DENVER — Pueblo East won its first wrestling title in school history at the Class 4A state wrestling championships. After losing the team race last year, this one was about redemption.
"We were in the same situation as last year: it was on me, Zion (Freeman) and Andy (Garcia)," Pueblo East's Dominic Robles said after his match. "[Last year] two of us had to win, and me and Zion lost. I told them before our matches, before we won the team title, I told them, 'We have to get redemption from last year.'"
After the Eagles ripped off three straight first place finishes off of two pins, they could breathe out.
"We have the best heavyweight room in the state," Andy Garcia said. "Obviously, three back-to-back-to-back. Everyday it's like that, it's a battle, it's a grind with all three of us."
First, with the 195-pound match locked at two and under 30 seconds remaining in the last round, Zion Freeman pinned Cheyenne Mountain's Nico Gagliardi.
Then came Robles. Robles narrowly lost last year in a 3-2 decision, but this year, he pinned Canon City's Gage Pruitt in the 220-pound bout in 1:36.
"Right before my match, we clinched the team title, so that was going through my head," Robles said. "I finally got the individual [title]. I came close last year, losing 3-2. I finally was able to accomplish my goal. Getting a pin in the first period of the state finals, that's huge."
Garcia capped the redemption run off in his heavyweight bout to claim his third straight title — a 4-3 decision over Broomfield's Tyler Carpenter.
"I felt like I was going to dominate," Garcia said. "We went out there, and in our first interaction [Carpenter] did a weird foot trip that caught my heel. I felt my knee give out, and that's when I knew it was gonna be a long match."
To Windsor and Pueblo County, first place finishes have been commonplace in recent years as five of the last eight 4A titles have come from the two schools.
This year, Pueblo County (181.5 team points) and Windsor (170) were in the thick of it, and rounded out the top three behind Pueblo East (200). Pueblo County made a push on the final day as three wrestlers took first place finishes.
"I always focus on myself and what I can do in my match, so I wasn't really too worried about the team score," Pueblo County's Jax Garoutte said as the gap in the team race thinned. "It's a great feeling to finally get it done and my teammates are getting it done, too. We're all working hard, everything is paying off for us."
With Windsor gunning for a repeat team championship and Pueblo County looking for its third title in four years, Pueblo East took the team title.
Three wrestlers three-peat
Three wrestlers will be looking to become four-time champions next year. Dominick Serrano (Windsor), Isaiah Salazar (Windsor) and the previously mentioned Garcia (Pueblo East) all took first and held three fingers in the air in celebration.
Windsor's Dominick Serrano continued his quest to become a four-time champion with a major decision over Canon City's James Ruona in the 132-pound division.
"It would mean the world," Serrano said on capturing the fourth title next year. "I'm just going to focus on winning another title. I just won one today — next year, it's a new year and mindset. I'm after one state title, one state title next year."
Serrano was fired up to get on the mat and keep Windsor climbing in the team scores.
"I was ready to get in there after seeing my two teammates win it," Serrano said. "I was pumped it was my turn. I was ready to go."
Windsor's Isaiah Salazar joined his teammate Serrano as a three-time champion after a 10-0 major decision against Pueblo County's Jayson Davis in the 182-pound division.
"We weren't in the team race by any means, but just winning it for myself even as an individual— helping my brothers out — it was nice," Salazar said.
The Wizards could have two four-time champions this time next year.
"Me and Dom next year, we have to take it one match at a time," Salazar said. "We can't look to get four right away. We have to grind the season out and see what happens at state."
Windsor's Brady Parker defeated Pueblo Central's Dominick Castro with a 10-2 major decision in his first year wrestling at the state championships.
Pueblo County's Brendon Garcia capped off his high school campaign as a four-time champion. He was the first of three four-time champions this year. Garcia came away with a 7-3 decision over Pueblo East's Xavier Espinoza.
Will Vombaur gave Windsor its second individual champion with his pin of Mountain View's Malachi Contreras.
Patrick Allis of Discovery Canyon placed first for the second year in a row with an 11-5 decision vs. Ryan Roth of Pueblo East. Allis was the 120-pound division champion in 2018.
Broomfield's Darren Green grinded out a 3-2 decision vs. Pueblo East's Aaden Valdez. Green, a junior, placed third in 2018.
After losing in a tiebreaker of last year's championship, Pueblo County's Jax Garoutte made his way back to the title bout. The result: A 10-2 major decision over Pueblo Central's Cole Hernandez.
"I had a heartbreaker in the finals last year," Garoutte said. "I've worked my butt off this season, so it's just a reward for all my hard work. I wouldn't sacrifice it for anything, I wouldn't work any less hard. Man, it's just a great feeling."
Garoutte waited 371 days for a second chance.
"It weighed on me like, 'Man I have this deep, dark place I don't ever wanna go again,'" Garoutte continued. "That motivated me to keep wrestling in that match and put some points up."
Greeley Central's Andrew Alirez etched his name into the list of four-time champions with a pin vs. Pueblo County's Trevor Singleton. Alirez, a perfect 36-0 this season, secured the pin in just over three minutes.
Christopher Fasano kept the wins flowing for Pueblo County with a 2-0 decision in his match against Coronado's KJ Kearns. Fasano ended 2018 with a second place finish, losing to Mesa Ridge's Elijah Valdez.
Longmont's Drake Engelking held off Windsor's Cody Eaton in a hard-fought 3-2 decision.