DENVER -- For some observers, this match wasn’t highlighted Thursday night at the Class 4A state wrestling tournament.
However, there was plenty at stake when Pueblo South’s Davis Baxter and Thompson Valley’s Sage D’Ambrosia met in the first round at the Pepsi Center -- especially in the team race.
Broomfield, Thompson Valley and Pueblo South were ranked No. 1, 2, and 3 by On The Mat prior to the state tournament.
“Our focus right now is bringing home a team title,” said the senior Baxter about the Colts who won state in 1997, 2004 and 2005.
Baxter did his part by muscling past D’Ambriosa 4-2.
“We know all the head-to-head matches with Thompson Valley are very important because they have more guys qualified than us,” said the unranked Baxter after his win over No. 6-ranked D’Ambrosia . “I’m just glad I was able to come through.”
The Colts’ Mitchel Chavez also scored a dramatic 6-5 win over Thompson Valley’s David Eusea. Chavez had a five-point move in the last 20 seconds to get the win.
Defending champion Broomfield qualified 11 wrestlers for state, while Thompson Valley brought 12 and South nine.
Thompson Valley is leading the team chase with 25 points followed by Pueblo South and Windsor which are tied for second with 22 points. Broomfield is sixth with 18 points.
Thompson Valley and South both advanced eight wrestlers and Broomfield had six winners.
In the Baxter-D’Ambrosia match, neither wrestler could get anything going in the first period.
The match remained scoreless until Baxter hit a reversal to take a 2-0 lead with two seconds left in the second period.
Baxter knew his lead wasn’t safe and he was right.
D’Ambrosia answered with a reversal of his own to tie the match at 2-2 with 1:22 left in the third period.
“At South, we focus a lot on conditioning and in the third period I still had a lot left in me and I was able to get the job done,” said Baxter, who ran his season record to 31-13.
Baxter’s takedown at 1:10 of the third put him up 4-2.
“There was a lot scrambling out there and I was getting mixed up with the score,” Baxter said.
D’Ambrosia (33-12) also was lost in the moment.
“I was trying to take him down and he got a funky (two-point) nearfall,” D’Ambrosia said. “I knew after that I had to go after it and try and score some points.”
As the clock was ticking down, Baxter was clinging to his slim advantage.
“In those last seconds I looked at the clock and saw I was winning and I knew I had to avoid getting turned and not give up anything easy,” Baxter said.
D’Ambrosia was gracious in defeat.
“I was trying to take him down and I just ran out of time,” he said.
TURNING SOME HEADS: Berthoud’s Nate Ryken thought his wrestling season was over before regionals last weekend.
“I didn’t even think I was going to wrestle,” said Ryken, who was hampered by a dislocated left elbow injury. “My coaches told me to go out there and give it my all before I stopped my senior year. I went out there and gave it my all and I took fourth.”
That effort qualified Ryken for state and he took full advantage of the opportunity by stunning Broomfield’s Demetruis Zissimos with a third-period pin.
Zissimos (5-1), who was coming back from a broken leg he suffered during football season, was the only undefeated wrestler in all of the 4A brackets.
“I had never wrestled him before,” Ryken said. “I don’t look at the person if they are good or bad. I’m going in how I’m going to go in and I’m going to fight. I feel like this win shows heart and my work ethic and now I’m just going to take one match at a time and wrestle my butt off.”
Ryken improved his record to 16-5 after his pin with 1:19 left in the third period.
LAST YEAR’S CHAMPIONS MOVE ON: Broomfield’s Phil Downing and Zach Stodden, Weld Central’s Dalton Robertson, Palisade’s Dalton Harrington, Pueblo South’s Isaac Naro, Windsor’s Kennen Lanteri, and Mead’s Kyle Couch all won their first-round matches Thursday.
EYEING GOLD: A year ago, Montezuma-Cortez’s Seager Oliver advanced to the 160-pound Class 4A state finals only to get upended by Thompson Valley’s Francisco Marquez.
Now, a junior, Oliver is more determined than ever to capture a coveted gold medal.
Oliver, the No. 1 ranked wrestler at 170 pounds, made a quick statement Thursday night, scoring a 15-0 technical fall over Woodland Park’s Josh Smith.
“I’ve had several tech falls and several pins this season,” said Oliver, who ran his record to 38-2. “I approach every match the same and I treat every match like I’m wrestling the No. 1 guy in state. I never let up and I don’t overlook anybody. The first match is always the worst and I’m glad I got that one over, and I’m happy with the way I wrestled.”
Oliver has a simple plan for the rest of the weekend.
“I just have to go out there and be mean every match and not give them an edge,” Oliver said.
Shad Bellmire, Montezuma-Cortez’s coach, likes Oliver’s approach.
“He’s got the attitude that he wants that gold and he’s headed in that direction,” Belmire said. “He’s worked hard and pushed himself and he has that gold medal in mind.”
Oliver is trying to become Montezuma-Cortez’s first state champion since 2010 when Casey Lynn won state at 135 pounds in Class 4A.