DENVER — If Alamosa is not already thought of as a bona fide Colorado wrestling dynasty, it is time to start. Since dropping down to the ranks of Class 3A, the Mean Moose has won five of the last nine 3A titles.
As of Saturday, that includes the 2019 title.
Alamosa did it with numbers. Of the 11 boys Alamosa qualified for the state tournament, Alamosa put eight on the podium — one first, two seconds, one third, two fourths, and two sixths. It is the program's 13th wrestling title, the most of any school in the state.
The pace of placing was too much for the rest of the field to keep pace. There were schools with more first-place finishes than Alamosa, but none that scored up and down the order like the Mean Moose.
Winning Alamosa’s lone state title this year was 126-pounder Joe Chavez. Chavez ended his high school career with his third consecutive individual title, a 7-2 decision over Jimmy Gonzales of Pueblo Central.
Part of getting there for Chavez was not spending much time looking back at past titles.
“I don’t compare one year to previous years,” offered Chavez. “I start each year with a new set of expectations.”
Among other things, that helps it keep from feeling like there’s a target on his back.
The demeanor of Alamosa coach Gary Ramstetter also helps to keep things on a steady course. In a wrestling world overflowing with emotive coaches, Ramstetter is a rock. He watches each match from his chair, but rarely has much to say during the match.
That calmness translates to his wrestlers. You don’t see Alamosa wrestlers wasting energy. You don’t see Alamosa wrestlers lurching into a panic when something doesn’t go right. And, way more often than not, the Mean Moose is in control of things when the match is over.
“I’ve been at it a long time, and [staying calm] is easier the longer you’ve been at it,” Ramstetter said.
And, what’s the most important thing that goes on at Alamosa practices? Ramstetter has an easy answer for that as well: “Drilling. I probably drill more than anybody.”
A younger coach might be inclined to worry about athletes losing interest with all the drilling. Ramstetter simply understands it’s part of a winning plan, so he’s stuck with it for better than 40 years now.
So, while a lot of programs emphasize the flash and fire, Alamosa is much more about getting one job done and moving to the next. It’s proven to be a successful approach to high school wrestling.
Alamosa’s 141.5 points put them easily in the driver’s seat for the team title. Eaton was second with 105. Eagle Valley and Jefferson tied for third at 97.5
While Eaton’s second-place finish evoked memories of last year, Eagle Valley and Jefferson were both vastly improved over last year. Last year, Eagle Valley tallied 35.5 points and Jefferson only 16.
Jefferson took Angelo Lozado (113) and Nick Gallegos (152) to finals. Both left with state titles, ones they weren’t favored to win. The Saints put two more wrestlers on the podium and left no doubt about 3A’s most improved program.
Eagle Valley also took two to finals but left without an individual title as Lucas Conroe was decisioned by Lamar’s Zane Rankin at 138, and Cody Ponce lost an overtime affair to Salida’s Eli Smith at 220.
Two undefeated wrestlers fell in the finals. Nathan Johns of The Classical Academy earned his second consecutive title by defeating previously unbeaten Amos Wilson of Glenwood Springs at 182. Then, at 195, Salida’s undefeated Holt Brashears fell to a more deeply experienced Abe Leonard of Elizabeth in a 4-2 decision.
Pins, a staple of wrestling, were nearly impossible to come by.
After Woodland Park’s Brady Hankin pinned Davion Chavez of Alamosa at 106, no other 3A finals matches were decided by pin. In fact, there were neither technical falls nor major decisions to be found in the next 13 matches.
The 3A mat was rather consistently the last or next to last mat to finish at each weight class once Hankin had done his thing.
Quite possibly the most exciting 1-0 match you’ll ever see put Isaiah Gamez of La Junta ahead of Ethan Andrade of Lamar for the title at 120 pounds. Andrade had bested Gamez in two previous matches this season, but not this time.
Valley got a pair of individual titles from Isaiah Rios at 138 and Jaziah Whaley at 160. Pagosa’s Cameron Lucero, wrestling down a class from what he wrestled much of the season, won the title at 145. Eaton’s Ty Garnhardt bested Wyatt Pfau of Brush at 170 in a war of attrition that went to overtime. And University’s Emanuel Munoz-Alcala took the crown at 285 pounds.
Earlier in the day in 3A, Valley's Angel Rios and Skyviews Jasylnn Gallegos became the first girls to ever place at the state tournament.