It’s always nice to bring a souvenir home from a trip.
The Cedaredge High School wrestling team brought home the Class 2A runner-up trophy from the Colorado state wrestling championships. It was the school’s first state wrestling trophy, and with nine returning with state tournament experience, including two state champions, chances are they could bring home more hardware from a 2020 trip to Denver.
Perennial Class 5A power Grand Junction finished third last season and once again will field a star-studded team, led by senior Dawson Collins.
The top-ranked wrestler at 120 pounds by On the Mat, Collins finished second as freshman, first as sophomore and third last season. He could join Nucla’s Tucker Lane and former teammate Josiah Rider as the only four-time Warrior Classic champions in that tournament’s storied 43-year history.
Here’s a look at the area wrestling teams:
Fruita Monument coach Lucas Archuleta begins his third year. He has a good mix of upperclassmen and newcomers. Seniors Jeremiah Williams and Jacob Kiefer have state tournament experience.
A couple of other seniors, Hunter Reile and Mason Hoisington, as well as junior Espin Hernandez and sophomore Caleb Williams look to bolster a full lineup.
For Archuleta, the team mantra is “to be better every day — and not just as wrestlers, but as students and community members.”
Second-ranked Grand Junction is coached by 11-year veteran Cole Allison, who led the Tigers to their third straight Warrior Classic title last December and the school’s fourth overall. Joining Collins as a returning Warrior Classic champion is No. 2-ranked 132-pound junior Kieran Thompson, who has placed fifth and sixth at the state tournament.
“When I was a freshman and sophomore, I would hesitate. Now when I wrestle, whatever happens, happens. If I get scored on I focus on scoring the next points,” Thompson said.
Overall, the Tigers have six state qualifiers returning. Seniors Christian Hafey, Caid Lopez, and Junious Gooden, as well as No. 1 ranked 106-pound sophomore Andrew Leyba are back.
Leyba was a runner-up at last year’s Warrior Classic and Hafey is ranked No. 3 at 160 pounds.
Finishing third last season, Collins lost a state semifinal match 7-5 in sudden victory to Ponderosa sophomore Jaron Mahler, a wrestler he had defeated in the past.
“It was the biggest wake-up call. After state I took a break for two or three weeks, then started texting my workout buddies. I worked out a lot with Kieran and hit the gym to become bigger and stronger,” Collins said.
Collins has signed to wrestle for Utah Valley. “I now watch more college wrestling. In college there are no ‘warm-up’ matches in tournaments. Everyone is a state champ,” Collins said.
Central Coach Clint Trujillo takes over for Laurence Gurule, who retired after 36 years as part of the Warrior program, 21 as head coach. Trujillo, who wrestled for the Warriors, inherits a team that finished seventh with five state qualifiers back, including fifth-place returning medalists Davian Sandoval and Jagger Wade. Wade, a senior, is ranked No. 2 at 132 pounds. Sandoval, a junior ranked No. 3 at 120 pounds, compiled a 40-10 record last season and placed fourth at last year’s Warrior Classic.
Wade is a three-time state qualifier.
“I want to win state,” Wade said. “The past couple of years I really haven’t shown myself. I really want people to see who I am before I leave.”
A one-point loss in last year’s state semifinals kept Sandoval from wrestling for the top prize. He had an impressive tournament run in the highly competitive Class 4A.
“Honestly, I really didn’t expect to get that far,” Sandoval said. “When I made it to the semifinals I was really excited.
“I had beaten (Pueblo Centennial’s Dominic Castro) in overtime earlier in the season. I should have done more shooting and create more angles. It was my duty to make something happen.”
Other Warriors with state tournament experience are seniors Luke Pleasant, who also won 40 matches, Isreal Lima and junior Jason Pollard.
“We coach our wrestlers to handle adversity, with a great attitude through every situation. Respect, attitude and work ethic is our motto,” Trujillo said.
Five returning state qualifiers return for Montrose under the guidance of coach Neil Samples. Seniors Ben Robuck and Cole Simmons jump right from a successful football campaign to the mat with the goal to reach the podium at the state tournament. Robuck brought home a sixth-place medal in the 2017-18 season and he and Simmons were one match win away from more medals last season.
Robuck and Simmons are ranked No. 3 at 170 and 182 pounds, respectively. Working also to return to Denver in February is senior Jacob Padilla and juniors Raul Martinez and Colten Brueggeman.
