The perception is that the athletic programs at
are the Pittsburgh Pirates of Colorado high school sports: A few good athletes here and there, but never any successful seasons.
There is no denying that the Bulldogs generally are outmanned, outsized and often struggle in team sports, but there is one program that has been immune to the losing: the wrestling team.
Call Marcos Peralta
and Dwight Howes
trend breakers. Each senior has committed to a Division I program, pumping much needed pride into the school's athletic department. Howes, who wrestles at 195 pounds, will attend Hofstra (N.Y.). Peralta (160) will attend American, located in Washington, D.C.
"It's definitely something special, especially in wrestling because you rarely see two D-I kids on any program," Arvada coach John Howes said. "Both of them were kids who came up through our little league program, and they've branched out to where they wrestle year-round. And when we took them back to nationals, they did very well."
Dwight Howes, the nephew of coach Howes, and Peralta are reigning state champions in Class 4A (Howes at 189, Peralta 160), as is junior Garet Krohn
, who won at 152 pounds. Krohn soon could become the next Bulldogs' Division I wrestler.
"We have good individuals in some sports, but wrestling has been a sense of pride for the school," Peralta said. "We're the only one that has done consistently well."
Peralta was ranked 20th in the nation in one publication entering the season, while Howes has been ranked Nos. 8, 11 and 12 depending on where you look.
The Bulldogs typically bring their marquee wrestlers to nationals in Virginia Beach each May, and that's where Peralta was spotted by his future university. Wyoming and Fort Hays State (Kan.) also were hot on his trail, but he decided to go east and become an American Eagle.
"They called me in July," Peralta said. "I had never heard of them and they gave me a phone call, and it went from there. I took a visit to Wyoming, but overall American was the best choice and had the best offer."
Peralta played football as a freshman but eschewed the opportunity thereafter – "too many injuries," he said – to focus on wrestling. Howes also played as a freshman, but he rejoined the team this fall. Knowing wrestling and football are two different animals at the school, Howes was careful when asked in late August whether he believed he could impart some of his state-championship savvy to help resurrect the program.
"No," he said. "I'm just going to do what I can to contribute. I'll play wherever they want to put me."
The team went 3-7 – a marked improvement after going winless the season before – and Howes rushed for 483 yards and made 49 tackles. But more importantly, particularly from a wrestling perspective, he made it through healthy.
There is another Howes on the wrestling team, freshman Brock Howes
, and this is where it gets a little confusing. Brock Howes is the coach's son, while Dwight is the son of the coach's brother, Jim.
Brock Howes plays football at Dakota Ridge (Littleton, Colo.)
– he was the starting nose tackle – but is allowed to wrestle at Arvada (also at 195 pounds) because Dakota Ridge disbanded its program. That will keep John Howes at Arvada at least four more years. He had planned to retire after this season, his 13th as the head coach.
If the last name sounds familiar, it should. Bolton Howes was Dakota Ridge's starting quarterback for three seasons. He is John's son and Brock's brother, which makes him Dwight's cousin. Bolton now plays football for Macalester College (Minn.) as a wide receiver.
But this season is all about Dwight and his buddy, Peralta, who have found their way to the next level in astonishingly different ways.
"Dwight is more of a technical wrestler," John Howes said. "He knows a lot of little things. He's a lot stronger at Greco than freestyle, which a lot of people don't know. It's funny, because a lot of people go out there and say, ‘I know he'll take me down, so if I tie him up, I'll try to throw him.' Very seldom will you throw Dwight.
"Marcos, he'll just pound you for 6 minutes. He's nonstop."
Quietly, the wrestling program has been nonstop itself. In John Howes' 13 seasons, the Bulldogs failed to place a wrestler at state only four times.
Perhaps it will take something like this, two D-I wrestlers in one season, to erase the perception that Arvada lacks top-notch athletes.