Aurora’s contingent for the second girls state wrestling tournament held at Ball Arena is significantly larger than the first, showing the growth and improvement of the sport in the city.

Between four programs — Eaglecrest, Overland, Regis Jesuit and Vista PEAK — a total of 17 wrestlers have qualified for the Feb. 16-18 tournament downtown, nearly double the nine that competed there a year ago.

That contingent includes a returning state champion in Eaglecrest senior Blythe Cayko, who is favored to win another title in the 190 pound weight class.

— Full list of Aurora state qualifiers by school with regional places, here

— Brackets and pairings for the 2023 girls state wrestling tournament, here

Cayko leads a contingent of eight qualifiers for coach Horacio Vialpando’s Raptors, who have two others back for a second trip to state in senior Kaiya Winbush and junior Gianna Falise. Eaglecrest’s state contingent includes first-time qualifiers in juniors Chasey Karabell and Madison Patterson along with freshmen Arianna Sanchez, Emma Roberts and Diora Moore.

A lot of eyes will certainly be on Cayko, who finished 32-0 with 32 wins by fall last season to earn her third career state place in as many seasons. In the championship match, Cayko pinned Calhan’s Taylor Knox, who is the only wrestler to beat her over the past two seasons.

Knox took a 4-2 victory from Cayko in a match at the Douglas County on Jan. 21, but the two met in the championship match of the Chatfield War Horse Invitational just a week later and Cayko pinned Knox in the first period. Both wrestlers won their respective regional tournaments and sit on opposite sides of the bracket as they to set up a final meeting in the championship session Feb. 18.

The Raptors have been a top-10 team in On The Mat’s rankings for most of the season and been as high as seventh with the potential for multiple point scorers. Falise and Winbush each finished 1-2 at state last season and come into this tournament with that experience to draw off of as well as much-improved regular season records. Winbush, however, had to win a wrestleback to even make state.

Karabell (who owns a team-high 32 wins) placed at the Reno Tournament of Champions and has been ranked as high as No. 2 at 100 pounds.

Among the trio of freshman is Moore, who won her weight at the Region 3 tournament with three wins by fall, including one in the final against Platte Valley’s Nevaeh Garcia, who was ranked No. 1 in the state as well as Sanchez, whose older brother Frankie made the boys 5A 106-pound final in 2020.

Next among city programs in number of qualifiers is Vista PEAK, which finished third in the Region 3 tournament behind Eaglecrest and winner Chatfield.

Coach Jakob Vargas’ Bison had two regional finalists and one champion in senior Leilani Caamal, who is the only one with previous state experience.

Caamal went 1-2 last season at state, but has improved tremendously and comes into her final tournament with a 33-4 record. She got to pay back one of her previously losses in the Region 3 championship match when she pinned second-ranked Alissa DuBois, who had beaten her earlier in the season.

Dubois and the other two wrestlers to defeat Camaal this season — Victoria Guinard of Discovery Canyon and Rifle’s Madison Ferris — are all on the opposite side of the bracket.

Junior Taryn Holloway also made the regional final at 190 pounds and fell victim to Cayko, but still earned her first state berth, as did senior Reagan Perez, junior Rachel Allred and freshman Amelia Bacon, whose twin brother, Ian, qualified for the 4A boys state tournament.

In its second season with a full program, Overland has a trio of state qualifiers, including a returner in senior Vianca Mendoza.

Mendoza went 1-2 at state last year, but has been outstanding this season with a city-best 35 wins thus far. She finished as the runner-up out of Region 1 at 120 pounds after she was pinned by undefeated and top-ranked Persaeus Gomez of Pomona in the championship match.

Junior Violet Garcia and sophomore Ruth Worknhe each will wrestle at state for the first time for coach Nikki Garcia’s Trailblazers.

Regis Jesuit has a single state qualifier, but it is one with a track record.

Junior Alexis Segura — sister of three-time 5A boys state champion Antonio Segura of Regis Jesuit — is back at state for the first time since 2021, when the tournament was held in Pueblo due to COVID-19 restrictions. That season, Segura qualified for the 118-pound state title match and lost, while she did not appear at state last year.

Segura — the Region 1 champion — may be in line for a second championship match appearance as she is On The Mat’s No. 1-ranked wrestler at 125 pounds with a sparkling 25-3 record. Two of the three losses on her record came out of state at the Napa Valley Classic in California in January (wher she finished in fifth place) and her only loss in Colorado came via medical forfeit in the championship match of the Chatfield War Horse Invitational.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...

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