ARVADA — Not surprisingly, there were a number of exhausted looking prep wrestlers when the Arvada West Invitational wrapped up at about 9 p.m. Saturday.
“This has been a long week,” admitted Pomona’s two-time individual state champion Theorius Robison referring to four duals and A-West Invite the Panthers have had in the span of three days. “(Pomona coach Sam Federico) has really been pushing us in the practice room.”
Robison (25-1 record) had a workman-like performance with four victories on the day to take the 132-pound title. The junior never trailed against senior Mario Ybarra from Scottsbluff (Neb.) in the final, but had to hold on late for a 4-3 victory.
There hasn’t been any break for Robison from going from football to wrestling season. Robison rushed for 833 yards and 14 touchdowns during the fall to help Pomona win the Class 5A state football championship, but it was right to the wrestling room after lifting the state title at Mile High Stadium.
“I didn’t take a break at all,” said Robison who is halfway from becoming a four-time state champion. “The day football ended I was in the practice room the very next day.”
Pomona’s Yapoujian brothers — Wyatt (106 pounds) and Colton (138 pounds) — were the other two Panthers to grab titles at the A-West Invite.
Just like Robison, Wyatt and Colton took 1-point victories in their championship matches against wrestlers from Scottsbluff.
“Coach (Federico) always makes fun of us that we need to win by 10 (points),” Colton said with a smile after his 3-2 victory over junior Devontae Gutierrez. “But I always say that if you win by one there is no deference. A win is a win.”
Colton (27-5 record) is attempting to become a repeat state champion. After placing third as a freshman at 106, Colton brought home the 120-pound title last season. He said winning the A-West Invite last year was key to his road to claim the individual state title.
“This tournament I feel is always the turning point of my season,” Colton said after battling through a loaded 138-pound bracket that had seven returning state placers. “I have the best bracket and it prepares me for the last few steps before state.”
Younger brother Wyatt didn’t face who might be his main competition at 106 at the state tournament. Monarch freshman Vince Cornella, who Wyatt defeated 1-0 earlier this season, missed the A-West Invite due to an injury.
“I look forward to those nice matches,” Wyatt said of likely facing Cornella at the Top of the Rockies Tournament next weekend. “I like to push hard. Work hard to improve on anything that I can to be as good as I can.”
Wyatt placed third at 106 at Pepsi Center last year at the state tournament. He hopes to repeat what his older brother accomplished taking third as a freshman and winning a state title as a sophomore.
“He (Colton) has just been pushing me to do as well as I can,” Wyatt said. “To work out hard and make the most of every practice. In the end it should pan out.”
Overall, Federico said he was pleased how Pomona preformed at what used to be referred to as the “mini-state” tournament. The Panthers sent seven wrestlers to the semifinals. Freshman Frank Cruz had a nice tournament finishing second at 160. Senior Brandon Hodge took second at 285.
“We are a little beat up, but that’s fine,” Federico admitted. “This time of year is a bit of a grind. You just have to keep grinding and getting better. We are where we need to be right now. We aren’t where we need to be in a month.”
While Pomona was No. 1 in Tim Yount’s ‘On the Mat’ Class 5A team rankings this week, the Panthers have bounced around as low as No. 4 and have lost some dual matches too.
There isn’t much a question that the Panthers will still be in the mix to claim a third straight title come Feb. 17 at Pepsi Center.
“This state tournament will be close. It will be a lot closer than it’s been in the recent past,” Federico said. “You are going to have to be wrestling your best at the state tournament. If we done I think we’ll be fine. If we don’t we won’t.”
Not only was the 24-team A-West tournament an all-day grind with some wrestlers getting in up to five matches, but the competition was stiff with four of the top-5 ranked Class 5A teams (Pomona, Grand Junction, Monarch and Castle View) taking part in the annual tournament.
Along with two-time defending 4A state champion and top-ranked Pueblo County, not to mention strong out-of-state squads from Scottsbluff (Neb.) and Garden City (Kan.).
Grand Junction came away with the team title racking up 201 points. Pueblo County (187 points) placed second and Pomona (185) took third. Castle View senior Malik Heinselman (120 pounds) was named the ‘outstanding wrestler’ for the lower weights and Grand Junction senior Josiah Rider (152 pounds) took home the ‘outstanding wrestler’ honor in the upper weights.