2/7/2007 7:30:00 PM   

City wrestlers scatter for state shots
Four Aurora teams at Region 3

By Courtney Oakes
The Aurora Sentinel & Daily Sun

Unlike last year, all Aurora wrestling teams will miss three-time defending state champion Ponderosa.

That's not to say anything is going to be easy Feb. 9-10 in regional qualifying, but anytime the powerful Mustangs are elsewhere things seem much more wide open.

Ponderosa resides in Class 5A Region 1, but the city's nine teams are scattered among Region 2 at Legacy, Region 3 at Loveland and Region 4 at Northglenn. Cherokee Trail has a 4A Region 2 date at Widefield.

The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the Feb. 15-17 state tournament at the Pepsi Center. The following is a region-by-region look at Aurora teams:

5A Region 3

The Region 3 group may be the toughest for Aurora teams, although some of its strength is provided by city squads Aurora Central, Grandview, Rangeview and Regis.

Host Loveland is stacked and Brighton is always tough, as are coach Greg Maestas' Wolves, who won the Centennial League championship for the fifth straight year.

"Loveland and Brighton are really strong, and then there are a few more teams with four or five tough kids, so it will be a battle," Maestas said.

Overall, the star attraction of the regional should be Loveland 130-pounder Tyler Graff, the nation's No. 1-ranked wrestler.

For Aurora, it will be the mini city tournament that could take place at 135 pounds. Aurora Central's Daniel Armijo, who hasn't lost since Christmas is the top seed, with Grandview's Tyler McGoffin second. Rangeview's Adam Jerome is 27-7, but that was only good enough for the No. 4 seed.

Armijo won a 7-6 decision over McGoffin at the Rangeview invite. Both are ranked in the top five in 5A by On The Mat.

The Trojans have several other strong state possibilities, headed by 145-pounder Donnie Featherman, named outstanding wrestler for the Skyline League tournament Feb. 3..

Eric Wilson and Patrick Brown are good bets on a Grandview team that is strongest in the lower weights, while Regis features a handful of potential noisemakers in John Hooper, Danny Bieshaar, Pasha Tabatabai, Matt Strohm and Ryan Tauer.

Rangeview's Jerome looks to get back to state where he was as a sophomore. Any of the Raiders' seven juniors could break through.

5A Region 4

The second-largest city contingent will be at Northglenn, where Eaglecrest, Hinkley and Overland will delve into the Region 4 group.

Pomona leads the way, while Pine Creek and the host Norse also should figure high in the team standings.

Eaglecrest struggled with health late in the year, but got a boost when standout 135-pounder Ryan Olvera returned to the lineup. The two-time state qualifier pinned an opponent from Mullen Feb. 2.

Brian Eakin is a strong candidate to get through the 145 bracket to state, while Josh Neuberger is capable of making it through a rugged 119-pound grouping. A number of other Raptors have shots.

Overland is young and inexperienced, so coach Ruben Medina expects only senior 215-pounder Stephen Stahl to emerge. Stahl, who dropped from the heavyweight class prior to the season, is seeded second in his division.

Hinkley's team returned to the mat this season after a year hiatus, and Joe Williams has been the most consistent wrestler for coach Andy Ventura of late.

5A Region 2

Gateway and Smoky Hill are at Legacy where Region 2 is topped team-wise by the host Lightning, ranked No. 2 in 5A, along with Centaurus and Grand Junction.

Smoky Hill's improvement this season has been noticeable, and several Buffaloes could punch tickets to state. Junior 119-pounder Nolan Myers should be a lock if he can put some nagging injuries behind him.

Joe Jones (103), Nick Shamburg (140) and Austin Jones (171) all carry high hopes for Smoky Hill.

Gateway's best threat should be 152-pound junior Dantjer Gordon.

4A Region 2

In 4A, Cherokee Trail is at Region 2, which should be battled for at the top by powers Broomfield and Thompson Valley.

The Cougars are led by the trio of freshman Dustin Brown and brothers Daniel and Kimball Jordan.

Brown and Daniel Jordan are both 33-6 at 112 and 152 pounds, respectively, while Kimball Jordan is the team's lone senior and its only previous state qualifier.