by David Tesitor
LA VETA- Six young men from Huerfano County were crowned as Region 2 Class 2A champions at the 2009 regional tournament, including a record-breaking five from La Veta High School. Four other area grapplers will also make the trip to Denver hoping to make their claim. Those crowned as champions (see related biographies) include Adam Ortivez of La Veta (103 pounds), Clayton Archuleta of John Mall (130), Stephen Kimbrel of La Veta (145), Ron Ortivez of La Veta (152), Nick Northup of La Veta (189) and James Smalley of La Veta in the heavyweight class.
La Veta finished third in team competition with a score of 142 behind Center with 157 points and Ignacio with a dominating 209 points. The John Mall Panthers finished in sixth place with a total score of 82 points.
Both La Veta and Ignacio crowned five champions in the competition. For La Veta this is a school record. For Ignacio, it is routine. They have always been a wrestling powerhouse, and the team with the targets on their backs. According to Redskin Coach, Ron Ortivez, "We have five champions, a clean sweep along with one other qualifier. Six of eight, that′s got to be a record." He was referring to the fact that all five Redskins who qualified for the championship finals won their matches in decisive fashion.
The Panthers took six wrestlers to regional competition. Two missed qualifying. The biggest shocker and disappointment came on Thursday evening, the eve of competition. During the Panther’s last warm-up practice, junior Waylon Cordova broke the boxer bone in his left hand and was scrubbed from competition. Clayton was the number-three wrestler in the state and was expected to claim a championship title at the regional competition and take state.
Other athletes making the trip to state include Justin Pacheco from John Mall at 112 pounds. Pacheco took second place in regionals, losing his bid in the championship match against Alex Pena of Ignacio, the number-one wrestler in the state in 2A with a 32-1 record. Pacheco entered the tournament ranked sixteenth with a 16-9 record and gave Pena a run for his money, narrowly losing a three-round match 6-5. Pacheco, a senior, will be making his first trip to state. His first opponent will be Robert Darnell, a freshman with a record of 30-3 who will enter the tournament as the number-two seed. If Pacheco gets past Darnell, he could be setting himself up for another Pena rematch.
Jake Ferrari of La Veta will compete at 125 pounds. Ferrari finished third in the region after defeating Trent Vanbibber of Sargent. In the semifinals, he lost to Fidel Francisco of Center by pin fall in 3:14. Ferrari, a senior with an 11-6 record, will meet Chad Bradbeer, a senior from Paonia with a 27-9 record.
Walsenburg′s Brian Aguirre finished fourth in the region. Brian won his first match but lost in the semi-finals to Josh Piehinger of Ignacio in a 4-2 decision. This was one of the toughest, most hard-fought matches of the evening. Piehinger went on to win the 130-pound division. In his last match, Aguirre was defeated by Jon Duran of Antonito in another close match. Aguirre, a sophomore with a 30-11 record, will begin his bid for a state title when he faces Seth Gebandi, the number-two wrestler in the state. Aguirre is in a tough bracket, and if he gets through his first round, he will eventually meet the two people who beat him in regional competition.
Alex Sample, 140 lbs., of John Mall finished fourth after being pinned by Dale Dean Quintana of Centennial in 3:21. Sample, a junior with a record of 11-21, will face Layne Crumley of Akron. Crumley enters the tournament with a 32-1 record. He is the third-ranked wrestler in the state.
There were three other wrestlers who competed but failed to qualify for state. These three dedicated grapplers deserved a shot and all had an exceptional season. The biggest shocker and disappointment came when Berrie Archuleta of John Mall took fourth place in the 145-pound class and apparently had an invitation to the state tourney. Because of the wrestle-back rule, he was forced to wrestle again. A wrestle back is a system whereby the fifth-place finisher can wrestle the fourth-place qualifier if the two had not previously met in regular competition. In this case, Brian Ruddle of South Park had not met Archuleta. The two squared off before the championship finals, and Ruddle stole Archuleta’s chance for a state bid. Archuleta, a freshman, will have to wait until next year.
Eric Figueroa of John Mall finished fifth in regionals at 160 pounds. Figueroa beat Joey Gallegos of Antonito in a 10-5 decision.
La Veta′s Chuck Rapp finished fifth in the regional tournament. According to Coach Ron Ortivez, "Chuck has heart. He stuck with it the entire season." Chuck struggled with all his matches throughout the season, but he never gave up. While he did not qualify for state, he showed his teammates what the spirit of competition and dedication really means.
Stuart Pino, 189 pounds, of Walsenburg finished regionals in fifth place.
