Spread out among four different regional tournaments Feb. 15-16, the expected and unexpected wrestlers made it through their respective brackets to get a chance to wrestle on the biggest stage.
Grandview came through as Aurora’s biggest winner as coach Ryan Budd’s team won the Region 2 championship at Adams City High School and got a host of nine wrestlers qualified for the state tournament. The Wolves are stocked up with point-scorers as they seek to better the program’s all-time best team finish at the 5A state tournament of third, which came in 2008.
A trio of Wolves won regional championships in seniors Fabian Santillan (138 pounds) and Brice Hartzheim (170 pounds) along with junior 195-pounder Joe Renner, and all three will take No. 1 seeding positions into their respective state brackets.
Santillan, a Stanford signee, won a state championship last season at 126 pounds and is the prohibitive favorite to take the 138-pound crown this season. He enters the state tournament at 44-3 and pinned all three of his regional opponents.
“I’m trying to finish it off in appropriate fashion,” Santillan said. “Physically, I feel great and my mind is in a good place. I’m ready to go out with a bang and put points on the board. It’s a little bit more special seeing that we could place as a team.”
Renner returns to a 195-pound bracket at state in which he placed fourth last season. He dominated the Region 2 tournament and is 32-8 going into state. Hartzheim pinned all three of his regional opponents — including Hinkley’s Emery Bemis in an all-Aurora championship match — to boost his record to 22-5 and put him in an advantageous position to place at 170 pounds.
Senior Dylan Ranieri lost in the championship match at 152 pounds to Doherty’s Tyson Beauperthy, but is a threat to make the state championship match as well if he can get through the side of the bracket that includes top-ranked Austin McFadden of Prairie View.
Junior Alex Santillan (126 pounds) and senior Matthew Frye (145 pounds) also made Region 2 championship matches for Grandview before falling to higher-seeded opponents. Santillan placed third at state at 113 pounds last season and is ranked No. 3 going into state.
The Wolves’ state qualifying contingent is rounded out by first-time state qualifiers in junior Isaac Smith (182 pounds), sophomore Frankie Sanchez (106 pounds) and freshman Angelo Falise (220 pounds).
Next up in numbers is Cherokee Trail, which finished as the runner-up at Region 3 and saw six wrestlers earn their way to the Pepsi Center.
The Cougars’ lone regional championship came at 145 pounds from senior David Rivera, who virtually cruised through his bracket on his way to a fourth trip to the state tournament. Rivera — ranked third in 5A by On the Mat in Week 11 — has a 2-6 career record at the state tournament and is on track to place for the first time.
Cherokee Trail’s other Region 3 finalist came at 220 pounds in sophomore Sam Hart, who earned his way into a championship match showdown against undefeated Hunter Tobiasson of Grand Junction. Tobiasson dealt Hart a 6-2 loss, but the two will now be on opposite sides of the state bracket.
The Cougars have a returning state qualifier in junior Andrew Chilton at 113 pounds, plus first-timers in senior Brandon Borgonah (138 pounds), junior Brock LaBonde (152 pounds) and senior Brock Howard (195 pounds).
Eaglecrest had three state qualifiers last season and all three will return in junior Caeleb Knoll (120 pounds), senior Tyler Maccagnan (152 pounds) and senior Micah Sterling (195 pounds) and they’ll have company in sophomore Kyle Maccagnan (132 pounds) and senior Osman Yigit Topuz (220 pounds).
Knoll won a regional championship with a win by fall against Castle View’s Adrian Marquez, who wrestled for the state championship at 113 pounds last season, to put himself in position to place at state.
Tyler Maccagnan ran up against Prairie View’s top-ranked Austin McFadden in a regional semifinal at 152 pounds and dropped a 3-0 decision, then bounced back to place third. Sterling placed fourth.
Topuz earned his first trip to state by making the 220 pound final, which he lost to Northglenn’s Carlos Flores. Kyle Maccagnan, who missed a large portion of the season, placed third to make state.
Overland has a strong state-bound trio in junior Grant Bradley (120 pounds) and seniors Isaiah Bradley (126 pounds) and Mikey Mendoza (132 pounds), who all came out of Region 3 with top-three places.
Mendoza is a first-time qualifier and he enters in the best shape he could by virtue of winning a regional championship, which he took thanks to three pins and a win by major decision. Grant Bradley — a returning state placer who was fourth last season at 113 pounds — earned his third career trip to state by making the regional title match and losing to 1-loss Dawson Collins of Grand Junction in overtime.
Senior Isaiah Bradley also is headed to state for a third time after he placed third in his regional bracket.
Regis Jesuit had a Region 4 champion in sophomore Antonio Segura, who made his way through the 145-pound bracket to earn his second state trip. Segura won two matches at state last season and came one victory from making the placing round. He is joined by junior Antonio Sandora, who took fourth at regionals at 182 pounds.
Smoky Hill also has a pair of state qualifiers in seniors David Hoage (220 pounds) and Adolfo Granados Sanchez (120 pounds), who took second and fourth, respectively, at Region 2. Hoage, a returning state qualifier who came a win away from making the placing round last season, boasts a 21-3 record. Granados Sanchez is a first-time qualifier.
Hinkley is represented at state by Bemis, who wrestled well at regionals until he ran into Hartzheim in the finals. Bemis, who missed some of the late portion of the season to recover from injury, went 1-2 last season in his state debut.
Aurora Central’s trip to Region 1 on the Western Slope resulted in a state berth for senior Werals Niyangabo, who had to win a wrestleback at 145 pounds to secure his first trip to the Pepsi Center.
Niyangabo is pitted Segura in an all-Aurora first round state match.