DENVER | The girls state wrestling tournament fit in seamlessly with the boys tournament at Ball Arena for the first time and several Aurora wrestlers got a chance to shine.
Four wrestlers from three city programs — Eaglecrest, Overland and Vista PEAK — earned spots on the medal podium Saturday night, a group led by junior Blythe Cayko, who on the state championship at 185 pounds (see story, here).
Overland’s Katelyn Czerpak, Vista PEAK’s Samiah Andrews and Eaglecrest’s Savannah Smith — all seniors — also earned coveted top-six spots at their respective weights at the conclusion of the grueling three-day tournament. (Full breakdown of the 2022 girls state wrestling tournament for each of Aurora’s 11 qualifiers, here).
The next-highest spot on the podium went to Czerpak, who came away with fourth place in the 105-pound bracket. Czerpak qualified for state previously when she was a part of the Eaglecrest team that serves as a co-op program for Cherry Creek Schools, but wanted to have a program in her own school and made it happen along with help from junior teammate Vianca Mendoza and the Overland administration.
Czerpak handled the pressures of the big stage at Ball Arena in fine fashion in her first two matches with pins of Yuma’s Chloe Smith and Jefferson’s Alicia Soto in just over five minutes of mat time combined, then ran into a buzzsaw in Mountain Vista’s Rosalind Ramos-Cruz in the semifinals. Ramos-Cruz earned the win by fall in the first period to send Czerpak to the third-place match.
Discovery Canyon’s Mia Hargrove pinned Czerpak in the second period as the Overland senior finished her season 25-8, with another of her losses coming the previous week at the Region 2 tournament against Loveland’s Morgan Johnson, who took the state championship by pinning Ramos-Cruz herself.
Combined with a consolation victory for Mendoza, coach Nikki Garcia’s Overland team finished 32nd out of 44 team that earned at least a point at the state tournament.
Coach Sparky Adair’s Eaglecrest team tied for ninth in the final standings and it came on the strength of the state title for Cayko as well as the sixth-place finish for Smith, who finished 3-3 in six matches in the 111-pound weight class.
In her third state tournament — she made it as a freshman and sophomores when girls wrestling was still in its pilot stage — Smith pinned Yuma’s Ashley Marshall in the opening round and did the same to Mendoza and Severance’s Faith Vondy in the consolation bracket after a loss by tech. fall to finalist Bella Cross of Mesa Ridge in the quarterfinals.
Smith faced Chatfield’s Janessa George in the consolation semifinals in a rematch of the Region 1 championship match the previous week won by George and the result was the same, which put Smith in the fifth-place match. Loveland’s Kelly Clingan prevailed 14-6 in that meeting, bringing Smith’s season record to 25-11.
Coach Jakob Vargas’ two state qualifiers — Andrews and junior Leilani Camaal — combined to score 18 points for Vista PEAK and the majority came from Andrews, who took advantage of her second consecutive trip to the state tournament to place fifth.
Andrew’s cryptonite in the tournament was Alamosa’s Isabella Durgan, who won by fall over her in both the first round and in the consolation semifinals, but Andrews pinned her four other opponents to make the medal podium.
The most epic of the wins by fall came in the second round of consolations, when Andrews faced a 10-0 deficit to Fort Lupton’s Angelrae Gasca and managed to get through the end of the second period without getting pinned. Andrews rallied to pin Gasca 22 seconds into the final period and stayed alive, then qualified for the medal round with a pin of Denver East’s Alejandra Alfaro.
After Durgan dealt her a second defeat on the consolation semifinals, Andrews pinned Broomfield’s Max Ziegler in the opening period of the fifth-place match to finish a 14-12 season in style.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports