all the other team.
Teams from Greeley Central, Canon City, Mountain View and Fort Morgan threaten to take a majority of the spots, but look for big things out of these individuals: Mead’s Jeremy Ashton (132), Frederick’s Cruz Jimenez (113), Erie’s Zach Roach (138) and Skyline’s Alex Ortiz (220).
In Class 3A, Holy Family will be in Eaton where sophomore Hunter Branson is the top seed at 152 pounds. Andrew Edwards has been steady all season long for the Tigers at 285 pounds, and also has a good chance to qualify.
In Class 2A, Lyons will make the trek out to Sterling’s Northeastern Junior College for the Region 3 tournament.
The Lions’ brother tandem of Keegan and Karson Bean should not have much trouble getting through. Oran Huff (126 pounds) will have to earn his way against one of the tougher brackets at the site.