Wrestling: Seven Aurora wrestlers find different paths to podium at 5A state tournament

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Cherokee Trail senior Seth Bogulski points to someone in the crowd as he has his hand raised following his victory in the 170-pound third place match at the Class 5A state wrestling tournament on Feb. 20, 2016. Bogulski was one of three Cherokee Trail wrestlers and seven from Aurora to earn their way on the medal podium at the end of the three-day tournament. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Mere minutes after he’d had his hand raised with a win in the final match of his high school wrestling career, Cherokee Trail’s Seth Bogulski was already thinking about the spoils of victory Feb. 20.

“I’m going to drink a 20-ounce Red Bull — I’ve been waiting all season for it — then I’m going to have some donuts and some brownies,” Bogulski said with a smile on his face in the back hallways of the Pepsi Center. “I can’t wait, it’s going to be great.”

Bogulski certainly deserved the treats he had pined for all season given his performance, as he finished third at 170 pounds at the Class 5A state wrestling tournament. He ended up two spots lower on the medal podium than he and Cougars coach Jeff Buck had hoped, but he still came away satisfied given he went 0-2 and got disqualified from last season’s state tournament.

Six other Aurora wrestlers — including Cherokee Trail’s Max Gonzales (the runner-up at 220 pounds) and Ezequiel Silva (4th at 182 pounds), the Grandview trio of Joshua Vigil-Harrison (third at 285 pounds) plus Fabian Santillan (113) and Tanner Patterson (138), fourth at their respective weights, and sixth-place 106-pounder Ben Rhoton of Hinkley — made it onto the medal podium in all.

All of Aurora’s placers could have finished higher, but Bogulski had an especially heartbreaking loss in an ultimate tiebreaker against Pomona’s Cameron Gonzales in the semifinals on Feb. 19. He rebounded to beat Thornton’s Josh Cordova in the consolation semifinal and dominated Grand Junction’s Seth Latham in the third-place match to finish 4-1 at state and 43-4 for the season.

“Losing that overtime match was definitely frustrating, but coach kept telling me ‘true character battles back for third,’ so I had to do it,” Bogulski said.

“Last year I got disqualified for biting a kid, so it feels a lot better to place and get on the podium.”

Buck saw huge growth over the years from Bogulski who came out for wrestling as a freshman only after he had been cut from the basketball team and only wrestled half a season after breaking a finger. He worked his way to becoming a regional placer as a sophomore, won a wrestleback to make state as a junior and finished his career in a high place on the medal podium.

“Seth has an amazing story,” Buck said. “I still think his best wrestling is yet to come. There are a number of schools looking to get him in the room and I think he’s a real diamond in the rough. I still don’t think he always knows what he’s doing out there, but that’s not a bad thing.”

Silva (37-6) came a win away from placing at state as a sophomore and he got over the hump as a junior. He might have gone even further, but a 3-1 loss to Legacy’s Matt Hebel in the quarterfinals — in which Hebel got a takedown with just five seconds left in regulation —made him work his way through the consolation bracket.

A 3-1 loss to Pomona’s Uriah Vigil put him fourth.

“I beat the guys I should have beaten, but I could have beaten some other people,” Silva said. “I said I was going to win state this year, but after the first day I psyched mseylf out. Next year, I need to come in confident, but not too confidenct or cocky.

With three top-four placers, the Cougars finished 10th as a team, two spots behind Centennial League champion and rival Grandview, which scored 63 points to finish eighth.

If a couple of matches had gone a bit differently, coach Ryan Budd saw the possibility of the Wolves getting into the top five as a team.

Of Grandview’s city-best nine state qualifiers, three of them got onto the podium in Vigil-Harrison, who took third place at 285 pounds for the second straight season, plus freshman Santillan and senior Patterson, who each placed in their first trips to state.

Vigil-Harrison seemed on a collision path with Fruita’s Clayton Voytilla — who beat him a week earlier in the Region 1 final — in the heavyweight championship match, but Centaurus’ Forrest Lalaguna prevented that with a 2-1 upset of Vigil-Harrison (41-9) in the quarterfinals.

The Grandview senior bounced back with three straight wins and pinned Broomfield’s Mason Watt in the third-place match.

“It’s really tough to lose in the quarterfinals and have to come all the way back and you see a lot of seniors do that and then fold the chips,” Budd said. “Josh really fought through adversity and came back to place, which is what I expected him to do. He showed a lot of heart.”

Budd was also quite happy for Patterson (31-13), who had knee surgery just before the season and really came on after he got healthy. He rose from unranked to as high as No. 3 at 138 pounds in On The Mat’s 5A rankings late in the season and finished 4-2 at the state tournament, with both losses coming to Palmer’s Dre-Son Scruggs.

Patterson won three straight matches after a 21-6 technical fall loss to Scruggs in the quarterfinal — a result Budd took the blame for in giving Patterson bad coaching — then wrestled his own match and lost a much-tighter 8-3 decision in the third-place match.

Santillan provided a glimpse of his immense potential when he reached the semifinals and lost by just two points to eventual champion Fabian Gutierrez of Adams City.

“Fabian has a no-lose mentality and that’s what you want,” Budd said of Santillan, who finished 38-11. “We’re excited about his future.”

Budd badly pulled for senior Xavier Cardenas — a four-time state qualifier — to get onto the medal podium for the first time, but the 120-pound weight class proved very difficult. Cardenas won his first match, but ran into eventual state champion Jordan Martinez of Pine Creek in the quarterfinals. He then dropped a close 9-6 decision to Doherty’s Collin Metzgar in the consolation bracket.

Rhoton lost both of his matches at state last season in his debut, but finished 3-3 in his return and got onto the medal podium in sixth place. His former teammate, Max Carbajal, placed third at 220 pounds in 2014, to give coach Terrance Goodroad’s Thunderbirds two placers in three seasons.

After he challenged Ponderosa freshman star Mosha Schwartz in the quarterfinals before losing a 16-12 decision, Rhoton two twice in the consolation bracket to get into the medal round. Pomona’s Colton Yapoujian topped him in overtime in the consolation semifinals and Legacy’s Devan Cogil topped him by a 4-1 decision in the fifth-place match.

Rhoton finished the season 35-9.

In all, 27 of Aurora’s 36 state qualifiers won at least one match and 17 were still alive on the final day.