EDWARDS — There was wrestling practice on Monday at Battle Mountain, and that in itself is news.
For the first time since 2011, the Huskies (please note the plural) were working out because Battle Mountain’s Jesus Morales (126 pounds) and Alex Ramirez (195 pounds) qualified during this past weekend’s regional tournament for the state tourney, which begins Thursday at the Pepsi Center.
“It’s sort of weird to see the sun come out and the snow starting to go away and still be in the wrestling room,” Ramirez said on Monday.
Battle Mountain does have a good history of wrestling, just not recently. In 2000, the school’s final year in 3A, the Huskies finished seventh in the state. In 2001, Angelo Vasquez, then a senior 182-pounder, became the school’s first qualifier at 4A. Rudy Frausto (135 pounds) and Daniel Trujillo (130 pounds) made it in 2005 and Manny Madril (135 pounds) in 2011.
“For a struggling program this is really important,” said coach Vasquez — yep, 13 years later Angelo is running the program with the invaluable assistance of Eric Goodling. “We’re building this program from the kids who are in here. Their names go out to the school. ... The younger kids look up to them. You get the younger kids to look up to the older kids, and they want to participate. Plus, they see that we’re getting kids into the state tournament, so that lets them know that (when) we come in, we have a legit shot too.”
Morales, who is Freddy to his buds, had familiar faces on his path to state. After dispatching Nick Sulham, of Montrose, Morales ran into Eagle Valley’s Chris Comroe.
“Comroe is a really good wrestler,” Morales said. “I had to step it up.”
That’s because Comroe had beaten Morales twice during the regular season. Morales turned the tables with an 11-0 major decision over Comroe. Next up was Summit’s Nick Witrock, whom Morales had beaten just a week earlier during a dual at Battle Mountain. But Witrock had adjusted and defeated Morales, 5-2.
This is when it gets tough, wrestling back for the third or fourth position to make state. Morales had likely what was his most difficult win in wrestle-backs, a 4-3 victory over Durango’s Hunter Hall. Morales won the match with a late escape, good for the decisive point and a berth in the third-place match.
This falls under the category of irony because Morales missed state by one point last season as a freshman at 120 pounds at regionals.
“It motivated me so much that I actually knew what I needed to do to reach that point of making it to state,” Morales said. “My coach really had me step it up these last few weeks.”
For third place and a spot in state, Morales met Comroe again, winning this time, 13-2.
“It’s big. It’s exciting being a sophomore and going to state,” Morales said. “Everyone wants to go to state, right? Everyone wants to be remembered. I think next year I’m going to be a motivator. Many kids are going to look up to me because I know how it is to go to state — what it takes.”
Fasten your seat belt
At 195 pounds, Ramirez got a bye and pinned Palisade’s Tucker Feldman to make the semifinals. There, Steamboat’s Steve Yeager pinned the Battle Mountain senior.
“I was completely demoralized. I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it to state,” Ramirez said. “You just wrestle for so long that it’s sort of an instinct. You can’t just quit. I came into this match thinking it could be the last one of my life.”
That match was a wrestle-back against Pueblo County’s Ty Sigler, who would play quite the role in Ramirez’s state bid. First, he had to beat the Pueblo County wrestler. Then he was rooting for him. We’ll explain.
Ramirez used a move called the seat belt on Sigler. This involves getting on top of your opponent and pulling out one of his arms while taking your other arm and wrapping it around your intended victim. Eventually, Ramirez manoeuvered around Sigler’s head and got the pin.
“The seat belt is a new trick,” Ramirez said, making sure to credit coaches Vasquez and Goodling for teaching him the move. “Something really clicked with it this year, and I’ve used it to pin a few guys.”
The seat belt sent Ramirez to face Clayton Coombs, of Rifle, for third and an automatic spot. However, as Ramirez was wrestling, Sigler and Wheat Ridge’s Warren Peterson were going at it. This was important because each region sends four to state, but if the fifth-place finisher has not fought the fourth-place wrestler — which would be Ramirez if he lost to Coombs — fourth and fifth place face each other for a state spot. Ramirez did get pinned by Combs, but Sigler also put Peterson on the mat and the Battle Mountain wrestler had clinched state.
“I was almost watching his match as much as I was focusing on mine,” Ramirez joked.
Morales faces Mead’s Sage Budd in the first round of state on Thursday, while Ramirez goes up against Longmont’s Jaime Ramos Vega.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.