Close to 80 wrestlers on the Western Slope will make the trek to Denver this week to join hundreds of their counterparts at the CHSAA State Wrestling Tournament.
Nine of the almost 900 wrestlers hail from Central High School. Six return to the state tournament after qualifying in the previous seasons. Last year, many watched teammate EJ Barrera stand at the podium as he won a state title.
For Jake McClaskey and Westin Holdren, they were just shy of placing in 2017 as juniors, so 2018 means one last shot at redemption.
"The first year I was this little kid, I was scared," McClaskey said of his first trip to the state tournament. "Last year I wasn't at my peak, but I still knew it was going to happen, so this year I've got the experience and I have what it takes."
"The first year I was there I went two and out, but it was that feeling that I know I can compete. I can be there. I belong there," Holdren said. "Then the next year I came up short, one away from placing and that just fueled my fire even more. I really want it and it's my time."
"At the state tournament, anything can happen," Head Coach Laurence Gurule said. "I've seen kids that were state champs get beat in the first round. It's just a matter of who wants it the most and who shows up to wrestle."
The nine Warriors headed to state include:
Luke Pleasant (So.) - 106 lbs.
Jake McClaskey (Sr.) - 113 lbs.
Dre Martinez (Jr.) - 132 lbs.
Tiga Lundin (Jr.) - 138 lbs.
Paul Salazar (Jr.) - 145 lbs.
Shaun Stepisnik (Jr.) - 160 lbs.
Tanner Hickey (Jr.) - 170 lbs.
Westin Holdren (Sr.) - 220 lbs.
Isreal Lima (So.) - 285 lbs.
The state tournament gets underway Thursday, February 15, at the Pepsi Center in Denver. The championship are Saturday, February 17.