Only the top four wrestlers in the district qualified for state. When assessing competition in the state finals, one should not look at all the records and rankings these wrestlers have attained. According to Pete Gomez, who ran the regional tournament this year, "One must not lose sight of the fact, they [the records] could be deceiving. There could be some wrestlers with more losses than others but who are ranked ahead of their competition. This may be because some wrestlers may have lost to wrestlers in different divisions or weight classes." What matters is when they meet face-to face; records do not mean anything. With the exception of Adam Ortivez, the La Veta grapplers are not ranked in the top five. Those wrestlers all told the Journal, they like to fly beneath the radar. Soon enough, the people will know who they are.
Six champion bios
Adam Ortivez, a freshman at La Veta, is currently ranked the number-one wrestler in the state with a 35-0 record. Adam enters the tournament as one of only three undefeated wrestlers in 2A. Adam has amassed an amazing 30 wins by pin fall, most coming in less than one minute. His fastest pin was 13 seconds. Ortivez has been wrestling since the time he could walk. He was involved in the peewees and junior high wrestling programs, competing nationally. He finished second in the state last year for all junior high wrestlers. It was also the last time he lost a match.
Ortivez is expected to take his first state title this weekend. Given his athleticism, we predict he could be one of only 28 other wrestlers in the state to be a four-time wrestling champion. Adam begins his journey against Chance Peters, a freshman from Rangely who enters the tournament with a 17-19 record. The only wrestler who should give Adam any competition is Steve Velasquez of Center. The two should meet in the finals. Velasquez, who is coming off a week of being ill, finished third at the regional meet held in La Veta.
Ortivez is the son of Ron Jr. and Derma Ortivez.
Clayton Archuleta, a junior from John Mall, enters the tournament as the number-four seed with a record of 19-5. He became regional champion when he defeated Will Appenziller of Ignacio in overtime 11-9. Archuleta is the number-six wrestler in the state and will meet Jared Doll of Meeker in the opening round. Doll, a senior, has a record of 17-12. Archuleta wrestled at state last year and made it through three rounds before he was defeated. Based on the current pairings, his toughest competition could come in the semifinals where he could meet Ty Sickels of Nucla, the current number-one wrestler in the state. Archuleta should finish in the top four. His parents are Berrie and Gina Archuleta
Stephen Kimbrel, a senior from La Veta, comes into the tournament with a 27-6 record. He won his first regional championship when he pinned Eric Martinez of Center in 3:12. He has dominated all his competition and will make his third trip to state this year. In both his previous trips, he failed to advance past the opening rounds. This year he says he is ready. His first opponent will be Justin Stone of Fleming, a sophomore with a record of 23-9. Both are unranked although Kimbrel was ranked in the top six several weeks this season. Should Kimbrel win his first match, making the semifinals will be tough. He will not meet Colton Husky, a two-time state champ and the current number-one wrestler in the state until the finals. For Kimbrel, this could be his year to finish in the top four. He is the son of Ron and Terri Kimbrel.
For Ron Ortivez, this was his third regional championship match. He claimed his second title and third trip to Denver. Ortivez, a junior from La Veta, pinned Ben Peters of Custer County in 1:40. He will enter competition with a 28-2 record and will enter state with the fewest losses in his weight class. His first opponent will be Brendan Hotinger of Akron, a junior with a 21-7 record. Within his lower bracket are the number-two and number-three wrestlers in the state. According to Ortivez, "I want to fly under the radar. No one knows who I am."
Ortivez will make his third trip to state this year. In 2007 he did not make it past the first round, and in 2008, he passed through three rounds before losing in the quarterfinals. He is a 3X Greco state champion and has competed at nationals, placing fifth. Ortivez is the son of Ron and Drema Ortivez.
Nick Northup, a junior from La Veta, won his first regional tournament in decisive fashion, pinning Able Velasquez of Ignacio in 1:08. This is his second trip to Denver. Northrup has a record of 24-6 and is ranked 15 in the state. His first opponent will be Chase Beek of Cheyenne Wells who has a 13-14 record. From there the road to the championship does not get any easier. If he wins his quarterfinal match, he must go through Michael Slattery, the defending state champion, in order to advance.
Northrup began his wrestling career in high school and has come a long way. He is the son of Robert and Lisa Northup and grandson of Lois Northup.
James Smalley, a sophomore from La Veta, entered the heavyweight division at the regional tournament with no prior experience in the heavyweight division. His prior matches were in the 215-pound class. His commitment to move up guaranteed him a spot at state and his second trip to Denver. The move paid off. He walked away as champion. ′Smalls′ defeated Jared Sanchez of Centennial by pin fall in 3:33. Afterwards it was determined Sanchez tore his meniscus muscle and will likely miss competing at state. Smalley, whose record is 8-21, will have a hard time adapting to the heavier weights. His size could be his advantage, though. For the big men, it is a question of stamina and this is ′Smalls′ biggest asset. Along the way he may face Kyle Pollock, who is undefeated at 35-0. Pollock lost in the championship match last year to John Mall’s Brian Crespin and should be looking for revenge. Smalley is the grandson of James and Constance Smalley.