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SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

Nobody stopped the Eagles as East claims its second team title

Ball+Arena+in+Denver+was+filled+for+the+first+time+since+2019%2C+Feb.+19%2C+in+support+of+Colorado+High+School+Activities+Association+state+wrestling+championships.+%5BPhoto+special+to+the+today%2Fcourtesy+Kevin+Hernandez%5D+
Ball Arena in Denver was filled for the first time since 2019, Feb. 19, in support of Colorado High School Activities Association state wrestling championships. [Photo special to the today/courtesy Kevin Hernandez]

Eagles soar in Denver

By Brandon Samora

Listen now: Sports Editor Brandon Samora talks with state titleholders and brothers Sebastian and Xander Freeman for the “Press Box” podcast, exclusively for our news partners Rev. 89.5 FM

Pueblo East High School came home from Ball Arena as the class 4A 2022 State Champion Wrestling team. 

The Eagles had a command season as a team, led by some dominant individual seasons from a few of their state champions. LJ Herburger (113 pounds), Weston Dalton (145), Sebastian Freeman (152) and Xavier Freeman (220) all had a chance to top the podium on Saturday.

Herburger came first on Saturday and ran into what might be the biggest mountain in all of 4A wrestling. Jackzen Rairdon hails from Thompson Valley and is one of the best wrestling prospects that the state has ever seen. Rairdon had never lost a high school match in high school, making him 72-0. Herburger fell to Rairdon in a heartbreaker finish to a fantastic season for Herburger.

Weston Dalton won an individual title in the 2019-20 season in the 120 weight class. As a freshman, the narrative had already begun for the soon-to-be “Four Timer” here in Pueblo. The last – and only – to accomplish that, is East alum Andy Garcia. Moving up to 132 in 2021, Dalton came up short with a second-place finish. 

This season, Dalton moved up again to 145 and continued to dominate with a 7-0 championship match finish against Tyler Valdez, from Falcon. Certainly, the four-peat name can carry weight in the wrestling community, but with a chance to go 3 out of 4, Dalton will be one of the brightest names to watch next year.

“It feels pretty good to be able to say I’ve won more state titles than anyone in my family so far. My whole life I’ve wanted to win state like my dad and brother, but now I passed them in a way and I’m very happy and proud of myself.” — Xavier Freeman, East High School senior and two-time Colorado State champion wrestler

A family affair

Sebastian Freeman fell to Ryan Vigil of Broomfield in a close final match, meaning we will have to wait another season to see if there will be a third Freeman state champion at East High School. There have been podium finishes for Freeman, who will have his last shot for state glory next season. 

The Freeman brothers come from a long line of winning wrestlers. The oldest of the Freeman Foursome, Zion, claimed his first state title in the 2018-2019 season for the Eagles where he finished on top as a senior for his first title at East, and for the school’s first team title in that same year. Zion now competes at CSU Pueblo for the Thunderwolves.

Their father, Tony Freeman, was a state champion for the Manzano Monarchs in 1988, as well as being a three-time All-American at CSU Pueblo and a member of the 1991 NAIA National Championship Wrestling team for CSU Pueblo. 

“I have always had a chip on my shoulder when it comes to Pueblo Athletics,” Tony said. “Pueblo East winning a second state championship shows that our first one wasn’t an anomaly. The Steel City doesn’t seem to get the respect it deserves statewide, so whenever we can prove it on the big stage it brings me such pride.” 

Xavier Freeman was the last Eagle up for a title and needed to win to secure the team title for East. Freeman was wall-to-wall in the championship match and, as a reversal in the second period, earned a 5-4 finish and second title. 

“It feels pretty good to be able to say I’ve won more state titles than anyone in my family so far,” he said. “My whole life I’ve wanted to win state like my dad and brother, but now I passed them in a way and I’m very happy and proud of myself.” 

Adding to the glow of the two individual state titles, Xavier finished his high school career with two team state titles and two individual state titles.

The future is bright for the East Eagles, as next season the Eagles will return 9 state qualifiers for next season. 

Doing Pueblo proud

Let’s not forget about our other wrestling powerhouse of Pueblo.

Pueblo County had two wrestlers competing for state titles, and in perfect fashion, no matchups against the Eagles. Zion Mares (106) and Bryce Garcia (170) finished on top of the podium for the County Hornets.

Maires was the clear-cut No. 1 ranked wrestler all season long and the favorite coming into the tournament for the 106-pound title. He dominated in the final match en-route to his first state crown. It was an exciting scenario for County, as Maires will return for his senior season next year and a chance to repeat. 

Bryce Garcia traveled a long road to claim his first state title. He came up short his first two seasons at state for the Hornets, and with the win this year, Garcia finally hit the goal. 

** See related prep sports content: No. 1 South dominates No. 4 Central to remain undefeated. **
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