Only one wrestler could handle Rangeview’s Max Gonzales at the Class 5A state wrestling tournament and there may be none that can stop him there next season.
In just his second trip to the Pepsi Center, the brawny sophomore pinned his way to third place at 220 pounds and set himself up for the next two years.
Suffering his only loss to unbeaten Devin Rothrock of Arvada West in the semifinals, Gonzales rebounded and finished off a fantastic tournament with a pin of Loveland’s Charles Dunkelman in the third-place match.
“I definitely thought placing in the top three was possible; it was a goal I set after last season,” said Gonzales, who earned Rangeview’s highest place at the state tournament since Matthew Bomareto took fifth at 160 pounds in 2005.
“It was surreal (being on the medal podium) and it was amazing to see how the season shaped up to be top three,” he added.
For the first time since 2008, Aurora had no finalists, leaving the third-place finishes of Gonzales and Grandview junior heavyweight Josh Vigil-Harrison as tops among the city’s five top-six placers.
Regis Jesuit senior 152-pounder Logan Ronan placed fourth for a second straight season, while Grandview’s Seth Brown at 145 pounds and Aurora Central 182-pounder Juan Fraire — who both made the semifinals along with Gonzales — both finished sixth.
Aurora might have had a finalist in Gonzales if not for Rothrock, a juggernaut who pinned Gonzales for the first time all season and finished the tournament with his fourth pin in the state championship match. Rothrock (30-0) also won the 195-pound title in 2014.
“He reminded me of a 160-pound wrestler at 220, he was just so fast and powerful,” Gonzales said. “He’s definitely the toughest opponent I’ve ever faced.”
Four of the other five placers at 220 pounds are seniors, leaving it potentially wide open for Gonzales, a standout football player who said he likes the mental strength wrestling helps him build.
Gonzales finished 42-5 at 220 pounds and plans to stay there next year, which should help Aurora continue to be a recent hotbed for that weight class. Regis Jesuit’s Grant Neal won the state title at 220 pounds in 2014, with Smoky Hill’s Dexter Bess finishing second and Hinkley’s Max Carbajal third.
“I really believe that one of the biggest opponents for next year will be myself,” Gonzales said. “This feels great and everything, but I always have room for improvement. I’ll take that for the offseason and make sure I claim what’s hopefully mine next year.”
Harrison-Vigil also ran into another dominating force in Chaparral state champion Dane Drimmer in the heavyweight quarterfinals, but rebounded from his loss to Drimmer with four wins to claim third, significantly bettering his sixth-place finish as a freshman in 2013.
He walked the razor’s edge of even placing, needing a reversal in the closing seconds of a third round consolation match to even make the placing round.
Once Vigil-Harrison got to the third-place match, Poudre’s Clayton Voytilla had him on his back and nearly pinned him, but he rolled over and pinned Voytilla instead to finish 29-9 on the season.
“I just remember being on my back and I told myself ‘I don’t want it to end this way,’” Vigil-Harrison said. “Something inside of me just kicked in and I was able to pop my hips through and get that half,” he added. “I just dug really deep inside.”
With Drimmer and runner-up Taylor White of Pine Creek graduating and the experience he’s racked up in three career trips to the state tournament, Vigil-Harrison is setting a higher bar for next season.
“Once I lost my first match, I had third as a goal through the rest of the tournament, so that was a big win for me,” Vigil-Harrison said. “I don’t want to sound cocky, but I want to keep working hard and move into the finals by my senior year. I had my third place goal and achieved it. Now I can set my higher goal now and try to achieve that on.”
First-year Grandview coach Ryan Budd also saw Brown — who missed last year’s state tournament due to injury — win his first two state matches to reach the semifinals.
Though he lost his last three matches to place sixth, it was still a major achievement for Brown.
Ronan made two trips to the state tournament and finished fourth both times, coming up on the short end of identical 3-2 decisions. Last season, Pine Creek’s Chris Cos edged him for third and Adams City’s Jozef McClure did it this time with a three-point second period flurry.
A 4-2 overall showing at state put Ronan’s season record at 35-5.
Fraire — who placed third at 160 pounds in 2A last season while with Sedgwick County/Fleming — won his first two matches to reach the 182-pound semis in his debut in the 5A tournament, only to lose by two points to Mountain Vista’s Trenton Schultz.
A tough 5-4 loss to Legacy’s Matt Hebel dropped Fraire (34-8) into the fifth-place match, where Pomona’s Cameron Gonzales found a way to pin him in the second period.
Fraire became the first Aurora Central wrestler to place since William Montrey in 2011.
Hinkley’s Rafael Garibay (120 pounds), Regis Jesuit’s Donovan Ronan (145 pounds) Eaglecrest’s Jake Dugan (152 pounds), Rangeview’s Sam Maes (160 pounds) and Cherokee Trail’s Zeke Silva (170 pounds) came up one win short of the placing round.
In all, 19 of Aurora’s 27 state qualifiers won at least one match.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2015 CLASS 5A STATE WRESTLING TOURNAMENT
Final team scores: 1. Arvada West 163.5 points; 2. Pomona 153.5; 3. Grand Junction 113; 4. Pine Creek 87.5; 5. Rocky Mountain 71; 6. Fruita 60; 7. Cherry Creek 54; 8. Chaparral 52.5; 9. Ponderosa 52; 10. Legacy 51; 11. Mountain Range 48; 12. Coronado 44.5; 13. Adams City 42.5; 14. Northglenn 39; 15. Poudre 36; 16. Ralston Valley 32.5; 17. Central G.J. 32; 18. ThunderRidge 28; T19. GRANDVIEW 27; T19. Douglas County 27; 21. Mountain Vista 23; 22. Loveland 19; T23. RANGEVIEW 18; T23. REGIS JESUIT 18; T23. Horizon 18; 26. Doherty 17; T27. Lakewood 16; T27. Legend 16; 29. Broomfield 15; T30. Lincoln 14; T30. Monarch 14; T32. Arapahoe 13; T32. Liberty 13; 34. Centaurus 12; 35. Castle View 10; T36. AURORA CENTRAL 9; T36. Denver East 9; T38. Brighton 8; T38. Greeley West 8; T40. EAGLECREST 7; T40. Heritage 7; 42. HINKLEY 5; T43 CHEROKEE TRAIL 4; T43. Palmer 4; T43. Thornton 4; T46. Fairview 4; T46. Fort Collins 4; T46. Prairie View 3; 49. George Washington 2; GATEWAY, SMOKY HILL, Boulder, Chatfield, Fountain-Fort Carson, Rampart and Rock Canyon no score
Aurora third-place matches
152 pounds: Jozef McClure, Adams City, dec. LOGAN RONAN, REGIS JESUIT, 3-2
220 pounds: MAX GONZALES, RANGEVIEW, pinned Charles Dunkelman, Loveland, 2:27
285 pounds: JOSH VIGIL-HARRISON, GRANDVIEW, pinned Clayton Voytilla, Fruita, 2:44
Aurora fifth-place matches
145 pounds: AJ Curtis, Cherry Creek, dec. SETH BROWN, GRANDVIEW, 4-1
182 pounds: Cameron Gonzales, Pomona, pinned JUAN FRAIRE, AURORA CENTRAL, 2:38