Last season, Coronado captured the city’s first state wrestling title in 37 years. The wait for the next area champion may be much shorter – maybe as little as 364 days.
Pine Creek and Discovery Canyon claimed third place in 5A and 4A, respectively, last season and have positioned themselves as contenders again. Each brings back eight past state qualifiers, led by a 2010 champion.
Geordan “Geo” Martinez captured the 5A 119-pound title for Pine Creek – his second - while fellow junior and 4A 112 champion AJ Rees leads the way for the Thunder.
While their experience and depth stand out, that is not to say either team will have it easy. In fact, neither has been tabbed the favorite by serious observers.
Pomona returns seven state qualifiers – all placers, six who finished in the top three – from its second-place squad in 5A.
In 4A, Roosevelt has nine state qualifiers back while defending champion Windsor and runner-up Broomfield each have four returners from deep programs. Arvada has three returning state champs.
Pine Creek Eagles coach Billy Gabel thinks he has five wrestlers who could win titles this year.
Seniors Jerry McGinty (third last year) and Brandon Tribble (fifth), juniors Alex Smith and Derrick Ortiz and sophomore Chris Cos (all sixth) all return, along with qualifiers Alex Markowski and Ian Kluckman, both seniors.
Florida transfer Trenton Watson and freshmen Zach Moye should also make an impact for Pine Creek right away.
“I’m pushing guys, if their expectation is to be a state qualifier then they need to up that to expect to be a state placer to help with team points,” Gabel said.
In addition to Rees, the Thunder return seniors Garrett Adams (fourth), Tim Call, Bryce Oberg, Robert Martinez and Brandon Sperle (qualified as sophomore), junior Steve Turner and sophomore David Traynor.
The elimination of a weight class between 125-145 will only ratchet up the intensity in the practice room – a trend coach Ron Sukle saw beginning last season.
“They just battle every day at practice and now they’re getting more of a sense of ‘hey we’re in this together now’,” Sukle said. “I think the boys really established what they think and where they want to go.”
Rees echoed that sentiment, also citing the confidence boost provided by last season’s performance at state.
“Our mindset is basically that we can compete with anyone,” Rees said. “We’re all on the same page now, not trying to outdo each other. We’re just all training for the same goal, which is to win that state title.”
They aren’t the only teams with championship aspirations. Coronado lost 10 to graduation, but it got back state qualifiers Adrian Cordova (5A 112 champion) and Devan Cruz (sixth), both juniors, senior Trevor Powers and sophomore Devin House and a solid heavyweight in senior Justin West.
Fountain-Fort Carson finished 11th last year and hopes to insert itself into the list of state title hopefuls in 5A. Runner-up Josh Schoenberger, Jacob Mondragon (fourth) and Seth Wilson, all seniors, and sophomore Mykal Mason are joined by three experienced freshmen in a deep lineup. Coach Chris James thinks he has three finalists and eight state placers, which would put the Trojans in the hunt for the team title.
“Every year has been the best ever and that’s the way it should be with the plan we have in place.”