DENVER — Just making it to the 2015 wrestling state tournament was a tremendous relief for the Longmont High School senior Fernando “Fa Fa” Ramos-Vega. Still, there was the matter of fulfilling his potential in his final season with the Trojans.
A state qualifier as a sophomore, in 2014 Ramos-Vega did not make weight at regionals and could not qualify for the state tournament, where he likely would have medaled. This season, the Trojans senior 170-pounder won the 4A Region 3 tournament and entered the Pepsi Center as a No. 1 seed.
In Saturday’s third-place match, Ramos-Vega (46-6) shed the lingering monkey from his back by winning a 5-2 decision over Pueblo County’s Dante Garcia (30-10) to cap his prep career with a third-place medal.
“Not missing weight and coming back to place in the top three is just a great feeling,” Ramos-Vega said. “Not being able to wrestle last year was tough. But now it’s all cleared off and paid back.”
Ramos-Vega reached the 4A 170-pound semifinals on Friday before losing 5-0 to Thompson Valley’s Mike Berg (24-1). He was the lone medalist from Longmont High School, which qualified four wrestlers for the final tournament of the season.
In his first season as head coach, Longmont High alumnus Matt Engelking was pleased both with Ramos-Vega’s finish and the way his state tournament contingent represent the school on the big stage.
“Fernando did a great job of coming back and putting the crunch on that last guy and kind of showing that the semifinals should have been the finals this year,” Engelking said. “We also had some younger guys come down here and get some experience, which is always good. We didn’t really have that last year so now we get to come back next with some guys who have some experience.”
Both sophomore 145-pounder Nathan Morris (29-15) and junior 182-pounder Logan Goodner (21-14) will return next season. Morris went 0-2 and Goodner went 1-2, including a 3-minute, 30-second pin of Alameda’s Parker Roberts in the first round of the consolation bracket.
Trojans senior 132-pounder Jared Wells (24-20) also finished the state tournament with an 0-2 record.
MONARCH’S SILVER LINING
Monarch entered the state tournament riding a world of momentum, having qualified a school-record six entrants after last week’s regional tournament.
That momentum quickly faded when the Coyotes went 0 for 6 in the first round, but just as he has all season, freshman Cole Polluconi ultimately gave Monarch something to feel good about.
The freshman 120-pound grappler put together a stellar effort throughout the consolation bracket. After losing his first-round match Thursday, Polluconi won four consecutive matches before suffering a narrow 2-0 loss against Riley Garner-Orr from Central (G.J.) in the third-place match.
“I just kept telling myself that you have to keep fighting,” Polluconi said. “You’re getting guys who are coming off tough losses while you’re on a roll, and so you just have to keep pushing through and find a way to win.”
Polluconi got the job done in all manner of styles during his run through the backdraw, winning one match in overtime and recording a major decision in another. With Polluconi leading the way, Monarch is slated to return five of its six state qualifiers next season, creating an air of optimism around coach Ezra Paddock’s program.
“To get five back, plus the couple kids we know we’re getting from our youth program, we’re really excited,” Paddock said. “It’s a testament to (Polluconi’s) character for him to come back through the backdraw like that. It’s harder to do it that way, of course, but he just kept battling.”
STAGER KEEPS IMPROVING
There’s not doubt that Niwot sophomore Tommy Stager is off to a great start in his prep wrestling career. Trending further upwards in his second season, Stager got closer to his end goal — a state title — at the 2015 state tournament.
Reaching Saturday’s Class 4A 120-pound third-place match, Stager lost a 5-1 decision to Mesa Ridge senior Leon Sanchez. Despite ending on a defeat, Stagers’ fourth-place finish was a step up from last year’s sixth-place finish at 113.
Stager boasts an 83-20 record, including three wins at this year’s state tournament, through his first two wrestling seasons at with the Cougars. He remains on pace to one-up his older brother Nick Stager, who placed third as a senior in 2012 and went on to wrestle at Harvard University.
ROPER LEAVES WITH MEDAL
Erie 195-pounder Elijah Roper experienced all the highs and lows that the wrestling state championships have to offer in his first-ever state appearance as a senior this season.
The Tigers senior won his firs two matches and was overmatched in his second two, including a 16-7 major-decision loss to Dolores Huerta’s Marcus Garcia in the championship semifinals. But in his final match for Erie High School, Roper pinned Valley’s Juan Gomez in 1:54 to leave the Pepsi Center and prep wrestling with a fifth-place medal.
LALAGUNA CAPS LATE RUN WITH MEDAL
Centaurus’ Forrest Lalaguna battled through injury issues this season, but the junior capped his stellar late-season surge by earning a medal in the 5A state finals. In an all-area battle in the 5A 285 pound fifth-place match, Lalaguna recorded a pin of Broomfield’s Mason Watt at the 2:29 mark.
NOVARA NETS SIXTH
Silver Creek sophomore Sawyer Novara made a stellar run through the 4A 106-pound consolation bracket, winning three consecutive matches to reach the medal round, a run that included a pair of major decisions with victorious scores of consolation 11-2 and 11-0. Novara ultimately finished sixth after dropping a 9-0 major decision against Greeley Central’s Zeke Alirez.
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