DENVER – The back-and-forth nature of the chase for the Class 4A wrestling team championship had everyone on edge Saturday night.
Pueblo County, Pueblo East and Windsor engaged in a steady battle of one-upmanship at Pepsi Center for much of the evening, each trying to stake its claim to the grand prize.
It ultimately came down to the final matches of the night. With Windsor holding onto a 5.5-point lead, the Wizards were able to survive late victories from Pueblo County and Pueblo East to win their first state championship since 2012.
“It’s been crazy. It’s been fun though,” said Windsor sophomore Isaiah Salazar, whose pin at 170 pounds gave Windsor its first team lead. “There’s nothing else I would want. I wouldn’t want a blowout, and I wouldn’t want it the other way around. I want a tough fight.”
Windsor won three of its four title matches Saturday, getting bonus points from a technical fall and a pin to finish with 159.5 points. Pueblo East finished second with 159 points on the strength of an Andy Garcia pin at heavyweight; Pueblo County placed third with 158 points and two individual titles.
Windsor trailed East by nine points coming into Saturday night’s championship round. Wizards coach Monte Trusty believed his team always had a chance to fight its way back, but it still took those extra points for Windsor to hoist the trophy at the end of the night.
“We didn’t speak of that. I told all the guys ‘take care of yourself first,’” Trusty said. “You take care of your goal and you, and if there’s some chances there, then you can try helping the team out that way.”
Salazar was the one who put Windsor over the top. The sophomore – who won a title in 3A with Eaton as a freshman – pinned Pueblo County’s Jayson Davis in two minutes, 57 seconds.
“I just want to help out my team as much as I can,” Salazar said. “I knew I needed to get the win and getting an opportunity to get the fall. That would help us.”
That came after the Wizards captured victories at 113 and 126 pounds. Will VomBaur took a nail-biter over Pueblo East’s Andrew Lucero with a 3-2 victory in the ultimate tiebreaker.
Sophomore Dominick Serrano gave Windsor some much-needed bonus points with a 24-7 victory by technical fall over Pueblo East’s Ryan Roth at 126. Serrano (37-0) earned his second title after going undefeated as a freshman as well.
VomBaur’s title – his second in three years – was bittersweet given that his younger brother, freshman Vance, lost in the final seconds of the 120-pound final to Discovery Canyon’s Patrick Allis.
“Each state tournament is the new most important moment of my wrestling career. I won my second title and I was the happiest I’ve ever been,” Will VomBaur said. “I was excited to watch my brother, and I was really hoping he could be here with me.
“We’ve been talking about this moment forever, and it just really hurts that he couldn’t join me. But I’m really proud of him and the way he wrestled.”
Allis gave up a late takedown to Vance VomBaur to fall behind by one point late in the third period, but was awarded a point after the freshman locked his hands. Allis escaped the hold in the final seconds for a 5-4 decision.
“I heard my coaches scream ‘get one, get one!’” Allis said. “I saw locked hands called and knew it was my chance to end it fast and not go to overtime. I got my quick one, just hung out and finally got my title.”
Will VomBaur had to ride it out in the ultimate tiebreaker after both he and Lucero picked up a point in the first tiebreaker.
The final was a rematch of the 2016 championship at 106 pounds.
“I really feel bad for him, to lose like that in a rideout,” VomBaur said. “It was his last year and I really feel for him, but that’s the sport of wrestling. It’s hard and it’s unfair sometimes.”
Perhaps the most emotional moment of the night belonged to Cheyenne Mountain senior Mike McFadden, who defeated Pueblo County’s Jaxon Garoutte 7-2 in the first tiebreaker.
McFadden sobbed as he embraced his teammates and coaches in the tunnels after the match.
“That life-long dream just came true,” McFadden said. “I wanted that so bad. When I got back to my hotel room last night, all I could think about was getting my hand raised at the end of tonight, and it happened.”
McFadden finished sixth as a freshman and fourth as a sophomore. He made it to the finals a year ago but placed second, leaving him one last opportunity to grab a championship. McFadden cradled Garoutte in the first tiebreaker to give him all the advantage he needed.
“When he tri-podded up, I saw the leg there so I just grabbed it,” McFadden said. “Even if I didn’t the turn I knew he wasn’t getting away.”
Pueblo County junior Brendon Garcia and Greeley Central junior Andrew Alirez put themselves into position to join the elite four-time champion club next year. Garcia defeated Pueblo Centennial’s Jacob Gonzales 7-5 in the sudden victory round at 106 pounds to claim his third consecutive crown.
Alirez dominated on his way to his third title, posting a 19-8 major decision at 145 pounds over Canon City’s Zac Hanenberg.
Air Academy senior Jason Hanenberg, Longmont’s Drake Engelking, Palisade’s Terrance Williams and Fort Morgan’s Dylan McBride brought home their first state titles. Hanenberg scored a last-second reversal to defeated Pueblo County’s Aaden Valdez 2-1 at 132 pounds.
Engelking posted an 8-2 decision over Thompson Valley’s Hunter Williams at 160. Williams survived a late comeback at 182 from Pueblo East’s Zion Freeman for an 8-7 decision. McBride earned a 9-5 decision over Mountain View’s Braden Barker at 195.
Pueblo County senior Dante Garcia closed his prep career out with his second title in three years. Garcia scored a takedown with 39 seconds remaining to defeat Pueblo East’s Dominic Robles 3-2.