2/8/2006 1:40:00 PM 

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Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel & Daily Sun

Eaglecrest senior Rocco DePaolo, top, won the 130-pound championship against Pomona’s Trevor Schuch Jan. 28 at the Abraham Lincoln Invitational. DePaolo is the state’s top-ranked wrestler in 5A and is also No. 1 in the Region 1 tournament Feb. 10-11 at Arapahoe.

For more photos like this go to the Aurora Sentinel Photo Gallery

Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel & Daily Sun

Grandview senior Jon Brascetta, top, took down Aurora Central’s Donnie Featherman in the 145-pound final of the Rangeview Invitational Jan. 7. Brascetta is the No. 1 seed in Region 1, while Featherman is seventh in the Region 4 field at Doherty.

For more photos like this go to the Aurora Sentinel Photo Gallery

Wrestlers try to get to final period
Nine city teams vie for trips to state at Pepsi

By Courtney Oakes
The Aurora Sentinel and Daily Sun

Region 1 will have one less team than the other three in Class 5A state wrestling qualifying Feb. 10-11.

With only 15 squads instead of 16 thanks to Hinkley dropping out, the fight for the four available state spots in 14 weight classes will be slightly easier for the group at Arapahoe.

It will also be easier given the team chase basically ends when three-time defending 5A champ Ponderosa walks in the gym doors. But wrestlers from Eaglecrest, Grandview, Overland and Rangeview could have plenty of individuals punching their tickets to the Pepsi Center Feb. 16-18 when Colorado’s wrestling world assembles for the state tournament.

Regis and Smoky Hill are both among the Region 2 group at Green Mountain, while Gateway is in the Region 3 tournament at Legacy, and Aurora Central heads to Colorado Springs where Region 4 convenes at Doherty. In 4A, Cherokee Trail stays in the area at Mullen for Region 2 action.

Prelims in each tournament are Feb. 10, with finals scheduled for the afternoon of Feb. 11.

The following is a region-by-region look at Aurora teams:

Region 1

The region with the heaviest Aurora representation also includes several of the city’s best teams in Eaglecrest, Grandview and Rangeview.

Grandview qualified eight wrestlers for state and won the first regional championship in school history last year behind five individual winners. Coach Greg Maestas’ team won the Centennial League championship and went 15-2 in duals, but repeating as a regional champ would take an amazing effort considering Ponderosa’s overwhelming talent. Behind national champion Henry Cejudo at 125 pounds, Coronado will be chief among the teams fighting with the Wolves for second.

“It’s tough with Ponderosa and Coronado in there, but our goal is a top-three finish,” Maestas said. “Our goal is to try to qualify as many as we did last year.”

Grandview is led by three returning regional winners in seniors Jon Brascetta, Curtis McNary and Matt Lucherini, all of whom received No. 1 regional seeds. On The Mat rates Brascetta and McNary — who’s returned with a vengeance the past few weeks after a football-related elbow injury — the top wrestlers in the state at 145 pounds and 152s, respectively. Lucherini is ranked No. 9 at 160 pounds, but ended up seeded above defending state champ Ian Heinisch of Ponderosa.

Sophomore 112-pounder Patrick Brown’s great varsity debut earned him the No. 2 seed. C.J. Busby at 135s, seeking state for the first time as a senior, got a No. 3 seed.

Maestas also sees possibilities from the group of Eric Wilson (103), Tyler McGoffin (125), Addison MacDonald (140), Jon Simpson (171) and freshman Penn Wade (215).

If Eaglecrest wrestles strictly to its seeds, coach Sparky Adair will take a contingent of five Raptors to state. However with some young, developing wrestlers and a few others coming on after recovering from injuries, the number could be higher.

They could also be lower, of course, but Adair’s pretty confident in his core group at least. That’s headed by senior Rocco DePaolo, 5A’s top-ranked 130-pounder who has suffered just one loss all season.

DePaolo placed fifth at state last year and has developed the demeanor to perform on the big stage.

“It’s hard to be ranked high like that and have everybody watching you,” said Adair, who hopes DePaolo is aggressive at regionals. “But Rocco’s said, ‘I’m done getting nervous, I just want to wrestle.’ He’s wrestling hard in the practice room. He just needs to understand that if just goes, he’s OK.”

