With four returning state qualifiers from a year ago, Woodland Park wrestling coach Keith Sieracki is as excited as he’s ever been in his eight seasons with the program.
“I think we can have at least six guys get to state this year, and maybe even a couple win if everything falls into place,” Sieracki said.
The four returning state qualifiers are seniors Jake Garner (160) and Brad Conlin (138), and juniors Zach Dooley (106) and Cole Gray (152). All four will wrestle up at least one class this season.
Dooley took fourth place in February at the Pepsi Center in Denver, the best finish for a Panther wrestler during Sieracki’s tenure.
“Zach has a really good shot at winning,” Sieracki said. “If Cole can keep confident and has a good positive attitude he could win it or be in the top three.”
Dooley’s father, Scott, is working with the Panthers as an assistant coach this season. Scott was a two-time undefeated state champ with Bear Creek in the late 1980s.
Sieracki also believes two other wrestlers in his program have an excellent shot at placing (top six) at state; freshman Brady Hankin (106) and sophomore Colton Simonis (132).
“Colton is ready to break through this year,” Sieracki said.
Hankin comes to the Panthers after being at Manitou Springs Middle School. His older brother, Jess, was a two-time state champion for Coronado.
“I wish I could take credit for Colton, but he travels all over the U.S. with his father and wrestles every weekend.” Sieracki said.
Other top Panthers are expected to be freshman Kaeden Thompson (126), sophomore Darren Genger (145 or 152), freshmen twins Adam and Ely Garner (145 or 152), sophomore Chris Mast (182) and junior Jake Blake (220).
The Panthers open their season with a dual meet at Buena Vista Saturday.
“We’ll get in five rounds so that will be a good start,” Sieracki said.
Woodland Park will wrestle in the Pueblo East Tournament and prestigious University of Northern Colorado Tournament prior to their first home match Dec. 19 against Cañon City. Sieracki said that the home meet will likely take place in the school’s auditorium instead of the gymnasium.
“It will be kind of neat for the fans to have theater-style seating with the spotlight on the wrestlers on the stage,” Sieracki said.
Sieracki and his team acquired a new wrestling mat three weeks ago. The coach said the cost was about $13,000.
“No more using tape to put it together,” Sieracki said. “We can easily transport it.
“A new one was long overdue. The old one was becoming a safety issue more than anything else.”