ARVADA — The evidence was overwhelming how competitive and challenging the two-day Arvada West Wrestling Invitational was as it wrapped up late Saturday afternoon.
The annual tournament featured the On The Mat’s top 3 ranked teams in Class 5A and 4A — Pomona, Grand Junction, Grandview, Windsor, Pueblo East and Pueblo County — along with 25 state placers and 11 nationally ranked wrestlers.
“This tournament has got tougher,” Pomona coach Sam Federico said.
The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in Class 5A, eventually finished fifth in the team standings. Pomona senior Justin Pacheco was the lone Panther to advance to the championship matches. He lost to Windsor junior Dominick Serrano 7-2.
“Serrano is definitely the guy I wanted to wrestle this year,” Pacheco said. “It didn’t go the way I wanted it to this time, but I’ll see him again at the state duals in a couple of weeks.”
Serrano, a two-time 4A state champion, improved his high school career record to 104-0 with the victory.
A handful of Pomona wrestlers didn’t wrestle during the two-day tournament and the Panthers suffered a couple of more injuries at the meet.
“We are about as beat up as I have ever seen us,” Federico admitted. “The tournaments we go to you get beat up, but I think it makes us better wrestlers and tougher mentally. There are no season-ending injuries. We just need some time to recoup. We have time.”
Jefferson junior Nick Gallegos made the most of his time in the highly competitive tournament. Gallegos — ranked No. 1 at 152-pounds in Class 3A — took victory by injury default against Pueblo County’s Trevor Singleton — No. 3 in 4A at 152. Singleton appeared to suffer a knee injury midway through the first period and couldn’t continue.
“It feels really good. It took me two years to get here,” Gallegos said of his victory at A-West. “I couldn’t have done this without my coach Dwight Howes. It feels great.”
Howes was a state champion at Arvada High School in his day and has been an assistant coach for Jefferson head coach Oscar Fonseca.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a champion here,” Fonseca said. “That is a pretty great accomplishment. He (Gallegos) never stops working in the wrestling room.”
Gallegos placed third at 138 pounds during his first trip to the state tournament as a freshman in 2017. He was a favorite to win last year, but Gallegos was in a car accident two days before the state tournament. He lost 2-0 in his opening match and had to drop out of the tournament due to injury.
“My focus is winning a state title,” Gallegos said.
Jefferson could be in the mix for the 3A state title. The Saints are currently ranked third. Fonseca had five wrestlers compete at the A-West Invite and four placed in the top 4.
“These tournament are great, but they are just practice,” Fonseca said. “We are looking toward our next match. We don’t look at rankings. We don’t worry about that stuff.”
A nice addition for the Saints this season was the sister/brother tandem of Cayden and Zander Condit. Conifer dropped its wrestling program this year so the Condits are wrestling for Jefferson.
Cayden is looking to join the list of female wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament and Zander placed fifth at 132 pounds in the 3A tournament last year.
“They fit in extremely well with us,” Fonseca said of the Condits. “They have come in and been a part of our family. They have been a great addition for us.”
Arvada West wasn’t able to grab an individual title, but senior Mitchell Romero (106) and freshman Dylan Kruse (113) both advanced to title bouts.
Pueblo East came away with the team title racking up 195.5 points. Rival Pueblo County (188.5) took second and Windsor (185.5) placed third.
Arvada West Wrestling Invitational Champions
106 — Kenny Sailas, Brighton
113 — Jett Strickenberger, Discovery Canyon
120 — Will Vombaur, Windsor
126 — Patrick Allis, Discovery Canyon
132 — Dominick Serrano, Windsor
138 — Fabian Santillan, Grandview
145 — Jaxon Garoutte, Pueblo County
152 — Nick Gallegos, Jefferson
160 — Christopher Fasano, Pueblo County
170 — Jay Skalecki, Grand Junction
182 — Isaiah Salazar, Windsor
195 — Zion Freeman, Pueblo East
220 — Hunter Tobiasson, Grand Junction
285 — Refugio Chairez, Garden City (Kansas)