The Raptors have two other previous state qualifiers in 125-pounder Nate Childers and 135-pounder Ryan Olvera. Childers is seeking his third trip to the Pepsi Center and is seeded second behind Cejudo in the tough group at 125s. He was seeded above Adams City’s A.J. Maestas despite Maestas comfortably winning their head-to-head match earlier this year. Olvera surprised by making state last year and has developed the mentality needed to weather the tough road through regionals. He has nearly 30 wins on the season.

On the lower end of the lineup, Ruben Markerian (103), Josh Neuberger (112), Dan Moore (119) and Brian Eakin (140) are potentials. On the upper end, senior A.J. Matthews (160) and oncoming sophomore Aaron Gallagher at 215s can’t be discounted.

“I’d say three is realistic, but as many as seven could happen,” Adair said. “We’ve had some kids come a long way, but some of them haven’t been here before. This is obviously a tough regional in a lot of places, but I think we can win matches.”

Tim Corby’s Rangeview team is filled with seniors down to their last chance to make state, so they will lay it all on the line at regionals. The Raiders haven’t quite wrestled up to the potential Corby knows they have in them, but desperation might bring it all out.

Two state qualifiers are back in 119-pounder Adam Jerome and 215-pounder Zach Curtis, both of whom are more than capable of returning. Ken Spotts (130), Harison Frawley (135), Brian Doyle (145), Jason Harrison (152) and James Gardner (171) have been building for this moment.

Overland had a tough dual record under new coach Ruben Medina, but senior 152-pounder Nathan Zeleski is among the Trailblazers who could find their way through.

Region 2

Aurora might fare well in the Region 2 tournament at Green Mountain, although there are three ranked teams there in loaded Chaparral, Grand Junction Central and Wasson.

Regis and Smoky Hill might not be factors in the team chase, but there are plenty of individuals on both squads who might move on. The Buffaloes have had just two state qualifiers in the past three seasons, while the Raiders have only one qualifier back after losing four-timer Bryan Zerr to graduation.

Coach Brent Bieshaar isn’t worried about where Regis will fit in as a team, but with seven wrestlers boasting at least 27 victories — six of them seeded in the top four — they have a potential to place in the top five.

“Chaparral and Grand Junction Central are real deep; they are seeded 1-2-3 all over the place,” Bieshaar said. “Those teams have seen some great competition, so I think it will be those two horses and the rest of us battling after that. We’ve wrestled 30 duals this year, so we got a lot of matches. Hopefully we are ready.”

Leading the way for the Raiders is junior Matt Strohm, the state’s fourth-ranked 160-pounder and the region’s top seed with a record of 35-4. Strohm lost in regional wrestlebacks last year by a single point, denying him his first state trip.

Budding sophomore Danny Bieshaar (35-4, 23 pins) at 112 pounds and junior John Hooper, a returning state qualifier with a 31-5 mark, are members of the 30-win club along with junior Pasha Tabatabai (30-11) at 152s and Kyle McKinnell (32-7) at 189s.

Junior Ryan Tauer at 215 pounds was 27-11, and is formidable with a tireless motor. Sophomore Brian Pavlakovich also won 27 matches and is seeded No. 6 at 171s.

At the beginning of the year, Smoky Hill coach Aron Weber believed Region 2 would be a good place for his youth-laden team.

It appears wide open at several weights in this group, but sophomore 112-pounder Nolan Myers appears a good bet for Smoky Hill. Myers, unranked despite a 29-5 record, is seeded third behind Danny Bieshaar.

Region 3

Gateway faces Region 3, which has four teams ranked in On the Mat’s top 11 in Bear Creek, Brighton, Centaurus and host Legacy. The Olys’ best bets are 125-pounder James Craft and 160-pounder Almir Hodzic.

Hodzic recently placed sixth at the Abraham Lincoln Invitational, and has around 20 wins on the season. He has some quality wins to his credit, including a defeat of Regis’ Strohm.

Craft is also over .500, but is in a group that includes five of the top 13-ranked wrestlers.

Region 4

Aurora Central has to trek to Doherty in Colorado Springs for Region 4 action, but coach Conrad Parra is optimistic that the journey will be fruitful for state representation. He has two returning state qualifiers in Darwin Pineda and Servando Heredia, plus some oncoming youngsters that could help the Trojans match or surpass last year’s five qualifiers.

