Ten state wrestling qualifiers return for the 2012-13 season, but Aurora is looking for its next state champion.
Regis Jesuit’s John Crowley, the most decorated wrestler in Aurora prep history after winning three straight 5A 160-pound state championships, has graduated, leaving a void the city will try to fill.
Two returning Aurora wrestlers made it to the medal podium last season in Cherokee Trail senior Bruno Nicoletti and Eaglecrest senior Mike Howshar, who were 5th and 6th, respectively, could do it.
Nicoletti’s work in the offseason helped him add size and he’ll jump all the way up to the 126 pound class for coach Jeff Buck’s Cougars this season.
Buck doesn’t expect Nicoletti, who posted a 41-7 record last season, to skip a beat and potentially make a run at becoming the program’s first state champion.
“Bruno can wrestle with anybody when he has his ‘A’ game,” Buck said. “Obviously it depends on the day. Is he capable? Yeah, 100 percent. Hopefully this is his year.”
The Cougars also have high hopes with regional placers Jalen Reyes (160), Trent Rogers (171-182) and Garrett Zimmerman (heavyweight) back. The run to the 5A state championship football game could several wrestlers from joining the team right away.
Gateway has the most returning state qualifiers with two in senior 145-pounder Josh Butler and senior 113-pounder Sergio Marquez. Both are strong bets to return to the Pepsi Center, while they could be joined by senior Abdelaziz Benqadi (160) and impressive freshman Deyaun Trueblood (152).
Aurora Central (heavyweight Noah Brandt), Eaglecrest (Trevon Beauford, 195), Overland (Amer Tipura, 220), Rangeview (Brandon Read, 160), Regis Jesuit (Grant Neal, 195) and 4A Vista Peak (Junior Casillas, 106) each have one wrestler back in the room who has wrestled downtown.
Smoky Hill had a wrestler in the finals last season, as graduated Kirk Owens fell in the heavyweight title match. The Buffaloes —who will play host to 5A Region 1 — feature a rising junior in 220-pounder Dexter Bess, while 120-pound senior Dan Kasberg is another experienced member of the lineup.
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555