A playoff season unlike any other is at hand and everybody is expecting a wild ride.
Season B sports — comprised of boys and girls basketball, boys and girls wrestling, girls swimming and ice hockey — all have either reached the end of the regular season or will get there in the next week and then head into a postseason that is totally different due to the coronavirus pandemic.
With the specter of COVID-19 behind everything and possibly spelling the end to a season — like it did for the Vista PEAK boys basketball team (see story) — for teams and individuals, even more of an abundance of caution is in play. Separating practices, which usually is counter to building the chemistry needed to make it through the playoffs, and canceling or rescheduling competition in order to leave a window before the playoffs has made for an anticlimatic few weeks in some sports.
Long-awaited details have finally emerged from the Colorado High School Activities Association for the state tournaments and here’s what to expect:
Regional wrestling tournaments get contested March 5-6 — one housed locally at Cherokee Trail — that consist of 16-man brackets as usual, but this time, only the top two wrestlers will advance to the state tournament instead of the usual four.
That will most definitely change the dynamic of the state tournament, where traditionally quite a few wrestlers who finish third or fourth out of particularly strong regions go on to place in the top six — or even win titles — at state. Eight-man state brackets and a tournament completed in a single day — with only four placers instead of six — are vast departures from the norm.
Veteran coaches such as Cherokee Trail’s Jeff Buck are glad to have a postseason, but the majority of them are confused by the changes.
“It just seems like this is not what is best for kids,” said Buck, who is among the majority of coaches pushing for a regular state bracket.
CHSAA announced the schedule for the state tournament this week, which is set for March 11-13 at Pueblo’s Southwest Motors Events Center, 100-plus miles and light years different from the tournament’s usual home at Ball Arena (formerly Pepsi Center).
In its first season as a sanctioned sport, girls wrestling will be up first on March 11 — with four wrestlers in each of 10 weight classes that come out of two regional tournaments — set to begin at 2 p.m. and conclude with placing matches at 6:30 p.m. The 2A and 3A boys tournaments will be held in their entirety March 12, while 4A and 5A run all day March 13 (beginning at 9 a.m.) with the Parade of Champions set for 7 p.m.
Details of the three girls swimming state meets (Classes 3A-5A) are also out and they will be marathons for sure. They will be held March 11-13 at the Veterans’ Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton beginning with 5A (where all Aurora teams compete) on March 11.
Diving — traditionally held in the middle of the state meet — goes first this time at 8 a.m., followed in order by usual events, which each will have competitors on deck for an hour (which includes warm up, two heats of swimming and awards). The meet is scheduled to finish roughly 11 hours after it begins.
“Ultimately, I for one am really happy that we’re going to have a state meet at all,” said Smoky Hill girls swim coach Scott Cohen, who also chairs CHSAA’s Swimming/Diving Committee. “It’s going to be weird, but at least the kids will be able to determine a state champion,” he added.
Basketball playoffs have been chopped from 48 to 32 teams and will be completed rapid fire, with champions crowned March 19-20 at Colorado Springs’ World Arena, just 10 days after the start of the postseason.
Rounds at the Denver Coliseum, a staple in recent years, are gone and higher-seeded teams will play at home — in front of limited spectators — up to the state title games, which will happen for multiple classifications over two days in Colorado Springs.
Ice hockey has the smallest postseason — just four teams, though with Classes 5A and 4A this season — and is set to take place March 16-18 at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland.
At the beginning of the season, CHSAA hoped to keep Ball Arena as site of the semifinals and championship games, but instead, the tournament on the move yet again.
By virtue of winning its league, Regis Jesuit has qualified for the Frozen Four for the 14th consecutive season.
Coach Dan Woodley’s Raiders will play in one of two semifinals on March 16, with the winner advancing to the championship game March 18.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
2021 SEASON B POSTSEASON INFORMATION
BOYS & GIRLS WRESTLING
Boys Class 5A regionals (March 5-6)
Region 1 (at Pomona) — Aurora teams: None. Other teams: Arvada West, Cherry Creek, Denver East, Fort Collins, Fountain-Fort Carson, Heritage, Mountain Range, Mountain Vista, Pine Creek, Pomona, Rampart and Rock Canyon
Region 2 (at Cherokee Trail) — Aurora teams: Cherokee Trail, Grandview, Hinkley, Rangeview and Smoky Hill. Other teams: Castle View, Chaparral, Fossil Ridge, Legend, Ponderosa, Ralston Valley, ThunderRidge and Valor Christian
Region 3 (at Doherty) — Aurora teams: Overland and Regis Jesuit. Other teams: Adams City, Boulder, Centaurus, Chatfield, Columbine, Doherty, Douglas County, Fairview, Fruita Monument, Horizon, Northglenn and Poudre
Region 4 (at Brighton) — Aurora teams: Aurora Central and Eaglecrest. Other teams: Arapahoe, Brighton, Far Northeast Warriors, Grand Junction, Highlands Ranch, Lakewood, Legacy, Monarch, Prairie View, Rocky Mountain, Thornton, Westminster
Girls regionals (March 5-6)
Region 1 (at Fort Lupton) — Aurora teams: Lotus School For Excellence, Regis Jesuit and Vista PEAK. Other teams: Arapahoe, Arvada, Bennett, Brush, Central Grand Junction, Far Northeast Warriors, Fort Lupton, Golden, Heritage, John F. Kennedy, Legacy, Loveland, Mead, Middle Park, Mullen, Northridge, Platte Valley, Pomona, Poudre, Riverdale Ridge, Soroco, Steamboat Springs, Stratton, Westminster
Region 2 (at Coronado) — Aurora team: Eaglecrest. Other teams: Alamosa, Bayfield, Calhan, Chatfield, Denver East, Doherty, Dolores Huerta, Douglas County, Durango, Fountain-Fort Carson, Ignacio, La Junta, Lamar, Lewis-Palmer, Manitou Springs, Mesa Ridge, Mountain Vista, Norwood, Olathe, Palmer Ridge, Sierra Grande, Sierra, Vista Ridge, Widefield, Woodland Park, Yuma