ARVADA — It took less than 24 hours for Pomona’s wrestling squad to avenge a rare team loss.
The Panthers — defending Class 5A state champions and ranked No. 1 by Tim Yount’s On The Mat — were edged in a dual Jan. 14 by Greater Latrobe High School, one of the top 5 wrestling schools in Pennsylvania. That loss clearly didn’t sit well for the best wrestling team in Colorado.
“The dual was big. It was fun. We got beat by a point,” Pomona coach Sam Federico said. “Everyone has things right now with guys sick and injured. All of our guys made it through fine and we had a good tournament today.”
It was more than just a good tournament for the Panthers at the 19-team Arvada West Wrestling Invitational on Jan. 15. During its heyday the A-West Invite was deemed the “mini-state” with several of the top teams in the state competing.
Pomona had 10 wrestlers in finals, claiming seven individual titles, placing every Panther wrestler in the top-6 of their weight class and racking up 293 teams points. Greater Latrobe finished a distance second with 201.5 points.
“We want to get to that other level,” Pomona senior Daniel Cardenas said of the team’s outlooking heading toward the end of the season. “It’s been fun. These are all my brothers. We all wrestle for each other.”
Another sign of just how deep and talented Pomona’s wrestling program is right now. The Panthers’ JV team also competed Saturday and actually won the Alameda Tournament.
“I think we are where we need to be right now,” Federico said. “We have work to do still. We had a couple of guys a little banged up. They battled through and won this tournament. That’s important that you can prove you can do that this time of year when you aren’t 100 percent because you aren’t going to be 100 percent at state.”
Jakob Romero (126 pounds), Elijah Olguin (132), Josiah Parsons (145), Daniel Cardenas (152), Dante Hutchings (160), Roman Cruz (170) and Jacob Judd (182) all brought home individual titles.
Cardenas had the most impressive run to a title than anyone in the tournament. He had first-round pins in all four matches. The four pins took a combined time of 4 minutes and 15 seconds.
“He obviously has been battle tested,” Federico said of Pomona’s 152 pounder that is 25-0 on the season and on track to becoming Pomona’s first four-time individual state champion. “Winning Iron Man. Winning Reno. Winning Doc B. Those are three nationally known tournaments and he ran through them pretty good.”
Cardenas accomplished the rare feat of winning those three national tournaments while chasing down history. The Stanford University-commit defeated Greater Latrobe senior Jack Pletcher in the 152-pound final Saturday after the two didn’t square off in the dual Friday because Latrobe moved Pletcher up a weight class.
Pletcher, who has committed to the University of Pittsburg, did give Cardenas a scare in the opening minute nearly catching Cardenas in a headlock while taking him to the mat.
“Sometimes you need those matches,” Cardenas said about nearly getting pinned in the opening minute against Pletcher. “It keeps me motivated throughout the season. Making sure those kinds of mistakes don’t happen again. In away you do need those.”
Cardenas refocused and took care of business with a trio of takedowns before pinning Pletcher at the 1:31 mark in the first period.
“When you go to those a big thing is to find weaknesses in your game,” Federico said of Cardenas facing tough out-of-state wrestlers this winter. “He doesn’t have many. I can tell you that. If you are going to beat him you better be lucky. Throw him on his back or something. For six minutes he will keep coming.”
Regionals is coming up in about a month where Pomona will attempt to take care of business once again before heading down to Ball Arena for the state tournament.
“The season isn’t over,” the three-time state champion said. “The final stretch is coming up soon. It’s going to be fun.”
While Pomona will be eyeing another 5A state title, Jefferson is looking to be in the mix for the 3A team title. The Saints have been on the brink of the program’s first team state title a few times over the last several years.
“I always keep it to myself. I don’t talk to the kids about it,” Jefferson coach Oscar Fonseca said looking at how the team points could work out at the state tournament. “I always think we have a good shot even with one kid. That 3A is a dog-fight every year. Those two few teams battle it out every year. I think we’ll be in there.”
The Saints are currently ranked No. 3 in the 3A team standing behind No. 1 Mullen and No. 2 Eaton. Jefferson finished tied for 10th at the Arvada West Invite with 76 points.
“We showed a lot of improvement as a team so that is awesome to see,” Fonseca said. “We didn’t have everyone in, but who we had I was pleased with how the kids preformed and improvement they made.”
Jefferson senior Angelo Lozado made the 126-pound championship bout. The two-time 3A individual state champion defeated Grand Junction’s Andrew Leyba (ranked No. 2 in 5A at 126 pounds) in the semifinals. However, Lozado suffered a 8-2 loss to Pomona’s Jakob Romero in the title match.
“He (Lozado) is working hard this year and we’re pleased with that,” Fonseca said about the Saints’ defeating state champion. “We just made a few mistakes tonight that costed us. He had to fight from behind and that’s hard against a great wrestler like Jakob.”
Fonseca had five wrestlers finish on the podium. He knows the experience gained at the “mini-state” tournament will be beneficial in the long run for this Saints.
“You can’t take a match off here,” Fonseca said of the A-West Invite. “That is how regionals and state are. It really prepares us for that final stretch at the end.”
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.