Basalt wrestler: Fourth-place medal at state | AspenTimes.com

Basalt wrestler: Fourth-place medal at state

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

Basalt High School wrestler Olmer Marquez put the Longhorns' school colors on the podium at the annual State High School Wrestling Championships in Denver.

Marquez, a junior, collected the fourth-place medal in the 220-pound division of the Class 3A state tournament at the Pepsi Center last weekend.

And he had a long route to that medal, according to Basalt head coach Ryan Bradley.

"The tournament started off in a tough way for Marquez when he was beaten in the opening round 6-0 by senior Grayden Mondragon of La Junta," Bradley said.

But Marquez bounced back.

He pinned Lucas Halferty of Eaton midway through the second period in the first consolation round.

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"Adjusting his style to the demands of the state tournament, Marquez then major-decisioned Jeremiah Land of Platte Valley 13-3 in the second-round consolation match," Bradley said.

In the third round of consolation, dubbed the "blood round" by wrestlers, Marquez went up against a familiar opponent in Eagle Valley senior Xavier Mendoza.

Bradley said the round is called the "blood round" because those who win will podium and for those that lose their season is over without a medal.

But Marquez would advance to that podium spot. He previously had defeated Mendoza in the finals of the Eagle Valley Tournament in overtime. And the previous week, he defeated Mendoza 12-5 at regionals.

"This time Marquez left no doubt when he pinned Mendoza with 6 seconds remaining on the clock in the second period," Bradley said.

With a place on the podium secured, Marquez faced a rematch with Mondragon of La Junta, who had beaten him on Thursday.

The winner of the match would advance to the third-place medal match, and the loser would wrestle for fifth place.

"Marquez wrestled strategically and seized the opportunity to pin Mondragon in the second (period)," Bradley said.

In the third-place match, Marquez faced senior Tanner Crist of Lamar.

"The match was very close, but Marquez sprained his knee in the last seconds of the second period," Bradley said.

Forced to injury default, Marquez collected his fourth-place state medal.

"Luckily, he should recover quickly with some rest and physical therapy," Bradley said. "He is excited to return next year as the top-seeded wrestler and secure an individual state championship."

Basalt senior Luis Ruiz also qualified for the state championships but didn't reach the podium in his 132-pound weight classification.

"For Luis Ruiz, it was a fantastic season," Bradley said. He started wrestling in eighth grade, but didn't compete as a freshman because BHS did not have a wrestling team at the time.

He returned to wrestle at Basalt as a junior and senior after the program was revived under Bradley's leadership.

"This year, as a senior captain, he led the team and finished 25-20," Bradley said. "He placed in every varsity tournament this year except West Grand when he was very ill. It was an exceptional year for an athlete with only two years of competitive wrestling in high school."

Bradley said that since his academic difficulties as a sophomore he has not failed a class since.

"This year, he transitioned into honors math," Bradley said.

His chance to compete in the prestigious State Wrestling Championships almost didn't happen.

Basalt coaches and wrestlers banded together to raise the money to operate the program without funding from the school district.

As the high school wrestling season ends, more than 40 seventh- and eighth-grade wrestlers will hit the mats in Basalt for their season.

dstrode@aspentimes.com