DENVER — Saturday night’s Class 3A 132-pound championship match between Mead’s Sage Budd and Valley’s Ruben Lucero was a collision years in the making.
When both wrestlers were 106-pound freshmen, Lucero defeated Budd in a regional third-place match, sending him into the wrestle-back round where he lost and was denied his first appearance at the state tournament. Three years later, both Budd and Lucero were senior defending state champions fighting over one last title in the Pepsi Center.
Having not forgotten the loss that halted his first prep season, and with a shot at Mead High history, Budd wasn’t going to be halted short of his goal again. Not by the same opponent. Not a second time.
In the final match of his career, Budd defeated Lucero 9-2 to leave prep wrestling as a two-time state champion.
“I just wrestled,” Budd said. “He destroyed me freshman year and I knew it was going to be a good match. It was a little nerve-wracking before the match, just pacing and thinking about all that stuff but I tried not to let it affect me. I just tried to wrestle my match and live with the outcome.”
Each wrestler a three-time state medalist, Lucero (39-2) won last season’s 3A 126-pound title and Budd won the 4A 126-pound title. As dominant as he was once he settled in, Budd found himself flat on his back quicker than he expected.
In the first minute of the match, Lucero caught Budd, who has been taken down just three times all season, with a takedown. It was ruled, however, that the wrestlers were out of bounds when the scoring move occurred and the two points were negated, refreshing the score at 0-0.
After the early scare, Budd scored five straight points and led 5-0 to start the final period. In the third round, Budd allowed Lucero to escape twice only to take him down again and controlled the match to its 9-2 final.
“When he got that takedown, it triggered something in my head that I needed to push the pace more,” Budd said. “That was definitely a wake-up call.”
With Saturday’s victory, Budd (46-0) became the first wrestler in Mead history to complete an undefeated season and the second to win multiple state titles, following former teammate Kyle Couch (2013 and 2014). Breaking out as a junior, he posted a 76-3 record in his final two seasons with the Mavericks.
Now in the program’s sixth season, Mead has won four individual state titles. The Mavericks qualified five wrestlers for this year’s state tournament and placed three. Despite the program’s relative youth, it is quickly emerging as one to be reckoned with.
“We’re riding a pretty good wave,” head coach Ty Tatham said. “You’ve just got to enjoy that while you can. We’re believing in what we’re doing and moving in the right direction. We’ll just get back in the room with a couple of state qualifiers and regional placers coming back. Things look good.”
Mead freshman Jeremy Ashton (41-10), whose preseason goal was just to qualify for the state tournament in his first season, placed fifth at 113 pounds. In Saturday’s fifth-place match, Ashton rode a second-period reversal to a 2-0 victory over Lamar’s Jesse Shelton. Junior heavyweight Jack Gallegos (33-12) brought home a sixth-place medal, losing 4-0 to Mullen’s Sam Deseriere after the third overtime period of the fifth-place match.
Senior Jesse Ortiz (32-10) advanced as far as the 126-pound quarterfinals and finished the tournament with a 1-2 record. Sophomore 160-pounder Brennan McDermitt (30-19) finished the tournament 1-2.
Follow Brad on Twitter: twitter.com/BradCochi