One again Palisade will field a young team. Last season Tanner Ridgway coached a couple of freshman to the state tournament. Judah Guajardo and Franklin Banks completed the difficult task, and with six other teammates with regional tournament experience, the Bulldogs’ future looks bright.
Delta Coach Clayton Curtis enters his 14th year managing the Panthers’ fortunes. Senior Gauge Lockhart, coming off a successful football season, is a favorite to win a state title. Ranked No. 1 at 195 pounds, he placed third last season. Other returning state qualifiers are juniors Jeffery Griffith, Eli Miramontes and Ben Koch, who was one match win away from a medal.
Bryan Vashus takes over at Grand Valley. Wrestlers returning with state tournament experience for the Cardinals include senior Isaiah Tigert and Hayden Grice, who qualified as a freshman. Two newcomers who figure to do well in the Cardinal lineup are senior Conrad Demann, who transferred from Rifle, and Yancy Cose, a junior from Kansas. Demann qualified for state in the 2017-18 season and fashioned a 30-12 record last season. Because of the transfer rule, Demann will not be eligible until January.
Olathe returns two state qualifiers for coach Tee Jay Rose. Senior Brent Gray was 40-9, and junior Wyatt Mansker finished 35-11. Four other Pirates return with regional tournament experience.
The Rifle Bears have nine wrestlers returning with regional tournament experience. Two have participated at the state tournament, seniors Alejandro Robles and Cauy Smith. Smith has a career record of 96-32 and was one win away from a medal in the 2017-18 season.
Over the past couple of seasons, Cedaredge has tasted team and individual success. Prior to two seasons ago when Sean Dale and Trey Geyer won state titles, the Bruins hadn’t had a state champ since 1986.
Of the nine returning wrestlers with state tournament experience, five have earned medals and two others were one win away. Currently seven Bruins are ranked in the top 10 in their weight class.
Geyer, a junior and ranked No. 1 at 126 pounds, is on track to become the next four-time state champion from the Western Slope.
“I don’t think much about being a four-timer. I look at it as one match at a time. Even having one loss, like losing last year to Dawson (Collins) shows me what I’m doing wrong,” Geyer said. Geyer placed second at the Warrior Classic last season.
Dale, a three-time state qualifier, looks to return to his 2017-18 form when he won the state title. Nagging injuries restricted his performance last season. Sophomore Lane Hunsberger and junior Derek Sanchez are both ranked third at 113 and 285 pounds, respectively.
Hotchkiss consistently makes its presence felt at the state tournament, finishing in the top 10 the previous five seasons. The Bulldogs start this season with the No. 10 ranking.
Duff Seaney, who coached at Cañon City for 30 years, winning the 2000 state title, takes over for Richard Flores. Hotchkiss will have five returning state qualifiers, three who brought home medals and the other two were one match win away.
Seniors Jace Peebles and J.D. Miller placed fifth and sixth, respectively, and junior Traycer Hall earned a fifth-place medal. Juniors Robert Cochran and Christian Matus just missed out of the medal round. Peebles is ranked No. 3 at 170 pounds.
Meeker Coach J.C. Watt will be working with a relatively young team.
Meeker does have four returning state qualifiers, with No. 3 ranked 195-pound junior Colby Clatterbaugh and senior Ridge Williams both finishing one match win away from a medal. Sophomore Ty Goedert and junior Dax Sheridan also have state tournament experience.
With five team state titles and 37 individual state champions, Paonia has developed a reputation as a successful program.
The Eagles finished fourth last season and return six wrestlers with state tournament experience. Leading the way for coach Nate Wiggins are Grey Neal and Levi Peterson. The past two seasons, Neal has finished third, and Peterson was third in the 2017-18 season and was a state finalist last season.
Both are currently ranked No. 2 at 170 and 285 pounds, respectively. Neal, a three-time state qualifier, is also a returning Warrior Classic champion. Paonia is ranked No. 8.
“When I have kids out-perform expectations, that is success,” Wiggins said.
This is the second season of the Colorado High School Activities Association girls wrestling pilot program. Girls wrestling will become a sanctioned sports beginning in the 2020-2021 school year.
Delta’s Nicole Koch won the 118-pound title in last year’s girls state tournament.
Kierstin Myers of Montrose (136) and Norma Alejandro of Olathe (185), both placed fourth.
It’s unlikely many schools will field a full team, so it’s possible “district” teams will eventually be formed.
Grand Valley, which has five girls on its team, is hosting a girls tournament Jan. 26 in Parachute.