Brad Cochi / BoCoPreps.com
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
High school wrestlers will compete for a spot in the state tournament this weekend at one of the 16 regional tournaments across Colorado.
At stake is a place on the state bracket and a spot under the lights at the Pepsi Center. For team races, this weekend is often make-or-break for serious and faux title contenders. The more qualifiers the better. Too few, and any chance at team gold will be vanquished prior to the state tournament.
Check back with BoCoPreps.com for all the latest on regional tournaments, which run Feb. 15-16. Here’s a breakdown of each tournament that includes at least one team from the area:
Class 2A Northeast Region 3
Where: At Wiggins High School
Area teams: Lyons
Outlook: Looking in tune for the final stretch of the season, Lyons was strong at the Eaton Dual Tournament last Saturday as it won three of its four duals. The lone loss came to Wray, the top-ranked team in 2A according to On The Mat’s rankings and probably the favorite to win this region. Even so, the Lions could, and probably should, qualify a good number of wrestlers into the state pool. If they wrestle up to par, names like Oran Huff and Karson Bean will be headed back to the Pepsi Center, while new faces like David Gardner could be joining them.
Wrestler to watch: At 126 pounds, Huff won all four matches at the Eaton Duals last weekend. The weekend before that, he took second in the Valley Viking Invitational. And before that, he won the Northglenn Norse Invite. If the sophomore wrestles up to his abilities this weekend, he should get rewarded with a shiny, high seed on the state bracket.
3A Northern Region 2
Where: Platte Valley High School
Area teams: Holy Family
Outlook: Holy Family has a few interesting prospects coming into this region, including two-time state placer Hunter Branson — who also happens to be the program’s lone returning qualifier. And Joe Szymanski, who has been solid in 152s and has posted a 22-12 record on the season per Trackwrestling.com. Then there’s a darkhorse like Logan Erickson, who took third at both the Tony Tresch Memorial and Englewood Pirates Invitational last month.
Wrestler to watch: Branson. The junior has already made his mark at the state tournament with a pair of sixth-place finishes. Now, with a 28-3 record on the season, a strong showing at regionals could set him up for another podium run at the Pepsi Center.
4A Metro Region 1
Where: Thomas Jefferson High School
Area teams: Longmont, Silver Creek
Outlook: On The Mat has Longmont ninth in its latest rankings. Is that too high? Too low? Regionals and state will have plenty of those answers. What is apparent as of now for the Trojans is the nice collection of talent they boast. They’ve had good seasons from wrestlers in the light and middle weight classes, and, of course, they have returning-champ Drake Engelking leading the way. … Silver Creek, meanwhile, has no returning state qualifiers on its roster coming into this weekend.
Wrestler to watch: Longmont’s Gio Wilson returned to the mat back in January and immediately won the Gary Daum Classic. It was quite the impressive comeback after breaking his wrist in November. Now, skip ahead to this weekend, and another strong showing at regionals should put Wilson back into the state tournament.
4A Northern Region 4
Where: Mead High School
Area teams: Broomfield, Erie, Frederick, Mead, Niwot, Skyline
Outlook: It’s 4A time for Broomfield. Led by four returning state qualifiers, the Eagles head into regionals ranked fourth by On The Mat — the same place it finished in the 5A state tournament a year ago. … Sophomore Rudy Lopez has been marvelous for Erie, recently winning the Northglenn Norse Invite. … Mead has three qualifiers looking to return to the Pepsi Center and could send more, like 285-pounder RJ Lopez. … Skyline has five returning qualifiers and will look to tap into more postseason magic following the football team’s run to the 4A title game. … Niwot, which finished last in this region a year ago, will look to get out of the basement with no seniors and no returning qualifiers on roster.
Wrestler to watch: Coming off a third-place finish at state, Broomfield’s Darren Green could be setting the stage to make another leap. Green has been solid this season. Three weeks ago, he took second in the 32-team Top of the Rockies tournament, bowing out to the defending champ Fabian Santillan in extra time.
5A Region 1
Where: Fruita Monument High School
Area teams: Boulder, Monarch
Outlook: A week ago, Boulder and Monarch had nice showings at the Front Range League Tournament. The Coyotes finished second behind Rocky Mountain and had three individual league champs. The Panthers, meanwhile, were eighth and saw Joey Airola beat Monarch’s Dillon Roman in the 106 finals. Monarch will be looking to send more than three returning qualifiers to the Pepsi Center, while Boulder is aiming to qualify after having no wrestler make it last year.
Wrestler to watch: Monarch’s Vince Cornella is a returning champ and could be in store for more success in the coming weeks. The 113-pounder made noise on the national scene when he took second at the Doc Buchanan Invitational in California earlier in the season.
5A Region 2
Where: Adams City High School
Area teams: Centaurus, Fairview
Outlook: Neither Centaurus or Fairview has a state qualifier on the roster — the validity of that statement, of course, could be in jeopardy by Saturday evening. The Warriors and Knights each have nice prospects. Among them is Fairview’s Brock Granberg, who recently finished third in 152s at the Front Range League Tournament, and Centaurus senior Nathan Uribes, who’s posted a 23-5 record in 195s per Trackwrestling.com.
Wrestler to watch: Granberg has gone 24-4 this season and beat Fort Collins’ Hudson Cropp in the third-place match at the league invite. He is part of a solid group of wrestlers in the middle weights for the Knights.
5A Region 4
Where: Legacy High School
Area teams: Legacy
Outlook: Legacy came into the season with the largest group of returning state qualifiers in the area. Dakota Key and Grady Funk lead a group hoping to make plenty of noise at regionals and beyond. The Lightning finished 10th as a team in the final 5A standings last season and are currently ranked eighth by On The Mat.
Wrestler to watch: No “Key to Success” quips here. Just Key and some highlights. Last year, he finished fourth at state as his two losses of the tournament came to sought-to-be state title contender KJ Kearns of Coronado. And recently, Key won the 152-pound title at the Front Range League Tournament.
Brent W. New: email@example.com and @brentwnew