One tough weight: Warrior Classic 119-pound weight class features plenty of state’s top wrestlers
Jaqub Gurule is ready to show he belongs among the state’s elite.
The Central High School senior hasn’t won a state title or a Warrior Classic title, but he has won his share of matches, which is an achievement considering Gurule is in a weight class with some of the toughest wrestlers in the region.
Gurule wrestles at 119 pounds, a weight that includes three state champions and one state runner-up in the Warrior Classic.
“(The 119-pound weight class) is loaded,” Gurule said. “I’m excited for it. You get to see what everyone has and possibly meet up with them again at state.”
Gurule recorded a pin and a technical fall Friday on the first day of the Warrior Classic at Brownson Arena to advance to the quarterfinals.
“I told myself I had to win it,” he said. “I want to wrestle Zach Shank and see how I do.”
Gurule just missed wrestling Olathe’s Shank last week at the Maverick Duals, but he did wrestle him in a dual tournament last year and won.
“When the quarterfinals start, that’s where you meet the better kids,” Gurule said.
Gurule (5-0) will get to wrestle Shank in the quarterfinals at 9 a.m. today at Brownson Arena.
Roosevelt, vying to become the first four-time team champion, leads the team standings with 78 points. Central is second with 67 and Palisade third with 64.5. Green River is fourth with 61 points. Grand Junction is seventh (57) and Fruita Monument 10th (50).
Shank, a returning Class 3A state champion for the Pirates, pinned Arien Charley of Kirtland Central (N.M.) in the second round.
If Gurule can defeat Shank, he would face the winner of a Class 4A matchup between top-ranked Courtland Hacker of Broomfield, who won the Warrior Classic last year, and third-ranked Cody Nelson of Moffat County.
In the other half of the bracket, Grand Junction’s Chase Arietta (10-1) pinned his first two opponents to earn a matchup with Utah’s Class 3A state champion, Colby Christensen.
“I’m feeling a lot better,” Arietta said. “I’m more confident this year. I have new coach. It’s not much different, but the work is picking up. We’re doing better.”
Christensen pinned Dove Creek’s Dalton Randolph in 23 seconds in the second round.
“I don’t know about him,” Arietta said. “I don’t look at the bracket. I wait until they call my name and warm up.”
If Arietta can upset Christensen, he could face another state champion in Rocky Mountain’s Jeremey Schmitt.
Schmitt, though, will have to beat Palisade’s Daniel Salazar, ranked fifth in 4A and a returning state placer at 103 pounds.
Salazar, who has one loss this season, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 10-4 decision over seventh-ranked Kole Chadwick of Cortez.
“The thing with Daniel is he gives 110 percent,” Palisade coach Brian Rush said. “He’s good. He’s working extra hard. He is very coachable. He’s a good wrestler. He’s got it all. He never backs down. His goal is to win.
“With that attitude, he’ll win a lot of matches.”
The 119-pound weight class isn’t the only one with several state champion contenders.
The 160-pound class includes 5A’s top-ranked Jackson Julian of Chaparral, the second and third-ranked wrestlers in Class 4A, a third-ranked wrestler in 3A and 2A’s top wrestler.
Somewhere in the mix is Fruita Monument’s Kyle Hamaker.
The senior, ranked eighth in 5A, pinned his first two opponents, but now faces Broomfield’s Connor King in the quarterfinals. King, ranked second in 4A, won a 5-3 decision over Uintah’s Matt Sunkees.
If Hamaker (12-2) wins that match, he will wrestle Julian or third-ranked Blake Nygren of Roosevelt in the semifinals.
“It’s tough,” Hamaker said. “I didn’t think Julian would be wrestling. I saw him on crutches before the season.
“I have to wrestle my best. Anything can happen. My goal is to place. It would mean I’ve come a lot further than last year. It would bring up my confidence.”
The other half of the 160-pound bracket includes the top-ranked wrestler in 2A, Paonia’s Justin Smith, the third-ranked wrestler in 3A, Kyle Piatt of Olathe, and Class 5A’s fifth-ranked John Zabala of Arvada West.
Hamaker lost to Julian and Piatt in last year’s tournament.