Get­ting hands on sin­gle ti­tle

Chero­kee Trail’s Gon­za­les is back

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Kyle New­man Kyle New­man: 303-954-1773 knew­man@den­ver­ or @KyleNew­manDP

aurora» As one of Class 5A’s up-and-com­ing wrestling pro­grams, Chero­kee Trail fin­ished 10th as a team at state last sea­son and had its first fi­nal­ist when Max Gon­za­les placed sec­ond at 220 pounds.

This win­ter, the Aurora school looks to add to its grow­ing tra­di­tion. Now a se­nior, Gon­za­les is an early fa­vorite to make an­other push for the 220-pound crown, while fel­low se­niors Zeke Silva (fourth at 182 last sea­son and wrestling at 195 this year) and Josh Richard­son (160) give the Cougars a trio of lead­ers.

“When you have guys like Max and Zeke in the room, in ad­di­tion to skill you’ve got great lead­er­ship there and great work ethic, too, be­cause both of those guys want to be at the top of the podium come Fe­bru­ary,” Chero­kee Trail coach Jeff Buck said. “That trick­les down to other kids like Josh, who came out as a fresh­man and didn’t have the typ­i­cal wrestling frame but like a lot of guys in our room he’s mor­phed into a re­ally solid com­peti­tor.”

In or­der to com­pete with peren­nial pow­ers such as Pon­derosa and Pomona at the state tour­na­ment, Chero­kee Trail has in­creas­ingly re­lied upon its youth wrestling pro­gram. “More and more guys are com­ing into high school with an un­der­stand­ing of the sport,” Buck said.

He’s also mapped an ar­du­ous tour­na­ment sched­ule to get his team ready.

This sea­son, the Cougars have gone to Cal­i­for­nia for the La Costa Canyon Clas­sic from Dec. 8-11, with trav­els to Wy­oming (for the Shane Shatto Tour­na­ment on Jan. 6-7) and Utah (for the Rock­well Rum­ble on Jan. 20-21) still to come.

Both Gon­za­les and Silva placed at the La Costa Canyon Clas­sic, a sign the se­niors are on track to be in the mix for the pro­gram’s first in­di­vid­ual state ti­tle.

But stand­ing in the way of a ti­tle is a dom­i­nant Schultz brother. Pon­derosa sopho­more Cohlton Schultz is na­tion­ally ranked and pinned Gon­za­les in the 220 fi­nal last sea­son, while his older brother, Moun­tain Vista se­nior Tren­ton Schultz, is the de­fend­ing cham­pion at 195.

“There’s no ques­tion that Col­h­ton and Tren­ton are both in­cred­i­ble wrestlers, and it’s a tall or­der for both of our boys,” Buck said. “We just be­lieve that with the right mind-set, and with trav­el­ing like we do, we’ve pre­pared the best we can to get a shot at them. If that does hap­pen, we’ll be ready to put ev­ery­thing out there and see where the cards land.”

Gon­za­les wants to do ev­ery­thing he can to be ready at state.

“It def­i­nitely drives me,” Gon­za­les said. “Ever since that loss, I’ve had a chip on my shoul­der. I’m ready for that re­match, and what­ever tough guys come be­tween now and then.”

Sopho­more David Rivera should also be in the mix at state at 138 pounds af­ter qual­i­fy­ing at 126 last sea­son. That gives the Cougars four re­al­is­tic chances at mak­ing pro­gram his­tory.

“Last year Max did a great job against one of the best wrestlers in the coun­try, and our goal is to get him there again, and who­ever else we can, and win a ti­tle,” Buck said. “We’ve yet to have a state cham­pion at Chero­kee Trail, but we be­lieve we have kids in the room who can do it.”

Chero­kee Trail’s Max Gon­za­les placed sec­ond at 220 pounds at state last sea­son. Kyle New­man, The Den­ver Post

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