DENVER -- Three years ago P.T. Garcia saw his freshman foray into the Class 5A state wrestling tournament end with a one-point loss in the state finals.
What followed was a lesson in focus, and it led to back-to-back state titles for the Bear Creek standout. On Friday evening at Pepsi Center, Garcia moved to within one victory of joining an elite club of three-time state champions.
“I have so many memories here,” Garcia said from the bowels of Pepsi Center after defeating Pomona freshman Jason Romero by technical fall, 17-1, in the 132-pound semifinals. “They’re all just kind of flooding back, all the way from my freshman year.”
Garcia (35-0) will go for the three-peat in the finals Saturday night. The Bears senior will be matched up with Greeley West senior Adrian DeLaCruz, who defeated Ponderosa’s Devin House 5-2.
There will also be the added bonus of having teammate Jaysen Yacobson joining him in the finals. Yacobson defeated Horizon’s Jackson Huffman 4-3 and will face Pomona’s Josh Rosales.
Garcia expects there will be a flood of emotions once the Parade of Champions begins.
“I’m going to sit down on the mat and look up and just realize where I am and how great that is and how much of an opportunity that is,” he said. “This year I get to have my good friend that I’ve been wrestling with since I was five years old.”
Arvada West moved ever closer to capturing its first 5A state championship since 1992. The Wildcats advanced four individuals into the finals and are leading the field with 121 points. Cherry Creek, which has brothers Matt (113 pounds), Mitch (126) and Zach Finesilver (132) in the finals, is second with 73.5 points, followed by Ponderosa with 70.
Junior Jimmy Rothwell pinned his way into the 138-pound final against Zach Finesilver. Arvada West’s Payton Tawater and Ponderosa’s Torry Williams will battle at 145; Tony Silva-Bussey meets Mountain Vista’s Dylan Formby at 170; and Devin Rothrock takes on Fossil Ridge’s Payton Tapia at 195.
Silva-Bussey pinned both of his opponents Friday to move into his first title match.
“I tried picturing this moment, going to the finals, making it there,” he said. “I never thought it would feel like this. I’m just so excited right now.”
Even though the team championship is within the Wildcats’ grasp, Silva-Bussey and his teammates remain focused on Saturday’s matches first and foremost.
“Right now we’re just focusing on individual stuff,” he said. “If the team title comes, then it comes. Until we get to that point, we’re mainly just focusing on individual stuff and seeing what we can do there.”
A handful of wrestlers will be aiming to defend their 2013 titles. Mitch Finesilver and Coronado’s Jess Hankin, both of who took first a year ago, will battle at 126 pounds. Grand Junction’s Jacob Trujillo (160), Ponderosa’s Dylan Gabel (182) and Regis Jesuit’s Grant Neal (220) also are back in the finals. Mountain Range’s Jorge Rodriguez, a 2012 titlist, is in the 285-pound final against Chaparral’s Dane Drimmer. Both wrestlers have pinned their way through the tournament.
Three previously undefeated wrestlers were knocked off Friday, including top-seeded Roman Ortiz of Rocky Mountain. Gateway’s Deyaun Trueblood scored a takedown to break a 1-1 tie and withstood a late stalling penalty for the 3-2 decision over Ortiz at 152 pounds.
“Three or four days ago I wasn’t feeling too confident. I was beating up on myself,” Trueblood said. “But with the atmosphere here – I feel great. Nobody expects the regional runner-up to beat the No. 1 seed.”
The sophomore placed sixth at state as a freshman and while he was understandably emotional Friday, Trueblood understands there is still one more match before he can truly celebrate. Next up is Fountain Fort-Carson’s Rashawn Benford.
“I’m not accomplished yet,” he said. “It’s not over yet – not until you’re at the top of the podium.”