DENVER — Pomona senior Jason Romero finally got the individual state wrestling championship he desired.
“It’s amazing It’s beyond words,” Romero said after defeating Cherokee Trail senior Josh Richardson in the Class 5A 160-pound bout on the final night of the state wrestling tournament Feb. 18 at Pepsi Center.
Besides winning four individual titles, Pomona was able to dominate the 5A team standings racking up 192.5 points to distance themselves from second-place Grand Junction (141.5 points).
“It was fun. It was a good tournament,” Pomona coach Sam Federico said. “They got what they deserved. They put in the work and they are champs now.”
Romero returned to the champion finals for a third straight year. Romero had to settle for state runner-up his sophomore and junior seasons, but was on a mission this year to close out his prep career with that elusive state title.
Pomona’s trio of three sophomores — Justin Pacheco (113), Colton Yapoujian (120) and Theorius Robison (132) — were clearly locked in for their title championship matches. Pacheco and Yapoujian were able to shutout their opponents with 3-0 and 5-0 victories, respectively.
“The team has wrapped it up before the finals, so that takes off a lot of pressure,” Yapoujian said. “I felt like I had more pressure in the semis. Tonight I just went out and had some fun.”
Pacheco was actually tied 0-0 with just more than a minute to go against Coronado senior Stephen Dabelko. The Pomona sophomore was intentionally released by Dabelko for a 1-point escape and Pacheco added on a late takedown for the victory.
“Those big tournaments I think really helps a lot,” Pacheco said referring to the out-of-state tournament the Panthers always hit during the season. “They settle our nerves down quite a bit.”
Robison was the lone returning individual state champ this season for the Panthers. He finished off his sophomore campaign with a 33-1 record holding on to a 3-2 victory over Grand Junction junior Dylan Martinez in the final.
Robison is halfway to becoming Pomona’s first 4-time state champion in the program’s history. Pomona wrestling legend Tom Clum was one victory away to completing his career as an undefeated 4-time state champion, but lost the 5A 125 title bout in 2001 to Wasson’s Brett Roller in an epic 13-12 battle.
“I try not to think about it, but people do ask me about it,” Robison said of the chance to be in the exclusive 4-time individual championship group. “I just know I have to just keep working hard because there is always someone out there working hard to knock you off.”
Senior Nolan Krone was the only Panther in the finals unable to grab a state title. Krone wasn’t able to upset Castle View senior Josh Richardson, who went undefeated at 170 pounds.
Topping off the tremendous performance by the Panthers during the three-day tournament was Pomona claiming its fifth 5A state wrestling team title since 2000. The back-to-back accomplishment duplicated the feat pulled off by the Panthers in 2000 and 2001.
It’s also the third team title for Pomona in the last five years. In fact, the Panthers have finished first or second in the 5A team standings for seven straight years. Nine of 11 Pomona wrestlers that qualified for the 3-day state tourney found their way to the podium Saturday night.
“We just have more talent rolling in year-after-year,” Romero said.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Pomona. Even before the start of the season the Panthers lost senior Cameron Gonzales. Last year’s state runner-up at 170 suffered a broken lower leg in Pomona’s state football semifinal game in late November.
“Losing Cam was huge for our team. He is an amazing talent,” Romero said. “We just had to stick to what we do and do our thing. We couldn’t worry about it too much.”
Rival Arvada West won back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015, giving the two Arvada-area school the distinction of combining to win the last five 5A team titles.
“I’m going to miss this 2016-17 team,” Romero said. “It’s probably one of the most talented ever to walk through Colorado. I’m going to miss them a lot.”
The question now … Can Pomona keep the dynasty going and have a similar run that Ponderosa had nearly than a decade ago when the Mustangs won eight straight 5A team titles from 2003 to 2010?
“The coaches are hoping we get nine, so then can fill all their fingers with their wedding rings,” Pacheco said of the Panthers’ long-term goal of surpassing Ponderosa’s run. “They think that would be fun.”
Fatzinger grabs elusive state title
Arvada West senior Cody Fatzinger grabbed his first state title after placing either second or third in his weight class the previous three years.
“I’ve trained long and hard for this,” Fatzinger said. “It finally came.”
Fatzinger said he was glad to finish out his prep career with a state championship to his name before heading to Western State Colorado University in Gunnison.
“I think there was less pressure to be honest,” Fatzinger said. “I’ve already signed to wrestling in college, so I didn’t have to worry about that. I just wanted to wrestle and have fun.”