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Wrestling: Erie’s Ramon Salazar, Mead’s Jenna Joseph work way to top

  • DENVER, CO, Feb. 19, 2022: Ramon ...

    Ramon Salazar, of Erie, beats Mikai Alirez, of Greeley Central, to win the 4A 126 pounds championship during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on February 19, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • DENVER, CO, Feb. 19, 2022: Ramon ...

    Ramon Salazar does a flip after winning the state championship. Ramon Salazar, of Erie, beats Mikai Alirez, of Greeley Central, to win the 4A 126 pounds championship during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on February 19, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • DENVER, CO, Feb. 19, 2022: Ramon ...

    Ramon Salazar does a flip after winning the state championship. Ramon Salazar, of Erie, beats Mikai Alirez, of Greeley Central, to win the 4A 126 pounds championship during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on February 19, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Ramon Salazar hugs his coach after ...

    Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    Ramon Salazar hugs his coach after the state win. Ramon Salazar, of Erie, beats Mikai Alirez, of Greeley Central, to win the 4A 126 pounds championship during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on Feb. 19, 2022.

  • DENVER, CO, Feb. 19, 2022: Ramon ...

    Ramon Salazar, of Erie, left, beats Mikai Alirez, of Greeley Central, to win the 4A 126 pounds championship during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on February 19, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • DENVER, CO, Feb. 19, 2022: Emilio ...

    Emilio Trujillo-Deen , of Monarch, loses to Elijah Olguin, of Pomona, during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on February 19, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Ryan Vigil, of Broomfield, wins state ...

    Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    Ryan Vigil, of Broomfield, wins state at 152 pounds during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on Feb. 19, 2022.

  • DENVER, CO, Feb. 19, 2022: Dillon ...

    Dillon Roman, of Monarch, loses to Jacob Bostelman, of Ponderosa, during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on February 19, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • DENVER, CO, Feb. 19, 2022: Cole ...

    Cole Carlucci, of Monarch, beats Westin Hoffschneider, of Ponderosa, during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on February 19, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • DENVER, CO, Feb. 19, 2022: Cole ...

    Cole Carlucci, of Monarch, beats Westin Hoffschneider, of Ponderosa, during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on February 19, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cole Carlucci, of Monarch, celebrates with ...

    Clifff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    Cole Carlucci, of Monarch, celebrates with his family after winning state during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on Feb. 19, 2022.

  • Jenna Joseph, of Mead, wins state ...

    Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    Jenna Joseph, of Mead, wins state at 161 pounds during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on Feb. 19, 2022.

  • DENVER, CO, Feb. 19, 2022: Jenna ...

    Jenna Joseph, of Mead, beats Navea Garcia, of Platte Valley during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on February 19, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

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DENVER — Erie’s Ramon Salazar wrestled his worst match of the entire season when he first met up with Greeley Central’s Mikai Alirez, when he lost 4-3 to him.

On Saturday night during the Class 4A state championship finals at Ball Arena in the 126-pound weight class, when the Tiger sophomore had Alirez on his back for what felt like the last 20 seconds of his state title match, his championship was just within reach.

“The rush of energy really came to me as soon as I put him on his back and I was like, ‘He’s there. He’s there. I got him if I can just get this pin,'” Salazar said. “And then they never called it.”

He did, however, earn three points for the near-fall to send him over the edge and to a 9-5 victory. Not only did he avenge his earlier loss to Alirez, but he walked away with the gold medal he’s been grinding toward all season long.

Little did Alirez know that he set Salazar on the course to ultimate victory, to Salazar’s jubilant back flip after the ref raised his hand.

“He’s been the best wrestler in our room since the start of the season,” head coach Joe Ferrera said. “He really made a step after Christmas, really when he lost to the guy he meets tonight. We saw kind of a change in him. He wasn’t himself in that match. He didn’t wrestle well and he took that to heart. He apologized to the team and he’s just come back like a caged animal.”

DENVER, CO, Feb. 19, 2022: Jenna ...
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Jenna Joseph, of Mead, wins state at 161 pounds during the finals of the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Ball Arena in Denver on February 19, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

In the ladies competition, Mead senior Jenna Joseph had to go face-to-face with a girl she knows well, Platte Valley’s Navea Garcia at 161 pounds. Garcia beat her in the state championship match last year by an 8-5 decision.

This year, after going 2-2 against Garcia in the regular season, Joseph returned the favor when she scored a single point on a stand up in the second period and carried that lone point all the way to a state title victory.

“As long as I could keep that control I knew I was going to come out on top,” Joseph said. “Looking at her different styles over the past two years definitely helped me to learn how she mashes all of that together so I was able to work around it.”

Salazar was far from the only Tiger wrestler to make a name for himself this weekend.

Gavin Malek couldn’t have imagined what his senior year would bring when he first entered high school athletics. On Saturday night, he finished his wrestling career with a runner-up honor at 195s. Just months earlier, he helped lead his Erie football team to an undefeated record in football before falling to Chatfield in the 4A title game.

“It was awesome, one of the best years of my life,” Malek said. “Unfortunately, couldn’t come out with a win on either of them. I’m so proud of (the wrestlers).”

Cheyenne Mountain’s Nico Gagliardi was tough, no doubt, pinning a determined Malek in 29 seconds.

Malek’s growth from a 20-20 freshman JV record to a state runner-up now became the perfect metaphor for the kinds of strides Erie wrestling has made as a program in such a short time. Salazar’s dominance as a sophomore further illuminates just how much farther the Tigers can still climb.

This year, they qualified seven wrestlers and saw placements from 145-pounder Brendan Young’s fourth-place finish as well as 120-pounder Noah Lopez’s and 170-pounder Michael Brazeau’s bronze-worthy performances.

The team’s fourth-place finish gives coach Ferrera chills thinking about it, but if the past three days at Ball Arena have proven anything, it’s that Erie wrestling isn’t done rising yet.

“My goal with this program and our coaches is to get better every year and we’ve consistently done that,” Ferrera said. “Last year, we brought four guys to state and placed eighth. Our kids wrestled out of their minds. It’s been the same conversation this year, ‘Hey, if we all wrestle the way we can, we’ll do something special.’”

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