DENVER — It didn’t take Pomona long to regain the top perch in Class 5A wrestling.
“I wanted to grab five or six to be honest with you,” Pomona coach Sam Federico said after the Panthers won three individual state titles along with the team title. “We wrestled good. We’ve had a lot of injuries and they kind of came through.”
A year after Grand Junction prevented Pomona from a team championship three-peat, the Panthers dominated 5A during the three-day state tournament at Pepsi Center.
The drama of the Panthers winning their sixth team state title since 2000 was decided even before the title bouts took to the mats Saturday night at Pepsi Center. Pomona racked up 166.5 team points. Ponderosa finished second with 103.5 points.
“When you have a room with that many elite athletes we lean on each other. It’s a brotherhood,” Pomona senior Justin Pacheco said after winning the 132-pound title with a 1-0 win over Castle View sophomore Randy Myers. “I’ll give them all the support then need when I graduate and move on with my life. They are going to be a powerhouse for a long time.”
Pacheco ended his stellar career as a two-time individual state champion. The senior won the 113 title as a sophomore after placing sixth at state as a freshman. Pacheco lost a heartbreaker in the 120 state final a year ago.
He plans to wrestle at the Air Force Academy, but will have to have knee surgery before heading to Colorado Springs.
Pacheco said he has been wrestling with a torn meniscus and partial tear in his MCL in his left knee for the past month. He was thinking about not competing at regionals, but decided to battle through the pain.
“I needed to finish my senior year out. I was going to make it through somehow,” Pacheco said. “I’ll take a 1-0 win. It’s still a state title.”
Pomona’s depth across the board showed in the finals with all four finalists — freshman Daniel Cardenas (120 pounds), junior Wyatt Yapoujian (126), sophomore Franklin Cruz (182) and Pacheco — spanning on four grade levels.
Cardenas and Cruz won state titles, while Yapoujian had to settle for runner-up.
“We are doing well and where we need to be,” Federico said of the state of Pomona wrestling. “We just need to win some more matches. You always feel like that. You want to win more matches.”
Pomona had nine wrestlers head to the podium. Elijah Olguin (106) and Theorius Robison (145) placed third. Gage Bernall (152) took fourth. Jacob Judd (113) and Roman Cruz (160) placed sixth.
Robison was the surprise of not reaching a fourth straight final. The two-sport athlete was trying to become Pomona’s first four-time individual state champion, but an overtime loss in the semifinals Friday night ended that dream.
“There was good in the four years and there was bad,” said Robison, who ended his prep career with a 126-8 record. “I don’t really put losing in my head. I was taking it by winning each match and sometime you lose. Everyone loses.”
Injuries hampered his senior campaigns on the football field and wrestling mat, but Robison didn’t make that an excuse.
“Injuries are part of sports. You have to go through them,” Robison said. “If I’m on the mat I have to do what I need to do to win.”
Robison leaves Pomona being apart of three team title to go along with his three individual crowns.
“I’m very proud of the way our team preformed,” said Robison, who will attend the University of Northern Colorado in the fall where he plans on playing football and wrestling. “We did a lot a big things and had a lot of young guys show that they are going to be a problem for opponents in the future.”
Grandview junior Fabian Santillan (138) and Monarch sophomore Vince Cornella (113) became two-time state champions during a night that was highlighted by three wrestlers joining the four-time state champion fraternity. Ponderosa senior Cohlton Schultz was the lone 5A wrestler to lock down his fourth title.
Cornella is halfway to joining the four-time group, but his focus this year was soak in the atmosphere during the three-day tournament.
“I can’t remember a single moment last year as a freshman down here,” Cornella admitted. “This year I tried to enjoy every moment.”
Looking ahead to next year and a third straight title is something that has to wait.
“I’ve got a freestyle tournament in three or four weeks. I’ll just get ready for that tournament,” Cornella said of the journey of winning four titles ahead. “It’s there, but I try not to focus on it at all.”