The Wolves’ latest test — sandwiched in between the Reno (Nevada) Tournament of Champions in December and the upcoming Top of the Rockies tournament Jan. 23-24— came Saturday at the Arvada West Invitational, a stacked 15-team multi-classification gathering loaded with much of the state’s top talent.
Budd hoped for a top-10 finish and his Grandview wrestlers delivered, earning 65 points to place ninth, despite wrestling without sophomore 132-pounder Armando Santillan, who was held out due to illness. The tournament featured On The Mat’s top three ranked teams in 5A — No. 1 Arvada West, No. 2 Pomona and No. 3 Grand Junction — plus 5A No. 7 Coronado and 4A No. 1 Thompson Valley.
Some major points for the Wolves came from junior 126-pounder Xavier Cardenas and senior 145-pounder Seth Brown, who made the championship matches at their respective weights.
“My goal was to finish in the top 10 of that tournament; I thought that would be really good for us and we did,” Budd said. “I think that’s a big deal stepping forward for our team. …We left some points out there at some weights, but we’re fighting really well right now. Bottom line, we’re getting better each week.”
The Wolves will need to be at their best for the Top of the Rockies tournament at Centaurus High School, which features 33 teams, including all the top teams from Colorado in addition to visiting teams from Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming.
Some encouraging signs came at the Arvada West Invitational, where Cardenas and Brown each worked their way through strong brackets to reach the finals.
Cardenas, ranked No. 6 at 126 pounds by On The Mat, plowed through his bracket as he posted a major decision in the first round over Thompson Valley’s Zach Kennison (ranked No. 3 in 4A), pinned Bear Creek’s Steven Martinez in a tidy 25 seconds and edged Coronado’s Rylen Thalhammer to earn a shot against 5A No. 1 Darek Huff in the championship match.
“(Huff) just took third in Reno, so he’s an All-American and ranked 1st and Xavier lost in overtime in a really exciting match,” Budd said. “It’s the second time we’ve faced him and the first time we were winning with 30 seconds left and lost, so Xavier is right there. He’s on a different level right now and he’s doing what we are trying to get the whole team to do.”
Ranked No. 5 at 145 pounds, Brown got past Coronado’s sixth-ranked Chase McElhany — who he pinned in the semifinals — and No. 8 Camden Roach of Chaparral, who he edged 1-0 in the quarterfinals to earn a shot at top-ranked Jimmy Rothwell of Arvada West.
Rothwell came out on top with a 9-1 major decision over Brown, who Budd said “wrestled very, very well” in the tournament.
Sophomore Tyler Ross just missed placing at 170 pounds with a 3-2 effort on the day, with his losses coming to No. 3 Jimmy Weaver of Coronado in the semifinals and to No. 1 Taylor Bergquist of Arvada West in the consolation semifinals.
Grandview freshman Giovanni Federico finished 2-2 and came within a win of potentially placing.
The Centennial League-leading Wolves have a tough league dual meet against Eaglecrest the night before the Top of the Rockies tournament and head to Chaparral for a dual meet next week.
“By the time we’re done with this stretch, we will have faced the very best competition and by the time we get to regionals, we’ll have faced pretty much everybody in the state,” Budd said.
Note: Pomona junior Deyaun Trueblood — who won a state championship for Gateway last season before transferring — won the tournament championship at 170 pounds.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel