Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Nearly 900 high school wrestlers will compete at the Pepsi Center this weekend during the 69th annual State Wrestling Championships in Denver.
Four classes will offer 16 wrestlers the opportunity to win titles at 14 weights. While nearly every weight has a favorite going into Thursday's opening round, all 896 wrestlers who qualified for the 2004 state tournament are on equal ground. Here is a breakdown of the 14 titles up for grabs in Class 2A.
103 -- The seasonlong attempt to stay at 103 pounds might have been easier than trying to beat Meeker's Ryan Clark, a senior and last year's champion. Clark has lost five times this season, but he is the only 103-pounder back from last year's place-winners.
112 -- Jess Vialpando finished second to Clark last season and has found similar success at a higher weight in 2004. The junior from John Mall is 24-1 this year and may not face tough competition until the semifinals. Last year's finalists Trent Randall of Meeker and Soroco's Josh Iacovetto graduated.
119 -- As a freshman, Limon's Kevin LeValley has wasted little time establishing himself as one of state's best at this weight class. He is 30-2 but unproven at state. Look for Wiggins' Sean Walter and Calhan's Cory Hazen, both juniors, to challenge, as well.
125 -- Nucla's Mikael Smith wasn't challenged last year, but he has grown a year older and a weight bigger. In his spot, Holly's Kole Neugebauer, last year's runner-up, and top-ranked Pat Merwin of Swink look to stand atop the podium.
130 -- For his career, Smith is a combined 111-8 with two titles (112 and 125) coming into Thursday, and he is just a junior. His bid to become a three-time state champion in three tries is a storyline to follow.
135 -- Abram Balloga is one of Meeker's strongest wrestlers, and ranked No. 1, but someone may surprise because the top four wrestlers are all in the bottom half of the bracket.
140 -- Hayden's Jake Doolin and Soroco's Matt Iacovetto open Routt County's state wrestling tournament. Doolin and Iacovetto each have beat the other once this season. Doolin has a more favorable draw, but Iacovetto is wrestling better than ever. Both will have to -- and both can -- pull upsets to meet in the finals.
145 -- Tim Silengo leads what could be back-to-back titles from Hilltop Baptist in back-to-back seasons. Silengo capped off an undefeated season last year with a 1-0 win in the finals. He is back to defend and back with a 38-2 record.
152 -- Hilltop Baptist's Andy Nicodin, a junior, is 118-4 heading into his third state appearance. He won last year's title at 152 pounds, defeating Kelly Bruchez handily in the finals. Whit Gates is on the opposite end of the bracket as Nicodin, and like Iacovetto, Gates is wrestling well coming to state. Gates has the talent to make a run at the title.
160 -- This is one of the weights without a definitive favorite. The top four in the running are Nucla's Brandon Morris, Cheyenne Wells' Jerrid Kern, Holyoke's Landon Bergner and Eads' Kelley Lindholm. Peyton's Luke Plath may be in there, as well.
171 -- Seniors dominated the field last year, but that doesn't appear to be the case this season where two underclassmen will make a serious push to win it all. Headlining the favorites is Tucker Lane from Nucla, a freshman, who is 31-2 this season.
189 -- Hayden's Jason Rolando did not compete at state last year but defeated several wrestlers who did, so he is confident he can wrestle in this field. Rolando drew a tough first match against Las Animas' Clint Myers, but state is double elimination and even if Rolando, who enters 18-4 overall, falls to Myers he has the potential to place in his senior campaign.
215 -- Meeker's Lee Overton is an impressive 32-0 as a sophomore. He came in second last season but only lost by two in the finals. He likely will score a high number of points for the Cowboys' in their bid to repeat as team champions.
Hwt. -- Hayden's Randy Muhme is well below the 275-pound weight limit in this division but seems to be faring well at just over 250 in his first year of high school wrestling. Despite limited experience, Muhme has done well all season, posting a 24-4 record. If he wins his opening match, top-ranked Jason Kailey likely will await in the quarterfinals.