With the regional tournament one month away and the start of the state tournament looming Feb. 15, Denver Post preps editor Kyle Newman breaks down five storylines to watch in Classes 5A and 4A wrestling during the second half of the season.
Pomona, County dominating
If the first half of the season has cemented anything, it’s that it’s going to be tough to deny two-time defending champions Pomona (5A) and Pueblo County (4A) of a three-peat at the Pepsi Center.
Both teams are top-ranked by On The Mat and are loaded, with the Panthers highlighted by defending champions Theorius Robison (No. 1 at 132 pounds) and Colton Yapoujian (No. 1 at 138), while the Hornets also boast a defending champion in Brendon Garcia (No. 1 at 113).
And beyond each team’s star power, the depth of both programs — the Panthers have five wrestlers in the top four in their respective weights, and the Hornets have eight — will likely make it a one-horse race at state in each classification.
Watch out for Windsor
The Wizards are No. 2 in 4A thanks to a core featuring Will Vombaur (No. 2 at 113), Vance Vombaur (No. 1 at 120), Dominick Serrano (No. 1 at 126), Cody Eaton (No. 4 at 152), Isaiah Salazar (No. 1 at 170) and Victor Bravo (No. 4 at 285).
Tenth-year coach Monte Trusty specifically credited the Vombaur brothers, as well as the team’s defending state champions in Serrano and Salazar (who won a 3A title at Eaton last season), with motivating the team as a whole.
“Our leaders have elevated the room, and if we’re on a lift or a run, those guys are out in front pushing the pace,” Trusty said. “That increased intensity on the training side of things has translated to the competition side of things for everyone in our lineup.”
Brighton keeps on building
Brighton is back again with an array of scrappy grapplers who are intent on proving last year’s third-place team finish at state — the first time the Bulldogs had finished in the top five in a decade — was no fluke.
Though 5A No. 5 Brighton like can’t challenge Pomona for the program’s eighth state title and first since 1994, the Bulldogs do have an array of guys who can make noise at the Pepsi Center, including Kenny Sailas (No. 3 at 106), Jarron Martinez (No. 3 at 113), Nathan Baca (No. 5 at 160), Tarron Adams (No. 4 at 170), Santana Solano (No. 5 at 220) and Marselino Vazquez (No. 4 at 285).
And with the recent return of G’avonti Patton at 126 and Ian Helwick at 285, the Bulldogs will see some shuffling in a lineup that is only getting deeper.
“I think we’re going to be a better state tournament team than we were last year,” Brighton coach Tom Wagner said. “I don’t know if we’ll qualify 12 again, but we have a lot of guys who can go make a run at a title.”
Monarch’s lower-weight contenders
The 5A No. 4 Coyotes are stacked in the middle weights and below, starting with Parker McQuade (No. 2 at 152) and followed by Xander Rens (No. 4 at 145), Cole Polluconi (No. 2 at 138), Alex Scott (No. 4 at 126) and Vince Cornella (No. 1 at 106).
Monarch placed 11th as a team last year, but can easily be a top-three finisher in 2018 if the Coyotes are wrestling their best come February under 10th-year head coach Ezra Paddock.
Funk’s deep wrestling roots
Legacy’s Aidan Funk, ranked No. 1 in 5A at 170, is attempting to become the latest Lightning individual champion since Ryan Deakin in 2016 as he follows in the footsteps of his older brother and father.
Aidan’s brother Nolan, now wrestling at South Dakota State, was the 2016 5A runner-up at 195. And their dad, Legacy Boltz Youth Wrestling Club coach Mike Funk, was a two-time state champion in Ohio before going on to become a four-time All-American at Northwestern.
The senior placed third at 160 last season.