Once again this season, Castle View and Ponderosa appear to have the top wrestling teams among schools from the south metro area.
The two schools have a combined three state champions, two state runners-up and a third-place wrestler returning to their lineups.
Practices started Nov. 10, with the first day that teams can schedule regular-season competition set for Nov. 29.
“We're doing a lot of conditioning and more teaching,” Castle View coach Ike Anderson said. “We are working on technique right now."
Castle View won the Continental League dual meet championship last season, snapping Ponderosa's streak of 22 consecutive league titles. The Sabercats edged the Mustangs, 42-33, in the dual meet that decided the league title.
Senior Malik Heinselman, a member of the United States junior world freestyle team and the 106-pound state champion the past two seasons, will be wrestling at 120 pounds this season for Castle View.
Defending 170-pound state champion Tate Samuelson returns but could move up to the 182-pound class while junior Adrian Marquez is back after finishing third last season.
Castle View has three other state-qualifying wrestlers back in Bailey Fitzgerald, Ruslan Nuriyev and Adam Sepan.
Ponderosa has a new coach in Tito Rinaldis.
He was on the Mustangs' state champion wrestling teams in 2003 and 2004. He was an individual state champion in 2004 and has been an assistant coach at Ponderosa for the past 10 seasons under Corey McNellis.
“There will be some subtle changes,” Rinaldis said. “A lot of people think losing the consecutive league streak was a humbling feeling. It kind of was, but there are some good aspects to it. We can focus on accountability, making sure we are putting people out on the mat that deserve to be out on the mat...
“Other than that, if it ain't broken don't fit it. Since 2000, we have not finished out of the top 10. We are obviously doing something right. There is always some fine tuning we can do and places we can redirect our energy. That is my duty as a first-year head coach.”
Ponderosa has two-time 220-pound state champion Cohlton Schultz back for his junior campaign. Last summer Schultz became the first American to win the Cadet Greco World championship since 1997.
“World champion — that is kind of hard to beat,” Rinaldis said. “Not too many high school teams can utter that phrase.”
Ponderosa, which has won 10 state championships, also returns Jayden Woodruff, who was the 182-pound state runner-up last season. He will wrestle at 195 pounds this season. Parker Benekas was second at 145 pounds in the 2017 state meet and will compete at either 160 or 170 pounds as a senior.
Other returning state qualifiers from south metro area teams include Trey Johnson of Chaparral; Jake Kellogg of Highlands Ranch; Mountain Vista's Roger Meyer and Nico Gonzalez; Bo Cole and Kai Blake of Cherry Creek; Brandon Urroz and Dakota Barela of Heritage; Micah Smith and Austin Kelchen of Douglas County.
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