LAKEWOOD — The prep wrestling season is quickly coming to a close with regional and state tournaments just on the horizon.
Pomona coach Sam Federico has the right mindset as his back-to-back Class 5A team champion Panthers attempt for a three-peat at Pepsi Center in just more than two weeks.
“You can’t win a state tournament at regionals, but you can lose one,” Federico said after Pomona’s 37-21 dual road victory over Lakewood on Tuesday night. “You have to be ready to go at regionals.”
Federico added that he is focusing on keep his wrestlers healthy as the regular season comes to a close this week.
Pomona has one final dual this season, hosting rival Arvada West at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1. The Panthers head to the state-qualifying 5A Region 2 tournament Friday and Saturday, Feb. 9 and 10, at Adams City High School.
“I feel like our team is ready. We have all the tools they just have to preform to their best and let everything fly,” Pomona junior and defending state champion Colton Yapoujian said about the postseason. “Honestly, everyone is 0-0 and it really doesn’t matter what has happened. It matters at regionals and then the next week at Pepsi Center.”
The Panthers put up an impressive 192.5 team points at the state tournament last year. Despite having a trio of returning state champions in juniors Justin Pacheco, Theorius Robison and Yapoujian it’s expected to be a tight team race Feb. 15-17 at Pepsi Center.
“The experience helps, but as far as the two state titles they are new every year,” Federico said. “This state tournament is going to be a lot closer. There are six teams that are saying, ‘We are going to win it.’ We are one of them.”
Pomona is currently ranked No. 2 in the latest On The Mat rankings done by wrestling guru Tim Yount. The Panthers also have eight wrestlers — Wyatt Yapoujian (106), Pacheco (120), Anthony Gallegos (126), Robison (132), Colton Yapoujian (138), Franklin Cruz (160), Doug Mills (220) and Brandon Hodge (285) — all ranked in the top-12 in their weight class.
Federico didn’t have the full-service of wrestles against Lakewood, but he said the Panthers will be all good to go for regionals next week.
Mills had one of the higher profile matches Tuesday facing Lakewood senior Michael Inouye who was a state qualifier last season and is ranked No. 8 at 220.
“I knew he (Inouye) was going to be a tough kid,” Mills said after his 10-2 victory. “I knew I had to keep moving the pace and moving him.”
Lakewood might not have the depth that the Panthers have heading into the final weeks of the wrestling season, but the Tigers have two individuals expected to challenge for state titles.
Two-time state champion Gabe Dinette is attempting to become the first three-time state wrestling champion in Lakewood history before he heads for Stanford University. Dinette remained undefeated against in-state opponents with a 10-4 victory over Cruz, a freshman.
“At this time of year you want to see everybody. We know what to expect the next time we see him,” Federico said of Cruz facing Dinette for the first time. “He just had to get it out of his system. You are a freshman at 160 and facing a senior and two-time state champ with a college scholarship. He was nervous about it, but it was good for him.”
Lakewood coach Daren Stennes said it was also good for Dinette to get a look at the freshman who he very well might see at state.
“It was a good test for Gabe. He wrestled good and smart,” Stennes said. “That kid (Cruz) has a lot of potential to score on us.”
Besides Dinette’s victory, the Tigers had wins in two other matches that were wrestled.
“We had a couple of seniors win at 170 (Calvin Robertson) and 182 (David Schadler) which were nice wins for them. They have worked hard,” Stennes said.
Lakewood senior Hayden Still, who has signed to wrestle at Oregon State University, has his eyes on a heavyweight title. Still is ranked No. 2, but has been sidelined with a foot injury for a handful of weeks. Stennes said Still has been cleared to practice and should be back soon baring a setback.
Lakewood has one final dual. The Tigers host Bear Creek at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1. Lakewood stays a little closer to home for its regional tournament. The Tigers will be at Arvada West High School on Feb. 9 and 10.