2/21/2008 6:28:00 PM   

Photo by Courtney Oakes/The Aurora Sentinel

Regis junior Powell Slinkard, left, celebrates after his pin of Mountain Vista’s Matt Carnahan in the 140-pound championship match at the Class 5A Region 2 tournament on Feb. 16 at Fort Collins High School. Coach Brent Bieshaar is at right. Slinkard headlined the nine city wrestlers from Gateway, Regis and Smoky Hill who came out of Region 2 with berths in the 5A state tournament on Feb. 21-23 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.


Photo by Courtney Oakes/The Aurora Sentinel
Smoky Hill’s Joe Jones, left, and Gateway’s LaDaris Mungin tangle in the third-place match at 130 pounds at the Region 2 tournament in Fort Collins. Jones won 8-2, but both made state.
Wrestling: City's state numbers small, but possibly mighty
Aurora sends 22 wrestlers to Pepsi Center

By Courtney Oakes
The Aurora Sentinel

Aurora's group of state wrestling qualifier is small and different.

Not small in terms of physical size - although 12 of the city's 22 total qualifiers are 135 pounds or less - but in terms of numbers.

The city had four regional champions crowned on Feb. 16, but the 22 qualifiers - led by Grandview with eight - is a handful less than Aurora's usual contingent. Twenty-seven city wrestlers made it last year.

Fourteen Aurora qualifiers headed to the Pepsi Center in Denver for the Feb. 21-23 tournament are first-timers, while seven 2007 state participants are at home.

Eaglecrest's Josh Neuberger, Michael Balagna and Josh Starr of Grandview, Aurora Central's Phil Nguyen, Rangeview's Clayton Frawley and Regis' Brian Rubenstrunk in 5A and Cherokee Trail's Dustin Brown in 4A (see story, below) were unable to duplicate last season's success.

But while some of those old, familiar names disappeared, surprises took their place.

Though Frawley and 189-pounder Brad Nicholson were ranked, Rangeview's only state qualifier is senior 135-pounder Ty Mackey. A partially torn elbow ligament in the preseason put Mackey out for an extended period of time and other assorted injuries limited him to just two tournaments and a handful of duals.

But he showed up at regionals after coach Tim Corby inserted him in the lineup late. Seeded 13th, Mackey got pinned in his first-round match against Arapahoe's David Coulter, but rebounded to make the third-place match, upsetting Doherty's Ryan Talmich - ranked 12th in the state and the region's top seed - along the way. He lost to Coulter in overtime to take fourth.

"I got in at the last minute, but I didn't put any pressure on myself and just wrestled," Mackey said. "Now that I think about it, being one of the top 16 in the state is quite an accomplishment."

Overland's Josh Christopher was an unlikely 130-pound qualifier out of rugged Region 1, as was Gateway sophomore LaDaris Mungin, who made state from Region 2 in just his second year of wrestling.

Mungin and 145-pound teammate Justin Freeman both made state for the first time, ending the Olys' one-year absence from the Pepsi Center. A dazed Freeman gutted out a double-overtime win over Thornton's Kyle Johnson in the semifinals to secure the berth he was denied in a wrestleback last year.

"I'm really looking forward to state," said Mungin, who lost to Smoky Hill's Joe Jones in the 130-pound third-place match. "It'll be good to have Radio (Freeman) there."

Grandview represented the status quo for Aurora, getting the same number of qualifiers as last year, even minus Balagna and Starr.

The Wolves, picked to finish ninth as a team at state by On The Mat, had regional champions in Eric Wilson (112 pounds), Patrick Brown (130 pounds) and heavyweight Cody Gilmore.

"You'd always like to have more qualifiers, especially when you don't get in some guys who have been there before, but we've got a good group going," said Grandview coach Greg Maestas, who is hoping for a top-10 finish.

Wilson placed third at state at 103 pounds last year and is in line for a similar finish, with the possibility of going higher if he can get past top-ranked Jeremy Schmitt of Rocky Mountain in a potential 112-pound semifinal.

Brown, who suffered an injury at regionals last year that hampered his state appearance, is healthy and confident he can finally place in his third state appearance. Gilmore's been ranked second in the state behind Ponderosa's Taylor Stam all season and could meet the Mustangs star in the heavyweight final Feb. 23.

Senior Bryce Lucherini is a previous state qualifier at 152 pounds, while the Wolves have newcomers in John Godin (103), Cody McCutcheon (160), Jacob Bomareto (189) and Penn Wade (215).

Regis had three wrestlers make regional championship matches in senior Danny Bieshaar and juniors Zach Atencio and Powell Slinkard, with Slinkard winning the only title to earn his state berth.

"I hadn't even thought about state at the beginning of the season; I thought it would never come," said Slinkard, who was injured midway through last season and missed the rest of the year. "I don't know what might happen next year, so I knew I had to push through and do it this year."

Atencio and Bieshaar both lost their title matches, but have potential at state. Freshman 152-pounder Denzel Washington rounds out Regis' state group.

Smoky Hill got in a trio of brothers Nolan and Ethan Myers and senior Joe Jones, while Aurora Central qualified the duo of Daniel Armijo and freshman William Montrey.


2/21/2008 6:25:00 PM   

Photo by Heather A. Longway-Burke/The Aurora Sentinel

Cherokee Trail junior Josh Hoeft holds his head after losing a 160-pound wrestleback at the Class 4A Region 2 wrestling tournament on Feb. 16 at Cherokee Trail.

Wrestling: Jordan lone Cougar headed to 4A state tourney

By Courtney Oakes
The Aurora Sentinel

Having home mat advantage at Region 2 didn't end up meaning much for Cherokee Trail on Feb. 16. The Cougars ended up with just one qualifier for the Class 4A state wrestling tournament for the third time in four years.

The Cougars had five placers, senior Daniel Jordan is the only state-bound wrestler. The 152-pounder took fourth to earn his second consecutive trip to the Pepsi Center.

"We're disappointed in some ways, but excited in other ways because of how the young guys did," Cherokee Trail coach Jeff Buck said. "Daniel's wrestled well the entire year and he's been there before, so we're looking forward to what he can do."

Sophomore 125-pounder Dustin Brown, a state qualifier last season and a top-10 ranked wrestler, got disqualified in the semifinals for an aggressive crossface on Widefield's T.J. Sarcomo at the end of the match that some observers construed as a punch.

"Emotions got the better of him, but hopefully he will grow from it," Buck said.

Junior Josh Hoeft lost a wrestleback at 160 pounds.