Basalt wrestler Ruben Samuelson enters state tournament hoping to finish strong
Ruben Samuelson came up just short at regionals two years ago and responded. A season ago at state he again came up just short, but yet again has responded and finds himself in his senior year with a chance to make a run at the top of the Colorado wrestling hierarchy.
Samuelson will be the lone representative of the Basalt High School wrestling team at the Class 3A state tournament on Friday in Pueblo.
“The last two seasons were good seasons, but they left him at a point of frustration both times,” BHS coach Ryan Bradley said. “There is a night-and-day difference in him this year from last year. He was really good last year, but he has made some significant strides.”
Samuelson, who attends classes at Roaring Fork High School but wrestles for the Longhorns, competes at 195 pounds and enters the state tournament with a 15-1 record this season. His lone loss came against Meeker senior Colby Clatterbaugh, last year’s state runner-up in Class 2A’s 182-pound bracket who is 22-0 this season and a contender for 2A’s 195-pound title.
“I’m just expecting to do my best, and that’s pretty much all I can do,” Samuelson said. “I sure hope to win the state championship, but all I can do is my best. If I my best is the championship, then that’s what I’ll get.”
As a sophomore, Samuelson finished fifth at the regional tournament, with only the top four advancing to state. He did make state last year as a junior, where he competed at 170 pounds. He entered the tournament with a 37-1 record, his only loss coming in the regional final, and was knocked out in the quarterfinals and finished just short of the podium.
“I lost right before placing last year, so that really lit a fire under me and got me working harder for this year. I was definitely chomping at the bit a little bit,” Samuelson said. “I’ve just been in the gym pretty much every single day working out. Then once we could get in the wrestling room, I was in there a whole lot. I was bothering coach Bradley a lot, but he couldn’t really do anything about it.”
Bradley likely didn’t mind. And a chance encounter in town led to Samuelson meeting Trae Story, a former NCAA Division II wrestler who is around the same weight as Samuelson and has become his primary training partner these past few months. The training helped get Samuelson to the regional final last weekend, where he finished off his opponent in just 1:19.
“He’s a hard working kid and I love how he responds to adversity,” Bradley said. “It’s like we’ve done all the work, now go down and get the rewards for all that work. I expect him to take it to these guys down at state and show them what’s up.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, state wrestling looks a lot different this year. Instead of Denver’s Pepsi Center — now called Ball Arena — the tournament was moved to the Southwest Motors Events Center in Pueblo. The public is not allowed to attend, but each wrestler was allotted to bring two spectators, which for Samuelson will be his parents. His younger brother, Brady, is a sophomore on the BHS wrestling team and a good warm-up partner for Ruben.
And, instead of the usual 16-wrestler bracket, only the top two regional finishers made state this year, creating a slimmer eight-wrestler bracket. Normally a multi-day affair, each classification will hold their tournament from start to finish in one day, with 2A and 3A taking place Friday.
Samuelson will wrestle Manitou Springs’ sophomore Wesley Reeves (14-1) in his first-round matchup. Reeves also competed in the same 170-pound bracket as Samuelson last year at state, losing in the first round. The two have never previously wrestled. Even with a smaller field, the top six finishers will still officially place at state.
“I feel much more confident,” Samuelson said. “Last year I was pretty nervous going in and I didn’t really know what to expect. But this year, I’ve been there before and I’m excited. I only got a few more minutes left of wrestling, so I’ll make the most of it.”
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