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Local teams set for pressure-packed regional weekend

09 Feb 2017

 By Jon E. Yunt, BoCoPreps.com Writer  

Erie's Steve Gratton has spent the better part of 27 seasons coaching wrestlers of all ages. In his time as the Tigers head coach, he has turned the program into a well-oiled machine. He has done all he can and contributed more to the sport than most young coaches could ever imagine.But a health scare — notably a cancer diagnosis, that he has since beat — and a desire to spend more time with two young grandchildren has rearranged his priorities going forward.Earlier this school year, Gratton decided to make the 2016-17 season his last, and not only is he doing so with arguably his best team in years, he is also leaving the program in a lot better shape than when he took it over."We really hope that someone steps in and does a better job than myself," said Gratton, who between his assistants Ben Romero and Craig Johnson have over 100 years of experience. "That is my goal is to have a young coach come in and maybe get a teaching position and be successful. This is not my program, this is our program."The Tigers, who will take 12 total wrestlers to the South Metro Regional, put together one of the state more demanding schedules all with the hope of preparing themselves for the next two weeks.Grueling out-of-state tournaments in Wyoming and Arizona as well as tough in-state battles in Florence and at Top of the Rockies have seen the Tigers fair well and place in the top 10 as a team.

"I feel really good and we are confident," Gratton said. "We may not have the best records, but we have been in those scrappy competitions." Erie has a good chance to get at the very minimum three wrestlers to the Pepsi Center for state next week, but in reality it could be upwards of nine, "if we have a really good day," Gratton said. With the top four placers earning a trip to state, Adam Evertz (120), Ernie Quintana (138) and Zach Roper (182) are all primed for their place. Some of the other guys are going to have to be at their best to punch their ticket, including Adrian Rincon (132), Quintin Hyrup (a loaded 152 pound bracket) and Nate Hackney (275). Elsewhere in Class 4A, Frederick will host Region 2 that includes locals Mead, Niwot and Silver Creek.

All eyes will be on Niwot's Tommy Stager at 145 pounds. The Cougars senior, bound for the Air Force Academy, is just two wins away from tying the state record for most wins in a career (170) and will likely cross paths Mountain View's Erik Contreras — whom he is 2-1 against this season — for a regional title. Others in contention for a regional title include the Mead duo of Jeremy Ashton (132) and Caleb Mendez (152) as well as Frederick's Jake Longstreth at 195 pounds.Skyline will have to travel to Montrose for their regional and the Falcons have a good shot of advancing at least three — Uriel Contreras (126), Angel Perez (160) and Alex Ortiz (220) — to state.

In Class 5A: Local teams are spread out all over the Front Range. The closest will be at Legacy for the second year in a row. The Lightning will host a Region 2 tournament that will also have Fairview on hand. Coach Mike Thompson's young team has slowly been building and will have a chance to make some noise in a wide open regional. The Lightning should get upwards of six guys to state, led by Aidan Funk (160) and Drian Hays (170). Fairview's Duncan Heath has been the Knights best all season long and he will have the gigantic task of likely facing Ponderosa's 220 pound powerhouse Cohlton Schultz if he wants to win a regional title. Monarch will head to Colorado Springs for their regional tournament at Palmer High. The Coyotes are in the same region with 5A favorite Pomona and a talented Grandview team; so being at their best is a must. How tough is the 132-pound bracket at Palmer? Defending 126-pound champion Theoris Robison of Pomona is ranked No. 1, Monarch's Cole Polluconi (No. 3), Doherty's Maverick Keigher (No. 4) and Grandview's Armando Santillan (No. 6) will all vie for a top seed at the state tournament. Boulder (Liam Henderson at 182) and Broomfield (Mason Watt at 285) will be in Aurora at Cherokee Trail's Region 3. Lastly, Centaurus will be the lone BoCo representative at Region 4 at Arvada West.

In Class 3A: The lone 3A team in the region is Holy Family. The Tigers will travel north to Eaton in hopes of getting at least three wrestlers to state. Oregon State bound 160-pounder Kolsen Welham has been nothing short of fantastic this season and will be tough to beat. Coach Nester Pino would like nothing more than to have Hunter Branson (138) and Cade Carter (220) join him.

In Class 2A: Lyons' Keegan Bean will carry the flag for the Lions into the Northeast Regional at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling. The 182-pound senior will have two other top-10 wrestlers in his weight class.

WRESTLING REGIONAL SCHEDULE

(Note: top four wrestlers in each weight class advance to state tournament)

* All regional tournaments Friday and Saturday

2A Northeast Region 3 — Local team: Lyons. Location: Northeastern Junior College.

3A Northern Region 2 — Local team: Holy Family. Location: Eaton High School.

4A Northern Region 2 — Local teams: Frederick, Mead, Niwot, Silver Creek. Location: Frederick High School.

4A South Metro Region 3 — Local teams: Erie, Longmont. Location: Cheyenne Mountain High School.

4A Metro Region 4 — Local team: Skyline. Location: Montrose High School.

5A Region 1 -— Local team: Monarch. Location: Palmer High School.

5A Region 2 — Local teams: Fairview, Legacy. Location: Legacy High School.

5A Region 3 — Local teams: Boulder, Broomfield. Location: Cherokee Trail High School.

5A Region 4 — Local teams: Centaurus. Location: Arvada West High School.

State tournament — All classifications will be held Feb. 16-18 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.