State qualifier Ernesto Lopez back to lead Basalt wrestling team into the season |

State qualifier Ernesto Lopez back to lead Basalt wrestling team into the season

Should senior Ernesto Lopez place at the state tournament this season, he might have one of his predecessors to thank. Olmer Marquez, the Basalt High School wrestling team’s most decorated athlete since the program returned in 2012, has come back as a volunteer coach this winter and is giving Lopez the push he needs to take that next step.

“Olmer has been putting him through the paces. So it’s pretty good,” Basalt coach Ryan Bradley said. “Having Olmer there has been awesome. It’s just cool to see him mentoring and coaching and it gives Ernie some really tough competition.”

Lopez, who wrestles at heavyweight, was Basalt’s lone state qualifier last season. He lost in the first round but did win a match on the backside of the Class 3A bracket. With 182-pound junior Jose Castorena the second biggest wrestler to Lopez this winter, having another bigger body like Marquez is a big boost for Lopez’s state tournament hopes.

Marquez, a former regional champion who placed fourth at state before graduating in 2016, is actually one of three former BHS wrestlers helping coach this winter. Also helping out are Luis Ruiz, a 2015 graduate and former state qualifier, and Stxio Esparza, a 2017 graduate.

“We are lucky,” Bradley said. “Olmer is getting back in shape and working out with us and lifting weights with us and showing up, and he’s giving back. It’s been pretty cool, because he’s been one of those guys who after he graduated he’s always come back and shown up for regionals and shown up for stuff, but now he’s got a work schedule where he can help out and coach.”

Behind Lopez and Castorena, who placed at regionals last winter, Bradley has high hopes for 170-pound junior Ruben Samuelson this season. The Roaring Fork High School student placed at regionals last winter but just missed out on making the state tournament. He’s had a busy and productive offseason in preparation for the 2019-20 wrestling season.

“He is going to be good this year. He’s going to be a monster. He went to one of the toughest wrestling camps in the nation this past summer, a 14-day intensive camp in Oregon,” Bradley said. “He’s so much more improved this year. I used to be able to get out there and just kind of have my way with him when he was a sophomore.”

Sophomore Ryan Zheng, who wrestles at 160 pounds, is another to keep an eye on. Zheng was the team’s outstanding freshman wrestler a year ago and could be in position to take another big step this winter. Bradley said he’s in a good spot to train because he has Ruben Samuelson to push him a weight class ahead, and he has 152-pound freshman Brady Samuelson, Ruben’s younger brother, coming up right behind him.

“He’s got a work ethic like his brother,” Bradley said of Brady. “It’s a great spot to have Ryan in there between those two.”

Filling out this year’s roster is 132-pound freshman Lev Illouz and seniors Fisher Mitchell and Axel Requeno, who are both competing at 126 pounds. Bradley said one of them could move up or down a weight class come January.

Basalt’s season gets underway Saturday at a dual tournament in Buena Vista. The Longhorns have a busy schedule before the holiday break, including the coveted Delta tournament on Dec. 14, although all three of the team’s home duals won’t take place until after Christmas.

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