Parra, who came to the Trojans from 3A Fort Lupton, isn’t quite sure what to expect in his first taste of regionals at the 5A level. Central also hasn’t been able to see teams that are coming from far away like Durango, so it will be a feeling out process early.

“I think we have two really good shots, and then the possibility of two to four more if things go right,” said Parra, whose team finished second to Brighton in the Skyline League after losing a season-ending dual to the Bulldogs.

“We’ve beaten higher seeds in a couple of weights, so you never know. But we also lost some matches we should have won.”

Fifth-seeded Pineda is in a tough class at 130 pounds that includes Doherty’s Chris Branch and Thornton’s Seiji Hashimoto, but he’s beaten the No. 4 wrestler during the season. At 23-12 on the year, Heredia is the second seed and is in line to qualify for state for a third time. Mitchell’s Logan Johnson is No. 1.

Steve Nguyen went 22-6, but that percentage was only good enough for the fourth seed at 112s with two of the state’s top three-ranked wrestlers on hand. Ricardo Villalobos’ 21-14 mark was good, but with Loveland’s No. 1 Tyler Graff leading the way, he’s only ninth at 119s.

Sophomore Daniel Armijo (15-14) is just one match over .500 at 140s, but only two of the six wrestlers seeded in front of him won 60 percent of their matches. Junior 145-pounder Donnie Featherman is in his first year of wrestling, but has impressed in several tournaments and has a win over the fourth-seeded wrestler from Pomona under his belt. Oncoming Eric Goodwin at 152s is hoping to qualify for state in his senior year despite an 8-18 record.

Class 4A

Region 2

Cherokee Trail is the city’s lone 4A entrant and will have to go through a group at Mullen that includes three of the state’s top 10 teams in Broomfield, Pine Creek and Thompson Valley.

The Cougars had the first state qualifier in school history last year in Devin DeAntonis, and they again appear strongest on the higher end of the lineup this time around.

DeAntonis made state at 215s last year, but didn’t win a match once he got there. He’s seeded fourth in regionals this year after a 20-6 regular season. Junior 189-pounder Kimball Jordan went 20-12 and was undefeated in Skyline League duals all year.

That pair, along with 140-pound sophomore Daniel Jordan, seem to have Cherokee Trail’s best chances of qualifying.

The seedings went about as expected for first-year coach John Jordan, who has just seven wrestlers entered in the field because injuries have ravaged the rest of his lineup. He hopes to take three or more Cougars to the Pepsi Center.

“I think we’re coming together, and everybody has a good attitude in practice,” Jordan said. “The boys are working hard and realizing this is when it counts.”

For a full list of teams in each region,

visit www.aurorasentinel.com

Class 5A

Region 1 (at Arapahoe)

Teams: Adams City, Arapahoe, Arvada West, Cherry Creek, Coronado, Eaglecrest, Fruita Monument, Grand Junction, Grandview, Lakewood, Overland, Palmer, Ponderosa, Rangeview

Region 2 (at Green Mountain)

Teams: Arvada, Boulder, Central of G.J., Chaparral, Denver East, Denver North, Denver West, Fairview, Geo. Washington, Green Mountain, Highlands Ranch, Monarch, Montbello, Regis, Smoky Hill, Wasson

Region 3 (at Legacy)

Teams: Bear Creek, Brighton, Centaurus, Chatfield, Ft. Collins, Gateway, Heritage, Horizon, Legacy, Lincoln, Mountain Vista, Northglenn, Poudre, Standley Lake, ThunderRidge, Wheat Ridge

Region 4 (at Doherty)

Teams: Air Academy, Aurora Central, Columbine, Dakota Ridge, Doherty, Douglas County, Durango, Kennedy, Lewis-Palmer, Loveland, Mitchell, Pomona, Rampart, Rocky Mountain, Thornton

Class 4A

Region 2 (at Mullen)

Teams: Alameda, Broomfield, Cherokee Trail, Denver South, Englewood, Liberty, Mesa Ridge, Mullen, Pine Creek, Ranum, Ridge View Academy, Thomas Jefferson, Thompson Valley, Westminster, Widefield, Woodland Park