Individual success at the Class 5A state wrestling tournament hasn’t been a problem in recent years for Aurora, but teams have found little traction in the team standings.
Largely thanks to the arrival of a horde of freshmen, city programs look to be stronger across the board than last season, when a total of 26 wrestlers — representing eight different programs — earned their way into the state tournament at the Pepsi Center.
Aurora still has more teams suited to perform better at tournaments than in duals, but several now have the depth to do both.
One of the programs looking for better team success at state this season is Regis Jesuit, which also happens to have a returning state champion in senior Grant Neal in addition to two other returning state qualifiers.
“We’re going to be a lot tougher than people expect us to be, I think,” new Regis Jesuit coach Rick Schultz said. “We have six really solid wrestlers and a couple more could step up. I think we should have a good showing as a team at state.”
Schultz has been grateful for the presence of Neal, who continued the Raiders’ recent run of title success when he won the 5A 195-pound championship last year. It put him in position to become the third two-time state champion in Regis Jesuit history, joining B.J. Sanchez (1993-94) and John Crowley (2009-10-11).
Because he wants to play football in college, Neal bumped up to the 220 pound weight class this season, but has been just as dominant thus far. He won the Arapahoe Warrior Invitational handily on Dec. 7, winning the pin away for most pins in shortest amount of time.
The additions of talented freshmen Trenton Schultz at 160 pounds and 120-pounder Carl Composanto further bolstered a group that returned two state qualifiers from last season in addition to Neal — junior Donovan Ronan (now at 138s) and sophomore Nick Elgin (who is expected to wrestle at 195s when he returns from injury) — plus two regional placers in Logan Ronan and Jack Hardin.
Three returning state placers — Smoky Hill senior Dexter Bess, Cherokee Trail senior Harley Korte and Gateway sophomore Deyaun Trueblood, who all took sixth last season — will drive their respective teams.
Korte rose from junior varsity as a sophomore to getting on the medal podium last season and has the motor and work ethic coach Jeff Buck believes will help keep Cherokee Trail strong despite the graduation of all five of its other state qualifiers from last season.
Bess is expected to make another run at a podium place at 220 pounds and coach Jim Opperman hopes his example can set the tone for a Smoky Hill program loaded with seniors looking to finally fulfill their potential.
Trueblood is a rising star who pushed himself to the limit in the offseason to get ready for this season, where he’ll compete at 152 or 160 pounds. Gateway coach Steven Burns sees a top-three finish — if not a state championship — at whichever weight class Trueblood ends up wrestling in.
Grandview also has a returning state placer in sophomore heavyweight Josh Harrison-Vigil, who was also sixth last season. The Cardenas brothers, sophomore Xavier and senior Jaime, also made state last season and form a strong nucleus for the Wolves.
Eaglecrest has a pair of returning state qualifiers in senior Trevon Beauford and junior Jake Dugan, while Vista PEAK has a two-time qualifier in the room in Junior Casillas.
Overland coach Bert Dalton graduated all three of his state qualifiers from last season — including 220-pound state runner-up Amer Tipura and another placer in 182-pounder Javier Alonso — but hopes to seniors Carlos Silva (126) or Jaseri Dixon (285) or hard-working junior Daniel Cuc-Capota can earn their way down to Pepsi Center this season.
Aurora Central coach Conrad Parra doesn’t have a returning state qualifier for the first time in his tenure at the school. He holds out hope that one more will develop, however, as freshman Yovanny Osuna and sophomore Axel Pachecho have shown particular potential in the early going.
Hinkley also has a promising youngster in freshman Serj Chavez at 138 pounds, while senior Max Carbajal is determined to make the state tournament this season at 195 pounds.
AURORA 2013-14 WRESTLING SEASON
KEY DATES: Dec. 2 — First matches allowed; Dec. 14 — Grandview Duals; Dec. 21 — Cherokee Trail Holiday Duals; Jan. 9 — APS Dual Championships at Aurora Central; Jan. 11 — Rangeview Raider Classic; Jan. 25 — Buffalo Invite at Smoky Hill; Feb. 14-15 — Aurora Central, Cherokee Trail, Overland, Rangeview and Smoky Hill at 5A Region 1 (Cherokee Trail H.S.); Grandview at 5A Region 2 (Coronado H.S.); Hinkley, Regis Jesuit at 5A Region 3 (Fort Collins H.S.); Eaglecrest, Gateway at 5A Region 4 (Arvada West H.S.); Vista PEAK at 4A Region 1 (Broomfield H.S.); Feb. 20-22 — Class 5A-1A state tournament at Pepsi Center
RETURNING STATE CHAMPION: Grant Neal, sr., Regis Jesuit (won championship at 195 pounds, now at 220)
RETURNING STATE PLACERS: Dexter Bess, sr., Smoky Hill (placed 6th at 220 pounds); Josh Harrison-Vigil, soph., Grandview (6th at 285); Harley Korte, sr., Cherokee Trail (placed 6th at 152, now at 160); Deyaun Trueblood, soph., Gateway (placed 6th at 145 pounds, now at 160)
RETURNING STATE QUALIFIERS: Trevon Beauford, sr., Eaglecrest (qualified at 182); Jaime Cardenas, sr., Grandview (qualified at 132); Xavier Cardenas, soph., Grandview (qualified 113); Junior Casillas, sr., Vista PEAK (qualified at 106 (4A), now at 120); Jake Dugan, jr., Eaglecrest (qualified at 132); Nick Elgin, soph., Regis Jesuit (qualified at 220, now at 195, starts season injured); Donovan Ronan, jr., Regis Jesuit (qualified at 126, now at 138)
OTHER WRESTLERS TO WATCH: Alex Aguilar, sr., Grandview (152 pounds); Abe Bereras, sr., Aurora Central (138 pounds); Seth Bogulski, soph., Cherokee Trail (145); Nate Bradley, sr., Rangeview (285); Max Carbajal, sr., Hinkley (195); Serj Chavez, fr., Hinkley (138); Carl Composanto, fr., Regis Jesuit (120); Danny Constant, jr., Cherokee Trail (106); Daniel Cuc-Capota, jr., Overland (195); Jaseri Dixon, sr., Overland (285); Jack Engelson, sr., Gateway (220); A.J. Federico, fr., Grandview (106); Rafael Garibay, soph., Hinkley (113); Marcus Guerra, soph., Vista PEAK (126); Jack Hardin, soph., Regis Jesuit (113); Tristan Harper, sr., Hinkley (152); Matt Mitchell, sr., Smoky Hill (126); Yovanny Osuna, fr., Aurora Central (132); Axel Pachecho, soph., Aurora Central (106); Evan Person, sr., Smoky Hill (160); Ben Rhoton, soph., Hinkley (106); Logan Ronan, jr., Regis Jesuit (145); Trenton Schultz, fr., Regis Jesuit (160); Carlos Silva, sr., Overland (126); Shane Yeo, sr., Gateway (285)
COACHES: Aurora Central — Conrad Parra; Cherokee Trail — Jeff Buck; Eaglecrest — Dan Wrona; Gateway — Steven Burns; Grandview — Greg Maestas; Hinkley — Terrance Goodroad; Overland — Bert Dalton; Rangeview — Tim Corby; Regis Jesuit — Rick Schultz; Smoky Hill — Jim Opperman; Vista PEAK (4A) — David Benedict
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel