Both of last season’s Class 5A state champions have departed, but 2014-15 still promises to be a successful one for Aurora wrestling teams.
With two-time champion Grant Neal of Regis Jesuit graduated and Deyaun Trueblood — who became Gateway’s first state wrestling champion since 1993 — transferred to Pomona, the city enters a new season without a defending state champion for the first time in a while.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be contenders for titles and podium places come the Feb. 19-21 state tournament at the Pepsi Center, as a total of 18 qualifiers from seven different programs return to wrestling rooms around the city.
Neal believed that one or both of the hard-working Ronan twins, Donovan and Logan, would win a state title before they left Regis Jesuit and now is their final chance as they are both seniors.
Logan Ronan, who placed fourth last season in his first state trip and posted an Aurora-best 47 wins, comes into the season ranked No. 2 at 160 pounds by On The Mat, while Donovan Ronan comes in at No. 7 in the 152-pound class. Both got off to great starts by winning their respective weights at the Arapahoe Warrior Invitational Dec. 6.
Regis Jesuit coach Rick Schultz returns a total of four state qualifiers in all. Besides the Ronans, junior 195-pounder Nick Elgin wrestled at the Pepsi Center last year, as did sophomore 138-pounder Carl Composanto. Schultz’ son, Trenton, transferred to Mountain Vista after placing fourth at 160 pounds last season.
The city team with the most returning state qualifiers resides at Rangeview, as veteran coach Tim Corby welcomes back all of five of his state-experienced wrestlers from a year ago, the most he can remember back for the program in his 14 seasons.
Only two of the Raiders’ returning qualifiers are seniors in 160-pounder Sam Maes and 113-pounder Dominic Wenger, while junior Kipp Corby (138) and sophomores Deron Solomon (145) and Max Gonzales (220) have been on the Pepsi Center mats. Gonzales — coming off an outstanding football season — came into the season ranked No. 4 at 195 by On The Mat, but plans to wrestle at 220 this season.
While Grandview has a different head coach for the first time in school history, with former Wolves standout Ryan Budd taking over for the retired Greg Maestas, the Wolves have plenty of talent in the room and a challenging schedule ahead.
Three Grandview wrestlers qualified for state last season, though only two — junior 126-pounder Xavier Cardenas and junior Josh Vigil, who will wrestle at 220 pounds after previously wrestling in the heavyweight class — actually appeared at Pepsi Center. Senior 145-pounder Seth Brown qualified, but had to drop out due to injury.
Budd is taking the Wolves back to the rugged Top of the Rockies tournament, a staple in the past, but not in recent years, this season in addition to tough tournaments in Reno, Nevada, and at Arvada West.
Eaglecrest also returns three state qualifiers in seniors Dominique Evans (145), Jake Dugan (152) and Aldin Puris (182), with 113-pounder Stephen Ramirez hoping to join the mix this season for coach Dan Wrona’s squad.
Hinkley won the Mike Stanley Invite at Fairview to open the season with help from an individual championship from sophomore 145-pounder Serj Chavez, a returning state qualifier, while juniors Ben Rhoton at 106 pounds and Rafael Garibay at 120 pounds look ready to break out this season.
Thunderbirds’ coach Terrance Goodroad has had so many kids show up in the offseason that the school’s small wrestling room is packed to the brim.
Aurora Central (Jonnathan Quijada) and Cherokee Trail (Danny Constant) also return single state qualifiers, but both Conrad Parra with the Trojans and the Cougars’ Jeff Buck have a handful of others who could push for state berths this time around. Aurora Central has added 182-pounder Juan Fraire, who transferred from Sedgwick County/Fleming after placing third at 160 pounds at last season’s 2A state tournament to cap a 36-2 season.
Gateway has a new coach in Jamal Lewis, who does have Trueblood’s younger brother, Tyris, and veteran 138-pounder Jeru Smith.
Vista PEAK graduated the only state placer in program history in Junior Casillas — who earned his way onto the podium in fifth place last season — but junior Marcus Guerra looks ready to take over in coach David Benedict’s estimation. The Bison have increased numbers in the room, but most of it is very young.
Junior 160-pounder John Salazar and sophomore 106-pounder Dillon Esparza both return for Vista PEAK after placing at regionals a year ago, while freshman 113-pounder Tony Lozano started the season strong and has Benedict eager to see him progress.
Veteran coach Bert Dalton at Overland has an up-and-comer in 106-pounder Daniel Cuc-Capota, who is looking to have a big senior season after a hand fracture ended his junior campaign prematurely.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2014-15 WRESTLING KEY DATES, INFORMATION
Key dates: Nov. 12 — First practice allowed; Dec. 1 — First competition allowed; Dec. 13 — Grandview Duals; Dec. 21 — Cherokee Trail Holiday Duals; Jan. 2 — Two-pound growth allowance; Jan. 10 — Rangeview Invitational; Jan. 24 — Smoky Hill Invitational; Jan. 28 — Aurora Public Schools Championships (quad) at Gateway; Feb. 7 — EMAC Championships at Westminster; Feb. 14 — Class 5A/4A regionals; Feb. 19-21 — Class 5A-1A state tournament at Pepsi Center
Aurora coaches: Aurora Central — Conrad Parra; Cherokee Trail — Jeff Buck; Eaglecrest — Dan Wrona; Gateway — Jamal Lewis; Grandview — Ryan Budd; Hinkley — Terrance Goodroad; Overland — Bert Dalton; Rangeview — Tim Corby; Regis Jesuit — Rick Schultz; Smoky Hill — Jim Opperman; Vista PEAK — David Benedict
Returning Aurora Class 5A state placer: Logan Ronan, Regis Jesuit, sr. (4th place at 152 pounds, now at 160)
Other returning Aurora 5A state qualifiers: Seth Brown, Grandview, sr. (injured, missed state, 145 pounds); Xavier Cardenas, Grandview, jr. (126 pounds); Serj Chavez, Hinkley, soph. (145 pounds); Carl Composanto, Regis Jesuit, soph. (138 pounds); Danny Constant, Cherokee Trail, sr. (113-120 pounds); Kipp Corby, Rangeview, jr. (138 pounds); Jake Dugan, Eaglecrest, sr. (152 pounds); Nick Elgin, Regis Jesuit, jr. (195 pounds); Dominique Evans, Eaglecrest, sr. (145 pounds); Max Gonzales, Rangeview, soph. (220 pounds); Sam Maes, Rangeview, sr. (160 pounds); Aldin Puris, Eaglecrest, sr. (182 pounds); Jonnathan Quijada, Aurora Central, soph. (132 pounds); Donovan Ronan, Regis Jesuit, sr. (152 pounds); Deron Solomon, Rangeview, soph. (145 pounds); Josh Vigil, Grandview, jr. (220 pounds); Dominic Wenger, Rangeview, sr. (113 pounds)
Other Aurora wrestlers to watch: Seth Bogulski, Cherokee Trail, jr. (160 pounds); Daniel Cuc-Cupota, Overland, sr. (106 pounds); Dillon Esparza, Vista PEAK, soph. (106 pounds); Giovanni Federico, Grandview, fr. (106 pounds); Juan Fraire, Aurora Central, sr. (182 pounds); Rafael Garibay, Hinkley, jr. (120 pounds); Marcus Guerra, Vista PEAK, jr. (132 pounds); Lizandro Hernandez, Cherokee Trail, sr. (120-126 pounds); Jayden Jackson, Cherokee Trail, jr. (182-195 pounds); Cassandra Ledger, Hinkley, jr. (126-138 pounds); Tony Lozano, Vista PEAK, fr. (113 pounds); Jose Millan, Aurora Central (152 pounds); Calvin Nguyen, Smoky Hill, fr. (120 pounds); David Nuttall, Rangeview, soph., (106 pounds); Axel Pacheco, Aurora Central (106 pounds); Tanner Patterson, Grandview, jr. (138 pounds); Stephen Ramirez, Eaglecrest, sr. (113 pounds); Ben Rhoton, Hinkley, jr. (106 pounds); Joe Rutkowski, Grandview, sr. (182 pounds); John Salazar, Vista PEAK, jr. (160 pounds); Nicolas Sanchez-Jans, Rangeview, jr. (120 pounds); Armando Santillan, Grandview, soph. (132 pounds); Jeru Smith, Gateway, sr. (132 pounds); Michael Thelen, Cherokee Trail, jr. (152 pounds); Tyris Trueblood, Gateway, fr.; Jordan White, Gateway, jr. (126 pounds); Carlos Zerna, Smoky Hill, sr. (220-285 pounds)