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Jenna Joseph, of Mead, wins at ...
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Jenna Joseph, of Mead, wins at 161 pounds in the girls division during the semifinals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Denver on Feb. 18, 2022.

DENVER — Jenna Joseph wasn’t intimidated when she stepped onto the mat at Ball Arena for the first time in her four-year high school wrestling career.

Though the Mead senior had never wrestled in the most coveted venue in Colorado for her state tournament bid, she had plenty of state experience at the former venue of Thornton High School. That made her semifinal win on Friday night in the 161-pound weight class even more sweet.

Despite going scoreless for the first four-plus minutes of the match, Joseph found a way to win in exciting fashion when she pinned Fort Lupton’s Anastyn Livesay at the 4:28 mark in the third period.

“It’s definitely bigger, louder, a little bit more intimidating but once you get out on that mat, it’s pretty drowned out. You don’t really notice it too much,” Joseph said. “It feels really good to know that even though there’s no score yet, you can still come out on top.

“I think it’s good to show me that I probably will end up going third period because my other two matches ended in the second. It’s nice to at least get to that third period, even if it’s not all the way through so I know what to expect for tomorrow.”

Joseph, who entered the tournament ranked second in her weight class in Tim Yount’s On The Mat rankings, will now have to face off against Platte Valley’s third-ranked Navea Garcia in the championship match on Saturday night.

She knows her well after facing her four times earlier in the season and defeating her twice. But, more than anything, she’s just excited to see how far the girls sport has come in just a short time.

“I think it’s just good for (the other girls) to see that yes, it came this far in four years,” Joseph said. “It’s come so far in just the past 10 years, even, just in general as a sport. To see it at the same competition level, the same venue as the guys with all of the guys who have been here for 80-some years just kind of shows that it’s possible and we’re just as good, if not better, than they are.”

Vigil looks to repeat

Broomfield’s Ryan Vigil long ago learned the lessons of heartache on the wrestling mat and made sure they would fuel him in reaching the places he wanted to go.

Vigil returns to the Class 4A state finals for a second straight season, looking to add another gold. The Eagles senior sealed his place in Championship Saturday at Ball Arena with a major decision win over Mead’s Leister Bowling in the quarterfinals and a pin against Cheyenne Mountain’s Raife Manjarrez in the semifinals Friday.

For Vigil, success has been a journey earned through disappointment. He missed weight at regionals his freshman season and followed his sophomore season with an overtime loss to a kid he believes he really shouldn’t have.

From there, he won the 138-pound title last season in Pueblo. He will face Pueblo East’s Sebastian Freeman in the 152 finals Saturday.

“It’s fueled me a lot,” Vigil said. “This time of year, you always have to show up. Anyone can be beat. The best kids can be beat. My freshman and sophomore seasons made me want to come out last year to win, and this year to defend it.”

Salazar looks to avenge last year’s state title match

When Erie’s Ramon Salazar got deeper and deeper into his 4A semifinal match against Pueblo Centennial’s Jason Soto at 126 pounds, he knew he had to make a move late if he wanted to work his way back to the state title match.

He did just that when, with just seconds left on the clock, he scored two points to secure a 5-2 victory. Now, he’ll get the chance to avenge last year’s gold-medal-match loss to Pueblo County’s Eric Griego when he goes head-to-head with Greeley Central’s Mikai Alirez on Saturday night for state championship glory.

Malek takes match all the way down to the wire

Gavin Malek couldn’t knock out Thompson Valley’s Ronan Bittner in regulation during his 4A semifinal match at 195 pounds. No, he needed extra time to get the job done. The low-scoring affair needed a tie-breaker and a final score of 2-1 to send Malek to the championship match.

There, he’ll face off with Cheyenne Mountain’s Nico Gagliardi, who’s the heavy favorite to win after going 48-1 to get to this point. Malek’s momentum, and the state stage, will certainly come into play, however.

Funk wins all-BoCo semifinal affair

When Legacy’s third-ranked Gavin Funk and Monarch’s fourth-ranked Zach Ferrera met up in the semifinals of the 5A 195-pound weight class, there was no question it would be an exciting affair.

When the two first met at the Top of the Rockies, Funk nearly ran out of time to pin him before doing so with nine seconds left in the match. A week later, he won in an 8-3 decision. That head-to-head experience seems to have done him a lot of good as, when the two met up once again on Friday night, he ended Ferrera’s run toward gold midway through the second period.

Now, Funk will have to battle Chaparral’s Geoffery Freeman for state championship glory.

Roman into 5A finals

Monarch’s Dillon Roman dominated his way through the 138-pound bracket to reach Saturday’s finals.

The Coyotes senior, ranked second in the weight class, recorded a decision and two pins, including one 5:28 into his semifinal against Cherry Creek’s Jacob Baldessari. He’ll face top-ranked Jacob Bostelman of Ponderosa Saturday.

Last year, Roman took third.

Carlucci shows great strides from last season

When Monarch’s Cole Carlucci hit the mats for the 2022 state championships, he had a fifth-place finish from 2021 to lend toward his now senior-year experience. Clearly, the added year of maturity has paid off.

On Friday night, he punched his ticket to the state title match when he defeated Poudre’s Saje Camirand in a hard-fought 6-3 decision. Now, he’ll get to show the 5A competition just how far he’s come in a year.

The BoCoPreps area had 16 wrestlers reach the semifinals

Eight bowed out from there.

Among those who were a step shy of reaching Saturday’s finals were Lyons’ Jaden Gardner in 2A and Holy Family’s Brayden Bach (106) and Abram Moore (220) in 3A.

Erie’s Michael Brazeau (170) and Mead’s Dalton Berg just missed in 4A. Monarch, which had six wrestlers in the semifinals, saw Jimmy Grace (285), Ferrera (195) and Brayden Legge (120) bow out and into consolations. On the girls side, Broomfield’s Max Ziegler is 2-1 for the tournament after falling in the 215-pound semis.

The possibility of third place exists for all of those athletes.

In the team races, Monarch was third in 5A going into Saturday. Erie was fifth in 4A, while Broomfield was ninth.