Aurora’s wrestling talent continues to grow, as the 2015-16 season saw the city’s highest numbers make their way down to the Pepsi Center for the state tournament.
All 11 Aurora programs were represented by at least one wrestlers in the contingent of 36 that made it down to the Pepsi Center, with seven wrestlers making their way onto the medal podium.
Five wrestlers from a Grandview team that went undefeated in dual matches and sent a city-best 10 to the state wrestling tournament key the 2015-16 Aurora Sentinel All-City Wrestling Team, which is based chiefly on state results.
Coach Ryan Budd’s Wolves had three placers in seniors Josh Vigil-Harrison (285 pounds) and Tanner Patterson (138) and freshman Fabian Santillan (113) and only one of them was satisfied with his finish.
That would be Patterson, who took fourth place as an end to a season that looked like he might not even wrestle at all. He underwent knee surgery before the season and got better as he got healthier, winning four of his six matches in his only state trip to finish 31-13.
Vigil-Harrison (41-9) put everything he had into a state championship run, but a 2-1 loss to Centaurus’ Forrest Lalaguna in the quarterfinals ended that hope. He placed third for the second straight season.
Santillan had a 38-13 record in his first varsity season and took fourth at 113 pounds, though he felt he could have been higher.
Coming off football season, junior Tyler Ross won 40 matches at 160 pounds to finish with the third-most wins in Aurora, while senior Ben Ehrhard (27-12 at 126 pounds) relished his trip to state despite an 0-2 showing.
Cherokee Trail’s trio of senior Seth Bogulski (170) and juniors Ezequiel Silva (182) and Max Gonzales (220) gave coach Jeff Buck’s a powerful top end of the lineup.
All three placed (out of a total of four state qualifiers for the Cougars) and Gonzales — in his first season since transferring from Rangeview — became the program’s first state championship match qualifier.
Gonzales (35-3) lost by fall to Ponderosa freshman phenom Trenton Schultz in the 220-pound state final, but upped his career-best finish by one spot in the second of the three sports he plays during the year (football, track & field).
Bogulski (43-4) topped On The Mat’s rankings for much of the season at 170 pounds and he ended up third as the capper to a career that saw him make huge strides. Coach Jeff Buck recalled approaching Bogulski about wrestling during his freshman year after he got cut from the school’s basketball team and his mat career took off from there.
A tough semifinal loss to Pomona’s Cameron Gonzales kept him out of the state championship match, but Bogulski posted a satisfying win the third-place match. The performance caught the eye of University of Northern Colorado wrestling coach Troy Nickerson and Bogulski will now have a chance to be a Division I wrestler with the Bears.
“Sometimes there are those little things that I don’t know because I haven’t been wrestling that long,” Bogulski said. “It feels good to have the opportunity to go to UNC and keep wrestling to see what my full potential can be.”
Silva (37-6) was motivated by finishing just out of the placing rounds as a sophomore and gained extra motivation for his senior year with his fourth-place showing at 182 pounds.
Hinkley senior Ben Rhoton (35-9) claimed sixth place at 106 pounds in his second straight trip, while he was joined again at the Pepsi Center by senior Rafael Garibay, who won three matches to finish 34-7, though he was one win from making the placing round.
Rhoton lost both of his state matches as a junior, but earned himself a chance to wrestle on all three days of the state tournament in his return. He battled touted Ponderosa freshman Mosha Schwartz before dropping a 16-12 decision in the quarterfinals and won twice in the consolation bracket before a loss dropped him into the sixth-place match, where Legacy’s Devan Cogil topped him 4-1.
“My first time at state ended so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to really experience it,” Rhoton said. “To end up with not my goal, but a great accomplishment, was amazing.”
Aurora Central also has a pair of teammates on the All-City team in seniors Jonnathan Quijada (132) and Jose Millan (145), who both won a match at state. Quijada made his second trip downtown and suffered two close loss to finish 38-8, while Millan’s first state trip capped a 29-12 campaign.
Quijada was proud to see a total of six Trojans earn their way to state — the second-largest contingent in Aurora behind Grandview — though he had higher aspirations for himself from his 1-2 showing.
“I’m pretty disappointed; honestly I should have placed at least fifth or sixth this year, but when it comes to state, anything can happen,” Quijada said.
Regis Jesuit junior Brandon Minear (32-13 at 152) and Smoky Hill junior Robert Woods (195) both put their names on the map with strong seasons.
Minear said his highlight of the season was a 4-2 semifinal victory in the 5A Region 1 tournament over Thornton’s Adrian Kois, who went on to take fourth place at the state tournament. The win assured him of his first trip to state.
Once he was at the Pepsi Center, Minear admitted he felt some of the pressure of appearing on the big stage at the state tournament as many first-time qualifiers do.
“It was my first time going, so I was more worried about what other people were going to think about me than about my wrestling,” Minear said. “I think I’ll do way better next year.”
Minear said his goal is a top-three finish at state next season and he’s likely to wrestle at 160 pounds.
Woods, a multi-sport athlete at Smoky Hill who also plays football and lacrosse, wrestled a bit as a freshman and skipped his sophomore season on the mat. Woods’ friend and football teammate, junior heavyweight Ryan Campbell, encouraged him to join the wrestling team again and he finally did late in the season.
He qualified for the 195 pound class just before regionals and under the tutelage of veteran Smoky Hill coach Jim Opperman — who has a career long tradition of guiding wrestlers to success in the upper weights — earned his way to the Pepsi Center (along with Campbell).
Woods won twice in his state debut and finished 12-9.