Some parents of Grandview wrestlers were surprised to find out that coach Ryan Budd wrestled for the program when he was in high school.
Not only did he wrestle, the Wolves’ second-year head coach was very good — as in the best the program has ever seen.
Though he’s not one of its four all-time state champions, Budd (who posted third-, fourth- and fifth-place state finishes) still owns the Grandview program record for career wins with 150, and he’s proud to be the one trusted to pick up where legendary coach Greg Maestas left off when he stepped down in 2014.
“With the legacy that Greg had for so long, you don’t want to take it over and have it fall,” Budd said Jan. 19. “We (he and assistant coach Brian Timberman) wrestled for him and we know how much it meant to him, and I know how much it means to me now that I’m in charge.
“We have to make sure we keep the legacy intact.”
Budd has been able to further Grandview’s legacy with what his team has accomplished this season.
With a mix of young talent, veteran experience and grit, the Wolves have won all 17 of their duals this season, including a notable 37-32 win over rival Cherokee Trail — the No. 6-ranked team in Class 5A by On The Mat — Jan. 14. The win cleared the way for Grandview to win the Centennial League championship.
The Wolves followed that with a third-place finish at the rugged Arvada West Invitational Jan. 16, the program’s best all-time finish at the rugged multi-classification meet. Grandview, which took ninth there last season, finished half a point from taking second behind Pomona.
Senior heavyweight Josh Vigil-Harrison further added to the history by becoming only the second Grandview wrestler to win a championship at Arvada West. The other? Budd, of course, in 2004.
“That was one of my biggest goals; I’ve placed before, but never made it to the final,” Vigil-Harrison said.
Going into the Top of the Rockies tournament Jan. 22-23 at Centaurus High School — nine Wolves — sophomore Giovanni Federico (No. 6 at 106 pounds), freshman Fabian Santillan (No. 6 at 113), senior Xavier Cardenas, a three-time 5A state qualifier (No. 14 at 120), senior Ben Ehrhard (No. 16 at 126), freshman Dylan Ranieri (No. 16 at 132), senior Tanner Patterson (No. 12 at 145), junior Tyler Ross (No. 10 at 160), junior Gabriel Baumgartner (No. 8 at 220) and Vigil-Harrison (No. 4 at 285 pounds) — appeared in On The Mat’s Week 6 rankings.
Patterson (3rd), Baumgartner, Cardenas and Vigil-Harrison (4th), Ross (5th) and Federico (6th) all placed at the 32-team tournament, helping the Wolves to an all-time best fourth place finish.
Based on projections for the Region 1 tournament, all nine ranked Grandview wrestlers could make the 5A state tournament and then some, which would be more than double last season’s number of qualifiers (four). The Wolves haven’t had more than four qualifiers since they took five in 2011 and the program’s all-time mark is 10, set in 2004 when both Budd and Timberman were seniors.
Sophomore Federico and freshman Santillan have been major factors this season as tone setters at the front of the lineup and handling themselves like veterans.
Federico had two brothers who wrestled for the Wolves, including Josh Federico, who placed at state in both 2010 and 2011.
Giovanni has his eyes on a better finish and has been encouraged by his performance all season, including taking eighth at the Reno Tournament of Champions in December. According to Budd, Federico is the first Grandview wrestler to place at the loaded tournament since 2007.
“That was big for me,” Federico said. “I definitely come out there now with the mentality that I’m going to win every time.”
Federico already has 29 wins on the season and has a legitimate shot to match or surpass the program record of 43 set by Eric Wilson — one of Grandview’s four all-time state champions —in 2008-09.
Budd has seen very few freshmen with the type of mental and physical execution Santillan has displayed this season. He posted two wins over Pomona standout Justin Pacheco at Arvada West and feels his best wrestling is still ahead.
“I’m where I want to be in terms of conditioning, but there are still some small things I can really improve on to win those close matches against good kids,” he said.
The only disappointed for Santillan is that his older brother Armando, a state qualifier for the Wolves last season, is finished for the season due to injury.
Next year, Grandview could feature three Santillans as younger brother Alex will aim to make the varsity.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel