Wrestling: Thirty-six Aurora wrestlers earn their way to Pepsi Center for state tournament

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Grandview senior Xavier Cardenas, top, works on Chaparral's Tyler Johnson on his way to an 8-3 win in a 120-pound quarterfinal match at the Class 5A Region 1 wrestling tournament on Feb. 12, 2016, at Arvada West High School. Cardenas eventually faced Johnson again in the third-place match and beat him again to earn his fourth career trip to the 5A state wrestling tournament, which runs Feb. 18-20 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Cardenas and eight Grandview teammates make up a fourth of the 36 total Aurora wrestlers from 11 programs in the 5A and 4A tournament field. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)
Grandview senior Xavier Cardenas, top, works on Chaparral’s Tyler Johnson on his way to an 8-3 win in a 120-pound quarterfinal match at the Class 5A Region 1 wrestling tournament on Feb. 12, 2016, at Arvada West High School. Cardenas eventually faced Johnson again in the third-place match and beat him again to earn his fourth career trip to the 5A state wrestling tournament, which runs Feb. 18-20 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Cardenas and eight Grandview teammates make up a fourth of the 36 total Aurora wrestlers from 11 programs in the 5A and 4A tournament field. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | Representation at the upcoming Class 5A & 4A state wrestling tournaments spans from one end of the city to other, as 36 wrestlers — at least one from all 11 Aurora high schools — qualified to compete at the Pepsi Center.

Regional qualifying tournaments yielded a variety of surprises for Aurora wrestlers, who rose to the occasion at the right time to earn berths in the state tournament, which runs Thursday through Saturday in Downtown Denver.

Thirteen of the 36 city qualifiers competed at the state tournament last season and a few others have been there in years past.

The 5A Region 1 tournament at Arvada West High School saw a total of 16 qualifiers emerge from the combined efforts of Aurora teams Grandview, Hinkley, Overland and Regis Jesuit, where veterans and youngsters alike navigated a difficult field. (5A Region 1 results, here.)

Overland sophomore Kealin Chin jumps in the air after he pinned Pomona's Anthony Arguello in an upset win in the 195-pound quarterfinals at the Class 5A Region 1 wrestling tournament on Feb. 12, 2016, at Arvada West High School. Chin finished fourth and advanced to the 5A state wrestling tournament for the first time. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)
Overland sophomore Kealin Chin jumps in the air after he pinned Pomona’s Anthony Arguello in an upset win in the 195-pound quarterfinals at the Class 5A Region 1 wrestling tournament on Feb. 12, 2016, at Arvada West High School. Chin finished fourth and advanced to the 5A state wrestling tournament for the first time. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Second-year coach Ryan Budd’s Grandview team racked up nine spots in the state tournament — the most for the program since it had 10 in 2004, when Budd wrestled for the team — and the Wolves finished second in the team standings behind run-away winner Pomona.

Freshman Fabian Santillan (113 pounds), junior Gabriel Baumgartner (220) and senior Josh Vigil-Harrison (285) all reached regional championship matches, but all three finished second. Vigil-Harrison beat Fruita’s Clayton Voytilla to take third place at last season’s 5A state tournament and the two met again in the regional final, with Voytilla — currently ranked No. 1 by On The Mat — taking a 5-2 decision over second-ranked Vigil-Harrison.

Sophomore Giovanni Federico (106), junior Tyler Ross (160) seniors Xavier Cardenas (120), Ben Ehrhard (126) and Tanner Patterson (138) all won third-place matches to advance to state, while senior Matthew Little got in despite losing the third-place match at 170 pounds.

Cardenas and Vigil-Harrison each qualified for their fourth state tournament, as did Regis Jesuit senior Nick Elgin out of the same regional. Elgin qualified once at 220 pounds and twice at 195 pounds, but made state in the 182-pound class this season.

Elgin will have a Regis Jesuit teammate with him at the Pepsi Center in junior Brandon Minear, the 152-pound Region 1 runner-up. Carl Composanto, seeking a third straight state trip, lost in a wrestleback at 138 pounds to fall short of state.

Hinkley’s “Three Amigos” — seniors Ben Rhoton (106) and Rafael Garibay (120) and junior Serj Chavez (138) — all made state together for a second straight season. All three Thunderbirds were Region 1 runners-up. As a bonus, Chavez picked up career win No. 100 with a pin in the quarterfinals.

After a two-year absence from the state tournament, Overland returns with two qualifiers in junior Sean Kelly (120) and sophomore Kaelin Chin (195), who also came out of the Region 1 field. Chin pulled off one of the stunners of the regional when he got a late takedown to send his quarterfinal match with Pomona’s Angelo Arellano — ranked No. 7 in 5A — to overtime, where he ended up recording a pin. Though Chin lost his next two matches, he still made the state tournament.

Four Aurora teams (Aurora Central, Eaglecrest, Gateway and Rangeview) make the long trek to the Western Slope for the Region 4 tournament at Grand Junction Central, but eliminating distractions and fully immersing themselves in the business at hand paid off as the teams returned with a combined 12 state qualifiers. (5A Region 4 results, here.)

Aurora Central coach Conrad Parra came away pleased with his haul of six qualifiers — the second-most of any Aurora team behind only Grandview — and could have had eight if things had fallen a bit differently.

The state tournament will be no mystery to senior Jonnathan Quijada (132), who will wrestle at Pepsi Center for a third straight season, while 106-pound senior Axel Pacheco also made the trip last season. The other four Trojans will make their first trip in seniors Quincy Moreno (120) and Jose Millan (145), junior Omar Gonzalez (who won a wrestle back to get in at 138) and Parra’s biggest surprise, sophomore Octavio Lopez (113).

Pacheco, Quijada and Millan all lost in regional championship matches.

Rangeview came away with a trio of state qualifiers in seniors Kipp Corby (138), Christian Calkins (182) and Myles Price (195), with Corby making his second trip downtown after he made it as a sophomore.

In their first season under David Larson, Gateway has multiple qualifiers for the first time since 2013 as senior Charles Reigies (170) made the regional championship match to secure his state spot, while junior Elijah Kelly topped Calkins in an all-Aurora third-place match at 182 pounds to get in.

Eaglecrest has taken multiple wrestlers to state for at least seven straight seasons, but first-year coach Javier Quintana has one headed to Pepsi Center in senior 220-pounder Anthony Malone. Malone, who made it to state as a sophomore as well, faced top-ranked Cohl Schultz of Ponderosa in the regional championship match and lost in injury time.

Cherokee Trail and Smoky Hill combined for six state qualifiers from the 5A Region 2 tournament at Doherty High School, but the haul could have been a lot larger. (5A Region 2 results, here.)

Coach Jeff Buck’s Cougars — ranked No. 6 in 5A as a team — had two of Aurora’s three regional champions in senior 170-pounder Seth Bogulski and junior 220-pounder Max Gonzales, while junior Ezequiel Silva (runner-up at 182) and freshman David Rivera (third place at 126) joined them in making state.

Cherokee Trail had hopes of matching or bettering its best showing of seven state qualifiers accomplished in 2010, but three wrestlers lost in wrestlebacks to fall short of state.

Smoky Hill’s tradition of sending wrestlers in upper weights continued, as coach Jim Opperman’s Buffaloes grabbed state spots at 195 pounds (junior Robert Woods) and 285 pounds (junior Ryan Campbell). Campbell pinned Palmer’s Richard Huff, who beat him 2-1 in the quarterfinals, to win the third-place match and Woods also took third.

Vista PEAK’s 4A state contingent looks the same as it did last year in senior Marcus Guerra and junior Dilan Esparza, though each has moved up a weight class this season. Guerra won the 138-pound 4 Region 3 championship on Vista PEAK’s home mat — securing the program’s first regional title — while Esparza got in at 113 pounds with his fourth-place result. (4A Region 3 results, here.)

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel

AURORA 2016 CLASS 5A/4A STATE WRESTLING QUALIFIERS

AURORA CENTRAL (6): Axel Pacheco, sr. (106 pounds), Octavio Lopez, soph. (113 pounds), Quincy Moreno, sr. (120 pounds), Jonnathan Quijada, sr. (132 pounds), Omar Gonzalez, jr. (138 pounds) and Jose Millan, sr. (145 pounds); CHEROKEE TRAIL (4): David Rivera, fr. (126 pounds), Seth Bogulski, sr. (170 pounds), Ezequiel Silva, jr. (182 pounds) and  Max Gonzales, jr. (220 pounds); EAGLECREST: Anthony Malone, sr. (220 pounds); GATEWAY (2): Charles Reigies, sr. (170 pounds) and Elijah Kelly, jr. (182 pounds); GRANDVIEW (9): Giovanni Federico, soph. (106 pounds), Fabian Santillan, fr. (113 pounds), Xavier Cardenas, sr. (120 pounds), Ben Ehrhard, sr. (126 pounds), Tanner Patterson, sr. (138 pounds), Tyler Ross, jr. (160 pounds), Matthew Little, sr. (170 pounds), Gabriel Baumgartner, jr. (220 pounds) and Joshua Vigil-Harrison, sr. (285 pounds); HINKLEY (3): Ben Rhoton, sr. (106 pounds), Rafael Garibay, sr. (120 pounds) and Serj Chavez, sr. (138 pounds); OVERLAND (2): Sean Kelly, jr. (120 pounds) and Kaelin Chin, soph. (195 pounds); RANGEVIEW (3): Kipp Corby, sr. (138 pounds), Christian Calkins, sr. (182 pounds) and Myles Price, sr. (195 pounds); REGIS JESUIT (2): Brandon Minear, jr. (152 pounds) and Nick Elgin, sr. (182 pounds); SMOKY HILL (2): Robert Woods, jr. (195 pounds) and Ryan Campbell, jr. (285 pounds); VISTA PEAK (4A – 2): Dilan Esparza, jr. (113 pounds) and Marcus Guerra, sr. (138 pounds)

Full Aurora Class 5A & 4A state wrestling pairings, here.