DENVER | The state wrestling finals drought for the Eaglecrest boys wrestling program is over, as a Raptor will take the mats at the Ball Arena for the first time in 16 years Saturday night.
And drought-busting junior Dorian Ervin will have company, from his own school — Blythe Cayko in the girls tournament — as well as from Aurora in the form of two wrestlers from Cherokee Trail.
They will all be on the big stage after earning their way through semifinals held in front of a crowd that look like it did pre-pandemic. The championship evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with the Parade of Champions, followed by finals with the girls and four classifications of boys held simultaneously.
First up will be Ervin, who came in as the runner-up from his regional, but has put together a tournament to remember with three commanding victories in a row. The latest was a pin in the first period of Ponderosa’s DJ Wince, which made him the first Eaglecrest wrestler to qualify for a state championship match since Rocco DePaolo in 2006. DePaolo texted Raptors coach Javier Quintana in congratulations afterwards.
Ervin (45-6) faces Chaparral freshman Declain Strait (36-8) for the state title. Strait upset Pomona’s Geno Cardenas — who defeated Ervin in the regional final — in the semifinals.
Later, Eaglecrest will have the chance for another historic championship when Blythe Cayko wrestlers for the 185-pound crown in the girls tournament. Cayko placed fifth as a freshman when the state tournament was held while the sport was still in a pilot stages, then took third last season when the first sanctioned tournament took place in Pueblo.
An undefeated season later — 31-0 thus far — has earned her a state championship chance after she pinned Yuma’s Mia Dishner in the semifinals Friday.
In the finals, Cayko goes against Calhan’s Taylor Knox, last season’s state champion at 185 pounds who Cayko defeated in the Region 1 championship match a week earlier.
Cherokee Trail has developed a recent habit of making state championship matches and that was the case this year with the duo of seniors Derek Glenn Jr. and Matthew Buck.
While Glenn Jr. — the 2020 state champion at 106 pounds and a runner-up last season — was certainly expected to be there, Buck was not. The oldest son of Cherokee Trail head coach Jeff Buck, Matthew Buck came into the tournament after finishing fourth at the 5A Region 1 tournament, which is not typically the recipe for a run to the state final.
But Buck survived his tough first-round matchup with Adams City’s Tyson Moffitt (winning 7-4), then narrowly avoided getting pinned by Regis Jesuit’s Zion Taylor in a high-scoring all-Aurora quarterfinal that he won 20-11.
In comparison, Buck’s semifinal victory was relatively mundane, as he opened a good lead over Ralston Valley’s Josh Horsley’s and then finished it off with a pin in the third period, sending his dad and assistant coach Seth Bugulski jumping in the corner.
The celebration continued in the back hallways of Ball Arena as Buck (38-13) earned the chance to face Ponderosa senior Murphy Menke (33-6) for the state title.
Glenn Jr. came in after a regional championship he described as “sloppy,” then had to get through a big quarterfinal challenge against Poudre’s Tony Garcia Lopez, who battled him until the end when Glenn Jr. prevailed 4-3. In the semifinals, the Cherokee Trail star pushed the pace on Monarch’s Brayden Legge and won 9-4.
The 120-pound state final pits Glenn Jr. (44-4) against Ponderosa’s Jacob Myers (16-3) in a battle of the top two wrestlers ranked by On The Mat at the weight.
The final day of the tournament sees the quest for top-six places continue for eight other Aurora boys — Grandview’s Sean Arnett (120), Sonny Quintana (145) and Maxwell Kibbee (195), Regis Jesuit’s Garrett Reece (126) and Dirk Morley (220), Cherokee Trail’s Chance Matthews (113), Rangeview’s Greg Brooks (182) and Vista PEAK’s Ezekiel Taylor (4A 182) — plus three other girls in Overland’s Katelynn Czerpak (105), Eaglecrest’s Savannah Smith (111) and Vista PEAK’s Samiah Andrews (215).
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports