Nearly three decades later, Frankie Sanchez Sr. can remember wrestling for a state championship, clear as day.
The arena where his title match took place (McNichols Arena) doesn’t exist anymore and the classification (6A) that he competed in is now defunct, but he’ll never forget the feeling of his 5-1 loss to Horizon’s Rory Roman in the 125-pound final.
Twenty-nine years after Sanchez Sr. appeared in the final, his son Frankie Jr. —a junior at Grandview — is ranked No. 1 at 106 pounds and On The Mat’s pick to win the state championship at his weight.
“It was 29 years ago, but I still think back to it at this time of year and so do my friends,” Sanchez Sr. said at Grandview wrestling practice Feb. 17, where he was helping his son and the team’s six other qualifiers tune up for the start of the Feb. 20-22 state tournament at Pepsi Center.
Sanchez Sr.’s appearance in the state championship match wrestling for another Aurora program, Gateway, came as a bit of a surprise as he was primarily a boxer — training for a hopeful Olympic shot — so wrestling wasn’t what he dedicated his energy into.
“I wasn’t as good of a wrestler as Frankie is because my focus was boxing and wrestling was more of a hobby,” Sanchez Sr. said. “I was the darkhorse of the tournament and never expected to make it, but the grind and the training I learned as a boxer got me to the finals.”
Since his son was born and showed an interest in wrestling from the age of 4, Sanchez Sr. has done everything he could to prepare him for the future. Heart surgery at the age of 8 put a brief hold on the training, but once they got back to it, they got serious.
Sanchez Jr. has enjoyed the time spent in gyms and on mats with his dad.
“My dad’s been teaching me since I was a little kid, so he knows exactly how I wrestle, what I can do and what I can accomplish,” he said. “It definitely pushes me to strive for greatness.
“My dad was close at state and took second, so I definitely want to bring one home for the family and for my school also.”
To help make that happen, Sanchez Sr. shuttered the food truck he owns and operates — North of the Border Grill — for four months to help his son train. He cooks all three meals each day for his son to help with nutrition.
Sanchez Jr. — who went 1-2 in his state tournament debut in 2019 — certainly has put together a season that has shown he’s capable of taking the next step forward and winning a state championship.
Ranked No. 1 by On The Mat for the majority of the season, Sanchez Jr. (36-4) placed fifth at the rugged Reno Tournament of Champions prior to winter break and followed that up with a third-place finish at the loaded Top of the Rockies tournament hosted annually by Centaurus High School.
His only loss in the last month came in the championship match of the Mile High Classic to Longmont’s Logan Novara by a 5-3 score.
Grandview coach Ryan Budd said the loss was a “good” one when it came and reminded Sanchez Jr. that he needs to be aggressive every match instead of letting his opponent dictate the tempo.
“If Frankie is firing non-stop, I don’t see anybody that can beat him,” Budd said. “I feel like he has separated himself from the field. He’s been in a couple of tight matches, but I don’t see him losing. That’s not to say it can’t happen, but that’s the feeling I have for him.”
Sanchez Jr. bounced back from his loss with an undefeated run to the 5A Region 4 title and he likes where he ended up in the state draw in the top half of the bracket, where he already has wins of four of the other seven wrestlers in his path to the final.
An all-Aurora championship match could be in store as Cherokee Trail’s Derek Glenn Jr. (34-6)— who Sanchez Jr. edged 3-1 when the teams met in Centennial League competition — is on the other side of the bracket and has been ranked No. 2 in 5A for most of the season.
On The Mat forecasted the matchup between Aurora wrestlers with Sanchez Jr. coming out on top.
“I would love to see him in the final, I think that would be the perfect matchup,” Sanchez Jr. said. “The school rivalry and all that combined, it would be the perfect matchup for the final. If I can apply a little bit more pressure and work my stuff a bit more, I could win it at state.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports