This Friday and Saturday, wrestlers from around the state will compete at one of four regional meets for a chance to wrestle at the 82nd annual State Wrestling Tournament, scheduled for Feb. 15-17 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
In Delta County, 14 teams will compete in the Class 2A Region 1 tournament at Delta High School.
Delta County's three Class 2A teams are in the top 10 in state On the Mat team rankings. For most of the season, Cedaredge has been ranked at No. 2. Paonia heads into the tournament ranked fourth, and Hotchkiss is ranked sixth.
Other Region 1 teams include Wray, ranked third, eighth-ranked Soroco, Meeker, Nucla, Hayden, West Grand and Norwood. All are bringing some of the top wrestlers in the state to the mat. Only the top four placers in each of the 14 weight divisions qualify for state.
This is also the first time in recent history that a regional tournament has been held in Delta County. Even if you're not a fan of wrestling, consider taking in a few matches. Each of these wrestlers has worked hard all season, and in many cases, year-round for four years or more, to prepare for the next two weeks of wrestling and a place in wrestling history, be it a place on their school wall of fame, or a line in Colorado's wrestling history books.
Some of them are carrying a family tradition of wrestling that began in 1936 with the first state tournament. That year, according to the late Darrel Hafling's book, "Faded Glory: The Colorado High School State Wrestling Tournament 1936 through 1986," nine teams and 45 wrestlers competed at the meet, held at Greeley State and won by Greeley High School.
Western Slope teams Montrose, Olathe and Grand Junction all sent wrestlers to that first state meet.
According to Faded Glory, in 1951, Hotchkiss scored its first state point, and in 1953, Delta was among the scoring teams at state for the first time. In 1955, Paonia scores its first state point. In 1957, competition was divided into two divisions. That year, Cedaredge made its first state appearance when Ken Mahannah wrestled in the 95-pound division.
This Friday and Saturday, wrestling history will be made and locals will have an opportunity to see some of the best of the best in the state without traveling hundreds of miles. It's worth the cost of admission.
(Please note that wrestlers and their weight divisions are subject to change. Brackets are expected to be released this Friday at trackwrestling.com.)
The Bruins will take 14 wrestlers into the Region 1 tournament, and all are healthy and ready to wrestle, said fourth-year head coach Cutter Garrison. Five Bruins are ranked first in the region. Of them, Adrian Nieto (113, 19-4), Trey Geyer (120, 29-4) and Derek Sanchez (285, 19-12) are freshmen, and Sean Dale (126, 36-4) is a sophomore. Dale placed third in the region as a freshman and went on to place fourth at state.
They are young, but Garrison believes his underclassmen are "ready for the big stage." With a good mix of upper and lower classmen, they have good senior leadership in wrestlers like returning state qualifiers David Schippman (138, 21-11), and Jered Hulteen (160, 27-9). Colton Hoerr (152, 32-15) is a two-time state qualifier, and Alex McCracken (132, 31-7), who is the likely No. 1 seed, will wrestle for his fourth state qualification.
Senior Drew Markley (170, 19-18) is a likely top-four seed and will wrestle in his first state appearance.
Junior Taj Van der Linde, who slimmed down from a sophomore heavyweight to today's 220 division, is 30-7 for the season and is ranked second in the region.
Junior Zach Nold (145, 1-9) will wrestle his first regional matches Friday, and freshman Sam Campbell (14-16) will represent the Bruins at 106 pounds.
First-year head coach Nate Wiggins takes 13 into the regional tournament. Five are returning state qualifiers, and one a regional champion. Sophomore Zeb Etter (126, 20-17) pulled off some upsets to win the 106-pound regional division as a freshman.
One of two Eagles ranked first in the region, Clay Campbell (145, 38-7) is a three-time state qualifier who last won a regional title in 2015. At 152, Grey Neal (32-8), a sophomore who last year placed third in the region, has significant wins this year that include a fall of the No. 1 ranked 145-pounder from Region 4 Rocky Ford.
Senior Jaden Miller is a two-time state placer and the 2017 regional runner-up at 182. After holding the No. 2 ranking at 182, Miller will wrestle in the 195-pound division.
At 106 pounds, Reagan Todd (14-18) is one of two freshmen on the varsity squad and is the likely No. 3 seed. Freshman Anthony Miller (182, 21-11), younger brother to Jaden, has wrestled most of the season at 195 and will compete at 182 pounds.
Sophomore Soul Connolly will represent the Eagles at 120. Caden Meilner, a dual-sport athlete and varsity basketball player, will represent the Eagles at 132 pounds, where he is currently 7-2. Meilner didn't wrestle his junior year; as a sophomore he was one win away from a state qualification.
Senior Cyrus Malek Madani (11-4) will wrestle at 220, and sophomore Levi Peterson (24-10) wrestles at 285.
Coach Richard Flores will take 12 wrestlers into regionals, nine of whom are ranked in the top four in the region by On the Mat. Three are returning state qualifiers.
At 106, junior Landon Mayberry placed third in the region in 2017, and finished a respectable fifth at state. He is one of the rare upper-classmen to remain at the lowest weight division and is ranked first in the region.
Senior Devin Curtis (195) also is the likely top seed for regionals. A four-year varsity wrestler, Curtis placed fourth in the region as a sophomore and junior.
Junior Sergio Campos (120) is a two-time top-three placer in state and two-time defending regional champion.
Ranked in the top four in the region are freshmen Robert Cochran (113) and Trayer Hall (132); junior Presley Pene (126); sophomore Jace Peebles (152); and seniors Kevin Chavez (220) and heavyweight Nolan Egging (285).
Senior Karsen Sommer (138), freshman Kaleb Lovelace (145) and junior Jake Lange (160) are all wrestling in their first regional tournament.
While the Class 2A regional meet is going on at Delta High School, the Class 3A Panthers will travel to the 3A Region 1 tournament Alamosa High School.
Delta head coach Clayton Curtis is no stranger to Alamosa High School, where he was a three-time state champion. The Panthers have had their ups and downs this season, said Curtis after last Friday's three-point dual loss to Paonia.
Delta will take 12 wrestlers to Alamosa. Senior heavyweight Logan Church, whom Curtis described at last December's Warrior tournament as "a true wrestler," is undefeated this year. A two-time state qualifier, as a junior, Church finished second on a 3-2 loss to a senior and defending state champion.
Aiden Barrios, a 170-pound junior, placed fourth in the region as a sophomore. This year he's ranked second in the region and sixth in state and upset a higher-ranked wrestler from Paonia at last Friday's final dual of the season.
Senior Drake Horn (160) placed third in the region as a junior. He is ranked third in the region, and seventh in state.
Four more Panthers are ranked in the top five in the region: freshman Ben Koch (120), Brendon Starr (145), Brandon Harper (152), and sophomore Gauge Lockhart (195).
But wrestlers don't always place where they're ranked or seeded. Church provides a good example: At last year's state tournament he was seeded 12th.
WHO: Cedaredge, Hotchkiss and Paonia
WHAT: CHSAA Class 2A Region 1 wrestling
Where: Delta High School, 1400 Pioneer Road
When: A rolling schedule beginning at 5 p.m. Friday: First and second round and consolation bracket
9 a.m. Saturday: Championship semi-final/consolation quarterfinals.
Third/fourth and fifth/sixth place matches wrestled concurrently
Beginning at 2 p.m. (approximately): Championship matches and awards.
Wrestle-backs to immediately follow.
Only CHSAA and CHSCA passes will be honored.
Full tournament: $20 adults, $15 students and seniors; under age 5, free
Friday only: $7 adult, $5 students/seniors; under 5, free.
Saturday All Day: $15 adult, $12 students/seniors; under 5, free.
Hotchkiss High School will run concessions throughout all sessions.
Programs and T-shirts are available for purchase at the main doors.