Cherokee Trail junior Sam Hart cracks a smile after a quick pin in a 220-pound semifinal match at the Class 5A state wrestling tournament on Feb. 21, 2020. Hart earned his way into the 220-pound final for the second straight season and will take on Brighton’s Dylan BravoPacker on Feb. 22 in his quest to finish undefeated and with his first state title. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

DENVER | The race to be the first wrestler to have his name on the championship wall at Cherokee Trail is on and three Cougars have a chance after making state finals.

Sophomore Derek Glenn Jr. (106 pounds), junior Sam Hart (220 pounds) and senior Julian Williams (285 pounds) each prevailed in semifinal matches Friday night at the Pepsi Center to give the program three shots at a first champion for the second time in four seasons.

A trio of finalists came up short for coach Jeff Buck’s Cherokee Trail team in 2017, but they have another shot to break through, especially with the dominant Hart, last season’s 220-pound runner-up who is aiming to cap off an undefeated season.

With the trio of finalists and a number of wins on the back side of the bracket from an Aurora-high 10 qualifiers, the Cougars entered the final day of the tournament in second place as a team behind runaway lead Pomona with Rocky Mountain and Ponderosa also in the hunt for the runner-up spot.

Glenn Jr. will get the first chance to win a title for Cherokee Trail as he will be among the first set of matches to take the floor following the Parade of Champions at 6:30 p.m.

He has handled his nerves well with three victories to get there, winning by fall against Fort Collins’ Sam Nosler in the opening round Thursday and following that with a 10-0 major decision of Nick Vicic in the quarterfinals and a solid 11-7 decision over Rocky Mountain’s Lance Johnson in the semifinals.

Glenn Jr. (37-6) is set for an all-Aurora rematch with Grandview junior Frankie Sanchez Jr. (39-4) in the 106 pound final. The two met in the Centennial League dual between the Cougars and Wolves and Sanchez Jr. emerged with a 3-1 victory in match in which both wrestlers were largely disappointed with their efforts.

Hart lost to undefeated Hunter Tobiasson of Grand Junction in last season’s 220 pound state championship match and he immediately focused his attention on getting back to the final and winning it this season.

He has spent the least amount of time on the mat of any of Aurora’s finalists, as he has needed a cumulative total of 3 minutes, 51 seconds, to record pins over Fruita Monument’s Zach Fowler (first round), Northglenn’s Elias Pineda (quarterfinals) and Highlands Ranch’s Kyle Hanson (in the semifinals).

The last barrier in the way of Hart’s undefeated and championship bid is Brighton freshman Dylan BravoPacker (37-6), who has also pinned all three of his state opponents. Hart topped BravoPacker 4-1 when they met prior to winter break in the semifinals of the Northern Colorado Christmas Tournament.

Williams — an Air Force football signee — returned to wrestling this season after a couple of seasons off and has made it all the way to the championship match. He has wrestled at 195, 220 and 285 during the course of the season and ended up at heavyweight for the postseason.

Williams won his opening round match in just 42 seconds with a pin of Adams City’s Alberto Alvarado and followed that with back-to-back decisions over Douglas County’s Ryan Aguiar (13-8) and Smoky Hill’s Alex Angeles (6-5) to reach the final.

Waiting for Williams in the final is Columbine’s Zach Schraeder (42-2), who won his first two matches by fall before edging ThunderRidge’s Tyler Doyle 1-0 in the semifinals.

The Cherokee Trail trio make up half of the Aurora qualifiers for championship night, a mix that includes Sanchez Jr. (106 pounds) and Joe Renner (182 pounds) of Grandview and Regis Jesuit junior Antonio Segura, who is aiming for his second title at 145 pounds.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports


106 pounds: Derek Glenn Jr., soph., Cherokee Trail (37-6) vs. Frankie Sanchez Jr., jr., Grandview (39-4)

220 pounds: Sam Hart, jr., Cherokee Trail (37-0) vs. Dylan BravoPacker, fr., Brighton (37-6)

285 pounds: Julian Williams, sr., Cherokee Trail (31-5) vs. Zach Schraeder, jr., Columbine (42-2)