Joy and pain
Olathe's Jimenez wins state title, teammate Harris loses close championship match
DENVER — Jacob Jimenez had never shown signs he was capable of this.
Jimenez qualified for the Class 3A state wrestling tournament as a sophomore (145 pounds) and junior (152 pounds), but didn’t place.
Yet, there the Olathe High School senior was Saturday night capping his improbable journey by capturing a Class 3A gold medal.
Jimenez defeated Eaton’s Rusty Lohr 4-1 in the 152-pound finals at the Pepsi Center.
“This feels really good,” said Jimenez (37-7). “I just can’t believe it. Being a first-time state placer and a state champion my senior year is just crazy.”
Not only did Jimenez win a state title, but he also avenged a 5-3 loss to Lohr (38-9) earlier this season.
Actually neither wrestler had the upper hand in the finals as the score was tied 1-1 with time winding down in the third period.
That’s when Jimenez seized the moment to get a takedown and go up 3-1.
“I just had a lot of confidence in myself, and I wanted to finish the shot,” said Jimenez, who gained his final point when Lohr was called for stalling with four seconds left.
Moments after his win, Jimenez ran over and gave bear hugs to his father, Joe, and older brothers, J.D. and J.C., who were in the front row of the bleachers.
“That was great to share that with them right then,” Jimenez said. “I don’t think I will be able to sleep (Saturday night).”
While Jimenez was basking in the glory, his teammate and fellow senior Chayden Harris was experiencing the agony of defeat. Harris lost to Berthoud’s Chad Ellis 8-7 in the 195-pound championship match.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Harris (36-4). “I just wish it could’ve turned out different.”
Harris trailed in the match 5-2, 5-4 and 7-4 before making a frantic push late in the third period that came up just short.
“I feel like I ran out of time, but then again I got caught there for a few seconds when I should not have in the third period,” Harris said. “I got within 8-6 and I was trying to get him close enough so I could double-leg him, but he was just running away.”
This was the third time Harris and Ellis met this season. Harris pinned Ellis in a dual Jan. 8 and then the next day Ellis claimed a 13-4 major decision over Harris in the finals of the 195-pound bracket of the Montrose Invitational. Ellis won state at 170 pounds as a junior.
“I don’t know where I’m going to wrestle yet, but I know I want to wrestle in college,” said Harris, who was third at state at 195 pounds as a junior.
FOUGHT THROUGH THE PAIN
Central High School junior Riley Garner-Orr was in two kinds of pain after his loss in the Class 5A semifinals Friday night.
Nursing a neck injury for the past three weeks, he wrestled through the pain, but he wasn’t his normal self and lost 5-0 to Cole Polluconi of Monarch.
Warriors coach Laurence Gurule said he asked Garner-Orr after the match how bad his neck pain was.
“He said it’s an eight,” Gurule said of a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, “and Riley never does that.”
After the loss, Garner-Orr found a spot in the ground-floor tunnels of the Pepsi Center where he banged his head a couple of against the boards and let the tears flow, devastated that he fell short of his goal to be a state champion.
Come Saturday, however, he resolved to win his remaining matches and placed third at state for the second year in a row.
“I was pretty sad after that (loss), pretty disappointed,” Garner-Orr said. “I didn’t really feel like wrestling (at first), but I decided to take one match at a time. I wanted to wrestle my best. I didn’t want to lose again.”
Looking ahead with optimism, he added, “I still have next year.”
REALIZED HE BELONGS
Fellow Warrior EJ Barrera was Central’s only other placer, taking fifth at 160.
Barrera lost his first-round match 12-4 to Chaparral’s Aaron Trygstad, then won his first three consolation matches before falling to Trygstad again, this time by pin in the consolation semifinals. Barrera then bounced back and won the fifth-place match by pin in 3:18.
Gurule said Barrera told him after one of his matches, “You know what? I can wrestle here.”
Barrera said it felt great to place and realize he belonged among the best 160-pounders in the state.
“It really gives me more confidence to go into next year and do my best,” he said.
MORE 5A PLACES
Four other District 51 wrestlers placed third through sixth Saturday.
For Grand Junction, sophomore Dylan Martinez (120) took third, and sophomore Seth Latham (170) finished fourth.
For Fruita Monument, senior Jared Seely (195) placed fifth, and junior Daniel Van Hoose (132) was sixth.
DECIDED THIRD WAS WORTH IT
Delta senior Kory Mills had his bid to return to the Class 3A finals circumvented in the quarterfinals Friday morning.
“It was one of the toughest adversities I ever faced in my life,” said Mills, who was second at 170 last year. “After that, I didn’t really feel like wrestling anymore.”
Mills said his coaches talked him into getting back on the mat Saturday, and he was glad he did. Mills wrestled back to place third at 170, winning the final four matches of his high school career.
“I reached deep within myself,” he said. “You get a different perspective on things, how tough it is to come back from a second-round loss to finish third.”
TODD REGROUPS, TAKES THIRD
Austin Todd’s goal when he came to state was to get a fourth shot at Bo Pipher. But when he gave up a late takedown to freshman Jace Logan from Soroco, in the Class 2A semifinals at 145, that dream ended.
Todd lost to Pipher all three times, but after losing a 4-2 decision to the Paonia senior at regionals, he wanted that fourth shot bad.
With the dream gone, Todd was ready to pack it in.
“It was hard. The past two years I’ve lost in the semifinals. I messed up (this year). He’s a tough kid, but I should have beat him,” Todd said.
After some soul searching and a challenge from his coaches, Todd regrouped and came back to take third place with a 15-2 major decision.
“The last two years I’ve told my coaches, ‘I’m done, I just want to go home,’ because I hate losing,” Todd said. “They told me that this is my senior year, and it’s my last chance, and I don’t want to look back in 30 years and be upset I didn’t try my hardest.”
Head coach Richard Flores challenged both Hotchkiss wrestlers that sustained semifinal losses.
“We had a lot of kids that had tough days, but that’s wrestling,” Flores said. “One of these days these kids are going to be fathers and will have to support someone besides themselves, so that’s what we’re trying to teach them. No matter what happens in life, you’re going to have to follow through, you’re going to have to be a man.”
Flores told them they had to suck it up and keep going, and that’s what they did.
Freshman Sergio Campos claimed third place at 106 for Hotchkiss with a 2-0 decision.
Cedaredge senior Mario Madaleno (285) made a mistake in the 2A semifinals and was forced to settle for third place.
“It was tough because in the semifinals, I wasn’t being smart,” he said about losing 5-1 after taking a 1-0 lead into the third period of his semifinal. “I wanted it bad because it’s my senior year.”
But bringing a bronze medal back to Cedaredge for the big Bruin was still satisfying.
“It’s pretty good. It’s better than fourth, fifth or sixth,” he said with a smile.