With Brady Hankin and Cole Gray leading the way, the Woodland Park High School wresting team heads to Pueblo Central this weekend for the Class 3A Region 4 tournament.
The top four wrestlers in each weight classification advance to the state tournament, which will take place Feb. 21-23 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
“I think we could have several state champions this year, and several other guys medal,” said Woodland Park coach Keith Sieracki.
Sieracki is making sure his grapplers are staying focused on this weekend’s regional and not looking ahead to the state tournament.
“I tell the guys, ‘Fear no one. Treat everybody with respect. And whatever you do, leave it all on the mat,’” Sieracki said.
Hankin, a 106-pounder, is 20-1 this season. He is the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the state in 3A by OnTheMat.
Hankin’s lone loss was to Brighton’s Kenny Sailas — the No. 1 wrestler in 5A — at the University of Colorado Christmas Classic in December. Hankin lost 4-2 in the finals.
Gray (160) is 24-3 and ranked second in the state. Two of his losses are to No. 1-ranked Jaziah Whaley of Valley by scores of 6-3 and 5-4.
“Cole has closed the gap a ton with (Whaley),” Sieracki said. “Last year, Cole lost to him at state, 15-0.”
Gray’s other loss was to Pueblo County’s Christopher Fasano, the No. 1-ranked wrestler in 4A, 11-8.
Gray is already a two-time state qualifier.
Woodland Park junior Zach Dooley (113) is the other Panther Sieracki believes has a great chance of winning a gold medal. Dooley is ranked ninth in his weight class, but Sieracki said Dooley has defeated everyone ahead of him in his weight class at least once over the last two years.
Dooley is coming back from a knee injury and has not wrestled in a few weeks.
“We’re not trying to baby Zach, but we want to make sure he’s ready before we throw him back out there,” Sieracki said.
Sieracki believes that as many five other Panthers have a chance of advancing to the state tournament. They are Jacob Garner (172), Colton Simonis (132), Brad Conlin (138), and freshmen twin brothers Adam Garner (145) and Eli Garner (152).
“We have a lot of guys who can get to state if they have a good regional,” Sieracki said. “And they could all place at state.”
Woodland Park has only had two state champions in their history: Rick Stennett (1975) and Jason Roshek (1989).
“It’s time we have some recent champions,” Sieracki said.
Woodland Park’s regional consists of 13 schools. The others are: The Classical Academy, Colorado Springs Christian School, Manitou Springs, Lamar, Florence, Pueblo Central, Ridgeview Academy, Brush, James Irwin, La Junta, Sierra and Salida.
Regional wrestling begins at 2 p.m. on Friday and runs all day Saturday.