As a senior with wrestling not in his future, Tyler Ross left everything he had on the wrestling mat Feb. 18 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Wrestling with a “torn up” knee that had to be encased in a huge pad, Ross made it through three grueling days of competition at the Class 5A state tournament to claim third place at 182 pounds.
Nine of Aurora’s 29 state qualifiers placed in the top six in their respective weights and six of those nine were in the top three, including Ross, who downed Pomona’s Uriah Vigil in the third-place match to walk off a winner.
“For my last match as a senior, this is amazing,” Ross said. “My mentality was that I was going out on top, not giving up anything. This means everything to me, wrestling is my life. I’m probably not going to be able to do it ever again because my knee is torn up, but I wanted to go out knowing I gave everything I could.”
Ross very nearly earned a chance to wrestle for a state championship like teammate Gabriel Baumgarter — the 5A 285-pound champion — but he couldn’t quite knock off Jimmy Weaver of Coronado (the eventual state champion) in the semifinals in a 4-2 loss.
Ross’ last two matches were particularly gratifying given that he avenged two stinging losses from the regular season.
He posted a 2-0 decision over ThunderRidge’s Jack Huber — who beat him by two at the Reno Tournament of Champions in December — in the consolation semifinals, then paid back Vigil for a major decision loss at the Arvada West Invitational with a 4-1 win.
“All the matches I wrestled today were against guys I’ve lost to, so it was like a road to redemption,” Ross said. “It felt good getting back at them.”
Grandview coach Ryan Budd estimated Ross was only at about “50 percent” physically because of his knee, but he was at his best despite his limits.
“That’s the most locked in I’ve ever seen Tyler Ross wrestle,” Budd said. “To get third, he had to beat two kids who beat him before and he went out there and controlled both of the matches. I honestly couldn’t be more proud of him and I think he had the best tournament he possibly could have had.”
Budd himself placed third while wrestling for Grandview (at 152 pounds in 2003).
Overland junior Kaelin Chin joined Ross with a third-place finish at 195 pounds, as he went a long way to get near the top of the medal podium.
Chin had the lead in the third period of his opening round match, but got caught and pinned, which forced him into a long odyssey on the back side of the bracket.
In his second trip to the state tournament, Chin won five straight matches to finish third — joining runner-up Zeke Silva of Cherokee Trail to give Aurora two of the top three spots at 195 pounds behind Mountain Vista’s Trent Schultz, a two-time state champion — and left a trail of seniors in his wake.
“Today was a great day, all of my opponents were seniors and I’m a junior and I beat them all, so I’m really happy about that,” Chin said. “Since Trent Schultz is a senior and about to graduate, I’m going to get that state title next year.”
A trio of Grandview wrestlers also got on the medal podium with sixth-place finishes in junior Giovani Federico at 113 pounds, senior Armando Santillan at 132 pounds and sophomore Dylan Ranieri at 138 pounds.
Santillan, who missed last season with an injury, earned a state place to cap a 50-win season. Injuries accounted for two losses for Federico, who still got on the podium and Ranieri (the “darkhorse of the tournament” in Budd’s words) overcame a first round loss with three consecutive pins in the consolation round — two against Aurora wrestlers in Eaglecrest’s Tyler Maccagnan and Gateway’s Blake Thomas — to place sixth in his first state tournament.
“Armando will be the first one to say he didn’t have his best tournament, but getting him on the podium was so important for me because of how much he meant to us as a captain and a leader,” Budd said. “The same thing with Giovani. They honestly elevate the room so much. And Dylan almost pinned Jacob Greenwood (the 138-pound state champion from Poudre) in the first round, but then it was open for him after that and he went and got on the podium.
“We’ve never had five placers before, so this was big for us,” added Budd, who credited the work of the youth program coached by Ben Menzor and the technique work of assistant coach Dan Wrona as big factors in the Wolves’ rash of placers.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
AURORA’S 2017 CLASS 5A STATE WRESTLING PLACERS
CHAMPION: Gabriel Baumgarter, Grandview (285 pounds); RUNNER-UP: Josh Richardson, Cherokee Trail (160 pounds); Zeke Silva, Cherokee Trail (195 pounds) and Max Gonzales, Cherokee Trail (220 pounds); THIRD-PLACE: Tyler Ross, Grandview (182 pounds); Kaelin Chin, Overland (195 pounds); SIXTH-PLACE: Giovani Federico, Grandview (113 pounds); Armando Santillan, Grandview (132 pounds); Dylan Ranieri, Grandview (138 pounds)