Returning champions rule the night at 5A wrestling

DENVER -- It was a night of repeats and three-peats in the Class 5A state wrestling championships Saturday at Pepsi Center.

When it was all said and done, four individuals had defended their 2013 state titles and another, Bear Creek senior P.T. Garcia, had claimed his third consecutive championship. It was the perfect exclamation point on a season, and in some cases, a career.

“It’s kind of bittersweet because that’s the last time I’ll wear a Ponderosa singlet,” said Ponderosa senior Dylan Gabel, who pinned Arapahoe’s Jaylen Mosqueira to claim the 182-pound title. “I’ve put a lot of time and effort in with that program. I love the coaches, I love the school and the support we get.”

Arvada West enjoyed the best day and tournament as a whole, winnings its first team championship since 1992 and only its third overall. The Wildcats, who had three individual champions and nine placers overall, dominated the 5A field with 179 points. Pomona, which had two state titlists, was second with 92 points, followed by Ponderosa (88), Cherry Creek (81.5) and Pine Creek (80).

Payton Tawater (145 pounds), Tony Silva-Bussey (170) and Devin Rothrock (195) each captured their first state titles.

“It was just all worth it. Every little bit of it,” Tawater said. “All the running, all the extra stuff. It all was worth it in the end.”

Garcia received one of the biggest ovations of the night after downing Greeley West’s Adrian DelaCruz 10-7 in the 132-pound final. It sent the University of Wyoming-bound senior into the three-time state champion club.

“Being able to accomplish something like this – all that hard work finally paying off,” Garcia said, “all the tears I’ve cried and all the blood I’ve bled, it really culminated with a moment like this. It’s really special.”

Cherry Creek’s Mitch Finesilver defended his 2013 title with a 1-0 decision over another former champion, Coronado’s Jess Hankin, at 126 pounds. Grand Junction’s Jacob Trujillo did the same with an 8-4 decision at 160 pounds, as did Gabel and Regis Jesuit’s Grand Neal at 220 with a 7-3 victory.

Mountain Range’s Jorge Rodriguez, who won his first title in 2012, capped his prep career with a 5-0 decision at heavyweight.

Finesilver survived with a narrow 1-0 decision. He and Hankin had worked together over the summer, and that familiarity showed on the mat.

“My strategy was really just to wrestle my match,” Finesilver said. “We know each other so well, and you’ve just kind of got to do what you do best.”

Hankin tried to score a late takedown but could never quite get in good position.

“It’s always a little frustrating when you can’t pull out the win, but ultimately I view it as a learning experience,” said Hankin, who is a junior. “There’s a lot to be learned from that match.”

For Finesilver, capturing a second title was special but the night was made even better after twin brother Zach won the 138-pound with a 10-4 decision over Arvada West’s Jimmy Rothwell.

Another brother, Matt, reached the finals at 113 but fell 9-2 to Legacy’s Ryan Deakin, who capped a perfect season with his first championship.

“It’s awesome. I look back on all the hard work I’ve done, and I guess that means more to be than just a title in general,” Finesilver said. “Doing it with great coaches and my family, my brothers and my teammates, that means more to me.”

Gabel, who is headed to the University of Northern Colorado, had the added distinction of pinning his way through the tournament while setting the Ponderosa single-season pin record in the process with 35.

“That’s my style of wrestling,” Gabel said. “I was hoping I would be able to pin my way through and I did, so I feel pretty pleased about all of it.”

Pomona sophomore Tomas Gutierrez also finished with a perfect season after an 11-1 major decision at 106 pounds. His teammate, senior Josh Rosales, also notched a major decision, 12-4 at 120 pounds, to take his first title.

The other first-time state champion was Gateway’s Deyaun Trueblood, who posted a 9-3 decision at 152 pounds.

The night truly belonged to Arvada West though. Tawater fought his way through the bracket for a 1-0 decision after finishing third his first two years.

“By far the best night of my life,” Tawater said. “By far.”

Silva-Bussey closed his career with an 18-10 major decision and Rothrock notched a 5-2 decision.

The team was without coach Ron Granieri, who was on restriction from the postseason.

“It’s indescribable. These kids busted their butts all year long. It’s just the hard work that they put it in the room every day, the grind,” A-West assistant coach Matt Schmidt said. “The kids, they just wanted to wrestle. That’s all they wanted to do, and they wrestled their best.”