2/17/2006 12:37:00 PM 

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Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel & Daily Sun

Grandview sophomore Patrick Brown, top, works on the top against Ponderosa’s Daniel Kelly in the Region 1 112-pound championship match Feb. 11 at Arapahoe High School. Brown led late, but Kelly rallied for a 7-3 victory. Brown is one of seven Wolves and 15 total state qualifiers from four Aurora teams who came out of that region to compete at the state wrestling tournament Feb. 16-18 at the Pepsi Center.

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Many paths lead wrestlers to state
There’s nothing quite like making a first appearance at the state wrestling tournament.

Fourteen of the 23 Aurora wrestlers who made it through regional qualifying will get their first look at the awesome sights and sounds when they take the massive expansive of mat laid out at the Pepsi Center Feb. 16-18.

Nine state veterans also made it through regionals, including Region 1 champions Jon Brascetta and Curtis McNary of Grandview, and Rocco DePaolo of Eaglecrest.

The Wolves led the way for Aurora with seven 5A state qualifiers, followed by Eaglecrest and Regis with four each, Rangeview with three and Aurora Central, Gateway, Overland and Smoky Hill one each. Cherokee Trail earned one slot in the 4A tournament.

Nobody’s excitement could match that of state newcomers like Rangeview senior Brandon Johnson, who let the entire gym at Arapahoe High School know how happy he was Feb. 11 during the Region 1 tournament.

“I’m so pumped; I’m finally going downtown,” the 189-pounder said after pinning Grand Junction’s Robert Tucker in 1 minute, 26 seconds to take third place.

“I’ve had this is in my head from the first day of practice three months ago, and I did what I had to do. Maybe only the people who knew me thought I could do it, but it’s my senior year, so I had to.”

Johnson lived in Pennsylvania until last year and never made it to the state tournament when he was there. He’s still unranked and certainly unheralded going into state, but that doesn’t bother him in the slightest.

Rangeview’s state contingent of three also includes 152-pound senior Brian Doyle, whose initial state trip is as sweet as possible because he earned it via a wrestleback.

Doyle got his extra life when Ponderosa’s Criag Keefover lost the third-place match. He wasted little time, handling Keefover 22-12 to join Johnson and 215-pounder Zach Curtis — who won in a wrestleback after losing in the third-place match — in Raiders’ red at state.

“I’m so excited; one match, I had to win to go,” Doyle said. “When I got him on his back in the first period, I was loving it. I can’t wait to get to state.”

Senior Harison Frawley would have joined them, but his first state trip evaporated with a 7-6 double-overtime loss in wrestlebacks.

“Those close matches were almost too much for my old heart,” Rangeview coach Tim Corby said. “But they showed me they are men of character, so I couldn’t be happier.”

Grandview finished third as a team with its seven qualifiers, four of which will make their Pepsi Center debuts. Freshman Eric Wilson (103 pounds), sophomore Patrick Brown (regional runner-up at 112s), senior Addison MacDonald (140s) and senior Jon Simpson (171s) join veterans Brascetta, McNary and 160-pounder Matt Lucherini.

Wilson didn’t know how realistic it would be for him to make state as a freshman, but things started to click for him a couple of weeks before regionals. He ended up third in the region after beating Eaglecrest’s Ruben Markarian.

“I started noticing that I was moving really good about two weeks ago,” said Wilson, who goes into state 22-12. “It also helps to have the guys we have in the room. They are a big factor in me getting better and getting to state.”

Brown lost his regional championship match to Ponderosa’s Daniel Kelly, but he still came away with a berth at state in his first year up from the Wolves’ junior varsity. He ended up in a tough part of the 112-pound state draw with top-ranked Geoff Meng of Monarch likely waiting in the quarterfinals, but he’s fared well against all comers this year.

MacDonald and Simpson both make their state debuts as seniors. Simpson came into the tournament with a record of just 7-10 overall, but ended up third with a 9-6 win over

“When you work hard, it usually turns out OK,” said Simpson, one of only two wrestlers with sub-.500 records in his bracket.

“I probably got looked over because of my record, and I probably will at state, too. But I’m going to place. You don’t go to lose.”

Though Brascetta is making his fourth trip to state, he was as excited as a first-timer after winning the 145-pound regional championship. His spirits were buoyed because he handled Ponderosa’s Patrick Armstrong 13-2 in a match-up that pitted the No. 1 and No. 2 wrestlers against each other a week before state.

The two wrestled a close match a couple of weeks earlier at the Top of the Rockies tournament, but this time it was all Brascetta from start to finish.

His older brother Dan lost in the 145-pound state championship match last season, so Brascetta wants to do the family proud. His brother will be on hand at Pepsi Center.

“It makes me even more excited to get to state knowing I beat a kid I should see in the finals,” said Brascetta, who is 28-3 on the year.

“I talked to my brother and he told me there’s no way (Armstrong) can close the gap on me in one week. I’m not really feeling any pressure, I’m just going to show up and wrestle like I always do.”

McNary at 152 pounds is looking forward to this state meet in particular because it gives him a last chance to place. He’s gone into previous state tournaments in good shape, but he’s been kept off the podium.

Now 20-1 and fully recovered from an elbow blowout he suffered in football, McNary is psyched for state. He rallied to pin Arvada West’s Ryan Sanchez with 0.1 second left to win his second regional championship.

“We have a history at Grandview where a couple of guys make it all four years, and it really starts to come together senior year,” McNary said.

Lucherini will be thankful to be a part of the state tournament after what he went through at regionals. Seeded first at 160 pounds, Lucherini was pinned twice and had to win his fifth-place match against tough A.J. Matthews of Eaglecrest to get a shot at wrestlebacks. He did it, then easily pinned Ponderosa’s Mac Cunningham in wrestlebacks.

Because of the slip he’ll have to face regional champion Logan Johnson of Mitchell in the first round, but he’s glad to get the chance.

“This is my senior year and I worked way too hard not to get here,” Lucherini said. “I was ranked and it would have been ridiculous to be ranked and not go to state.”

Eaglecrest’s contingent of four includes only one first-timer in Markarian. DePaolo makes his fourth trip to state, Nathan Childers his third and Ryan Olvera his second.

Markarian drew Northglenn freshman Philip Grout, who brings an impressive 32-3 record to his first state appearance.

DePaolo is a state regular who is in the midst of his finest season. He’s 40-1 on the year and the top seed in the 130-pound bracket after pinning Arapahoe’s Matt Croshal in 1:28 to win the Region 1 championship.

“I’m feeling a little bit of pressure this time because everybody’s gunning for me and wrestling their best against me,” DePaolo said.

DePaolo has an interesting potential matchup in the second round against Grand Junction Central’s Steve Reynolds, a former state runner-up, but the opposite half of the bracket is much more stacked.

Childers had the weight of expectations on him after two previous state trips, and he seemed relieved after taking fourth at 125 pounds in regionals.

He didn’t face all-world Henry Cejudo in the regional, but would meet the national champion from Coronado in the quarterfinals if he makes it that far.

“It’s awesome to have competition like Henry to wrestle against,” Childers said of the 21-0 Cejudo. “Everybody makes mistakes though, so you never know what could happen. It’s state, time for me to step it up.”

Olvera’s banished the tentativeness that occasionally hit him last year, and appears ready to be a factor in the 135-pound class after a third-place showing at regionals.

Regis has a returning state qualifier in 135-pounder John Hooper, but Region 2 runner-up Matt Strohm (160), Ryan McKinnell (189) and Pasha Tabatabai (152s) are first-timers.

Their debuts were made tougher with their respective draws. Raiders coach Brent Bieshaar cringed when he saw where his wrestlers ended up.

“Honestly, I hate our matchups,” Bieshaar said. “We didn’t get any breaks. This time of year you have to be good to be at state, but you can definitely get helped by a good draw.”

Among single wrestlers, Aurora Central 160-pounder Servando Heredia makes his third state appearance after he was the only Trojan to survive Region 4 in Colorado Springs.

Heredia’s new aggressive approach had him on the verge of winning the regional title before losing late. The senior has a reservoir of state experience to draw on if needed.

“Servando’s been a different kid the last couple of weeks,” Central coach Conrad Parra said. “He’s only been dominated once all year, and he has plenty of experience at state.”

Overland junior Stephen Stahl could be a major factor in the heavyweight bracket in his first state trip. He lost a disappointing decision to Rangeview’s Justin Craig in the regional quarterfinals, but pinned his final three opponents to take third.

“I think Stephen can be the darkhorse,” Overland coach Ruben Medina said. “He’s a real level-headed kid who doesn’t have a lot of pressure on him.”

Stahl is confident going into state after surviving the punishing Region 1 field.

“If I can make it here, I can make it at state,” Stahl said. “I’m looking forward to it already.”

Sophomore 112-pounder Nolan Myers was the Region 2 runner-up after falling to Meng. But he still earned Smoky Hill’s first state berth since Jovan Mays went in 2004.

Buffaloes coach Aron Weber is trying make his 32-6 wrestler’s state debut smooth.

“This will all be new to Nolan for sure, but he’s earned the right to be there,” Weber said. “He’s got a great work ethic, so I think he has a shot at finishing in the top six.”

Gateway’s Almir Hodzic (160 pounds) makes his 5A state debut, while Cherokee Trail 189-pound junior Kimball Jordan carries the Cougars’ flag into his first 4A tournament.

The Raiders took sixth place as a team with three first-time qualifiers and a second-timer in junior 135-pounder John Hooper. Junior Matt Strohm was the No. 1 seed at 160 pounds and he got through to state, as did 152-pound junior Pasha Tabatabai and 189-pound senior Kyle McKinnell.

Almir Hodzic represents Gateway after making his way through the 160-pound field at Region 3, while the same weight bracket will include Aurora Central’s Servando Heredia from Region 4.

Cherokee Trail junior Kimball Jordan made the 4A bracket at 189 pounds. For the second year in a row, the Cougars qualified a single wrestler for state. Senior Devin DeAntonis couldn’t earn a return trip in Region 2 action at Mullen.

Aurora first-round state matches

At Pepsi Center, Feb. 16


103 pounds

Upper bracket

Ruben Markarian, jr., Eaglecrest (26-14) vs. Philip Grout, fr., Northglenn (32-3)

Lower bracket

Eric Wilson, fr., Grandview (22-12) vs. Paul Montoya, soph., Brighton (33-7)

112 pounds

Upper bracket

Patrick Brown, soph., Grandview (29-7) vs. Brandon Ford, jr., Rampart (25-8)

Lower bracket

Nolan Myers, soph., Smoky Hill (32-6) vs. Alonzo Montoya, fr., Brighton (26-8)

125 pounds

Upper bracket

Nathan Childers, sr., Eaglecrest (35-7) vs. Tyler Gorek, jr., Arvada (35-8)

130 pounds

Upper bracket

Rocco DePaolo, sr., Eaglecrest (41-1) vs. Cory Gournic, sr., Columbine (30-11)

135 pounds

Upper bracket

John Hooper, jr., Regis (34-6) vs. Jason Ericsson, sr., Bear Creek (30-13)

Lower bracket

Ryan Olvera, soph., Eaglecrest (34-10) vs. Phil Schmedeman, sr., Douglas Co. (25-8)

140 pounds

Lower bracket

Addison MacDonald, sr., Grandview (23-11) vs. Mike Conklin, jr., Fort Collins (37-5)

145 pounds

Lower bracket

Jon Brascetta, sr., Grandview (28-3) vs. Ryan Kyllonen, fr., ThunderRidge (20-17)

152 pounds

Upper bracket

Pasha Tabatabai, jr., Regis (34-12) vs. Ryan Sanchez, sr., Arvada West (29-4)

Lower bracket

Brian Doyle, sr., Rangeview (24-9) vs. Matt Murphy, Chaparral, jr., (33-8)

Curtis McNary, sr., Grandview (20-1) vs. Jared Cruz, sr., Grand Junction Central (19-7)

160 pounds

Upper bracket

Servando Heredia, sr., Aurora Central (25-13) vs. Jon Montgomery, sr., Palmer (31-9)

Almir Hodzic, sr., Gateway (23-11) vs. Logan Hancock, sr., Grand Junction Central (34-7)

Lower bracket

Matt Lucherini, sr., Grandview (28-8) vs. Logan Johnson, sr., Mitchell (36-3)

Matt Strohm, jr., Regis (38-5) vs. Lee Nadeau, sr., Fort Collins (29-3)

171 pounds

Lower bracket

Jon Simpson, sr., Grandview (10-11) vs. Brennan Whitman, sr., Poudre (17-3)

189 pounds

Lower bracket

Kyle McKinnell, sr., Regis (35-8) vs. Brandon Johnson, sr., Rangeview (17-8)

215 pounds

Lower bracket

Zach Curtis, sr., Rangeview (27-11) vs. Robert Hoffschneider, jr., Columbine (25-7)

275 pounds

Upper bracket

Stephen Stahl, sr., Overland (24-10) vs. Mike McKnight, sr., Heritage (19-3)


189 pounds

Lower bracket

Kimball Jordan, jr., Cherokee Trail (24-13) vs. Tyler Pierandozzi, sr., Golden (28-7)