Sam Federico constantly reminds his wrestlers not to overhype themselves, to remain even-keel throughout the process.
Now the Pomona (Arvada)
coach can tell himself the same thing.
The Panthers qualified 10 wrestlers for the Class 5A state wrestling tournament (Feb. 16-18, Pepsi Center) and are among the favorites to capture a team title. But just like a wrestler gearing up to face a burly opponent, it's no time to let the emotions ride too wildly.
"The team race, it's going to come down to the wire, I think," Federico said. "It's going to be closer than years past. Last year, there were two teams way out in front of everybody. It's going to be way tighter than that."
Last season, champion Coronado (Colorado Springs)
(184.5) and Pomona (164) were more than 50 points ahead of anyone else. Coronado qualified eight wrestlers this season, including reigning champion Adrian Cordova
at 113 pounds – he won at 112 last season – but the Cougars might not have the firepower to challenge for first place again. Pine Creek (Colorado Springs)
matched Pomona with 10 qualifiers, and one of the biggest swing matches could occur at 132. Most observers believe Pine Creek's Geordan Martinez (32-0) will face Pomona's Raymond Robledo (40-3) in the title match. Martinez is a two-time reigning champion, including last season at 119. Robledo has placed twice at state, fourth and second.
"That could be the match of the night, there," said Federico, whose Panthers boast four regional champions in Robledo, Austin Marvel (138), Isaiah Rosales (145) and Archie Colgan (152). Rocky Mountain (Fort Collins)
(eight entrants) also could enter the team race. Mountain Range (Westminster)
, Grand Junction
and perennial power Ponderosa (Parker)
each qualified seven wrestlers and a bevy of schools qualified six.
Additional returning state champions include Regis Jesuit's (Aurora)
John Crowley (37-0) at 160, a two-time winner at the weight, as well as one-time champions Emilio Martniez
of Greeley West
(126), Jesse Carlson of Legacy (Broomfield)
(152) and Chris Frisbie of Castle View (Castle Rock)
In addition to the unbeaten Martinez and Crowley, Loveland's
Jordan Henrickson (40 -0 at 145) and Josh Schoenberger
of Fountain-Fort Carson
(35-0 at 182) enter unblemished. In 4A, defending champion Windsor
is at it again. The top-ranked Wizards qualified 10 wrestlers, including six regional champions. Thompson Valley (Loveland)
qualified a classification-best 13, but most are still earmarking Windsor as the team to beat.
"We try to peak at the end of every year," said Windsor 220-pounder Jack Kuck
, a champion in Region 4. "We want to peak right before regionals, and then (state) week is the big week. That's what we're doing and it feels great. Our bodies are ready to go."
On the Wizards' heels, just like last season, will be Broomfield
. The Eagles advanced seven wrestlers, including defending champions Drew Romero – he won the 3A 103 title for La Junta last season and is now at 106 – and Phil Downing (138). But the Eagles might find be hard-pressed to repeat their second-place performance with the likes of Discovery Canyon (Colorado Springs)
and Roosevelt (Johnstown)
(10 qualifiers apiece) and Pueblo South
And don't forget about Arvada
, which returns three state champs in Marcos Peralta
, Garet Krohn
and Dwight Howes
. At 34-0, the 195-pound Howes is one of four unbeaten wrestlers. The others are Valor Christian's (Highlands Ranch)
Cody Weitzel (35-0) at 132, Clay Bunker of Erie
(39-0) at 152 and Durango
heavyweight Trevor Gillen (44-0).
The lone returning two-time champion is Wheat Ridge
do-it-all athlete Nick Swanson
. After previously winning at 130 and 135, Swanson is at 145 this season. Additional returning champs: Pueblo Central's
Jeremy Baca, who could face off with Broomfield's Romero at 106, Discovery Canyon's A.J. Rees (113) and Pueblo South's Robert DeHerrera (126). This might sound familiar, but Alamosa is the favorite in 3A
. The Mean Moose won by a 56-point margin last season and matched Valley with a classification-best 11 qualifiers this season.
"We don't run into the 3A schools from the northern part of the state too much so I don't have any really strong feelings about which team is going to win the team race," iconic Alamosa coach Gary Ramstetter said. "I think Olathe and Valley will be strong contenders."
What about the Mean Moose? While none of the 11 qualifiers are a returning champion, some could soon add that label to their resumes.
"Individually, our guys have a quite a few losses," Ramstetter said. "But the ones I think have the best chance for a title are Neff Malouff (113), Pablo Ortiz (138), Dakoda Curtis (152) and Brandon Bertsch (160)."Olathe
qualified nine wrestlers, including Zach Shank at 132, one of two two-time returning champs. The other is Dolores Huerta Prep's (Pueblo)
A.J. Salazar at 120, who won one of his at Lake County. Rifle
also is sending nine and Florence
and Centauri (La Jara)
Included in among Centauri's haul is returning 145 champion Micah Keys, at 152 this season. Bayfield's
Aaron Velasquez (160) and Middle Park's (Granby)
Brian Macchione (195) also are returning title winners.
The most compelling weight class undoubtedly will be 170, which features three of the classification's four undefeated wrestlers (Macchione is the other). Valley's (Gilcrest)
Austin Trujillo (41-0), Grand Valley's (Parachute)
Daniel Witt (39-0) and Bennett's
Caleb Copeland (24-0) all will vie for the top step on the podium. In 2A, Paonia qualified a wrestler at every weight
– that's right, 14. The top-ranked Eagles might be the story team-wise, but individually, the theme might be all about repetition. That's because nine title-winners return, including Ignacio's
Alex Pena, a three-time champ who is at 126 this season.
"Alex is seeded No. 1. But that 126 bracket is no joke . . . it's loaded this year," Ignacio head coach Bob Overturf told the Durango Herald.
Pena could find challenge from defending 130 champ Robert Darnell
, who is the No. 2 seed. Rocky Ford
and South Baca County
each have 12 qualifiers, while defending champion Burlington
might have a tough time repeating with only seven (although returning champs Daniel Walsh and Cole Briegel will represent the Cougars). Fowler,
second place last season, is sending nine to state. Akron
, fourth last season, qualified eight, including the classification's only undefeated wrestler in Caleb Christensen. The 220-pounder is 33-0.
The 106 final could be a dandy if it involves Burlington's Walsh and Rocky Ford's Ray Rodriguez. Walsh won at 103 last season while Rodriguez won the weight in 2010. Rodriguez joins Michael Smithey as previous champions on the Meloneers roster. Holyoke's
Mark Edmonds, last year's 112 champ, will try to do the same at 132. Tray Sickels of Nucla
will look to repeat at 152 (possibly against Smithey), while former 160 champ Brent Harris of Norwood
has moved to 170.
While Paonia does not feature a returning state champion, 12 Eagles wrestlers advanced to the regional final with six capturing the crown.
The state tournament will be broadcast on chsaa.tv
and results can be tracked at TrackWrestling.com