DENVER — The battle to the Class 5A wrestling team title was a two-team race Feb. 19 at Ball Arena.
When the dust settled, Pomona won its fourth straight team title with a record-setting 256.5 points. Ponderosa finished second with 239 points.
“As a team, we always know we can battle through anything,” Pomona senior Elijah Olguin said. “I trusted my teammates and they trusted us. We just got it done.”
Ponderosa entered the day holding nearly a 40-point lead thanks to sending seven wrestlers to the championship finals.
“The whole time,” Pomona coach Sam Federico said if he was nervous about the team title outcome. “That’s a good team. Twelve placers Ponderosa had. That’s a good team. Our guys battled through and did what they had to do to win.”
Three-time defending state champion Pomona used the consolation wrestle-backs and 3rd and 5th place matches to retake the lead by a 20.5-point margin heading into the championship bouts.
“We got on a roll winning 13 matches in a row,” Federico said of the consolation matches in the morning and early afternoon. “Those were all four and five point matches and we got some pins in there. Those were huge.”
The Panthers clawed back to actually set a new all-time team scoring record before the championship finals. Pomona had 242.5 points before finals to break the old team record of 232 set by Wiggins back in 1999.
Pomona had 13-of-14 wrestlers made the podium. The Panthers had six wrestlers place 3rd and three 4th place finishers.
“It’s hard to come back and get third, especially when your goal is to be a state champion,” Federico said. “Once that goal went away these guys went to work for their teammates. There is a lot to be said about that.”
Junior Jakob Romero (126) along with seniors Olguin (132), Daniel Cardenas (152) and Roman Cruz (170) were the four Pomona wrestlers in title bouts. Romero and Olguin both became two-time state champions with victories, while Cardenas finished off his remarkable career with a pin to seal the team victory.
“We did our best to keep a good attitude,” Cardenas said of Pomona trailing after the semifinal matches Friday night. “We knew that we would do what we needed to do.”
Romero and Olguin got the Panthers on the right path to stretch out the team lead with back-to-back victories to keep a 20-point lead over Ponderosa.
“I just had to stay focused,” Olguin said about facing Monarch junior Emilio Trujillo-Deen who had defeated Olguin twice already this season. “I told myself this was my revenge tour and get down to business.”
The lone head-to-head title match between Ponderosa and Pomona was at 170 pounds. Cruz faced Ponderosa senior Karter Johnson for the first time this season. Johnson prevented Pomona from going 4-for-4 in title bouts taking a 7-5 decision.
“I’m so proud of myself and so proud of my team,” Johnson said. “I’m so blessed to have the coaching staff and teams that I have.”
The Mustangs went 4-for-7 in title bouts.
“We just train every single day,” Johnson said.
Despite finishing runner-up to Pomona, the Mustangs are focused on the bright future and the continued rivalry with Pomona.
“We’ve got some good freshmen coming up for us,” Johnson said. “We are a pretty young team. Pomona watch out. We are coming for you.”
Prairie View senior Ane’e Vigil made history becoming the Thunderhawks’ first two-time individual state champion. Vigil defeated Ralston Valley sophomore Lincoln Gergersen, who was trying to become the Mustangs’ first state champion.
Vigil actually went over to talk to Cardenas during the awards after all the championship bouts.
“I want to be just like that,” Prairie View junior Ane’e Vigil said of Cardenas. “Run through my bracket and not even get touched. That is something I want to be like.”
Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.