DENVER — The clock can be an evil conspirator in wrestling.
The clock has no heart.
Ryan Daves has heart.
It came down to 10 seconds — 10 seconds to fourth or 10 seconds to third.
Fourth place at the Class 4A State Wrestling Championships for Ryan Daves? Been there, done that — twice.
With 10 ticks remaining in Saturday’s third-place 126-pound match, Daves, a Montezuma-Cortez junior, was on top of his opponent and in control. But 10 seconds ain’t long. Four, three, two …, the last seconds were about to vanish when Daves did it.
Daves hooked the right arm of Palisade’s Justin Ray, as the seconds eroded dangerously closer to disappointment.
With less than five seconds, closer to two seconds, Daves turned Ray just enough and the referee signaled two points just as the match ended to give Daves an ultra-hard-fought 6-5 victory.
Third place! Finally!
The difference between disappointment and jubilation was literally two seconds.
“I knew I had to do it, I didn’t have much time left,” Daves said about those final agonizing seconds.
“He’s all heart, he works so hard. It didn’t surprise me that he came through,” Montezuma-Cortez coach Eric Smith said.
It was an exhausting day for Daves. A quarterfinal loss on Friday dropped him into the consolation bracket, where it took three victories to secure the bronze medal. Daves won a total of five matches in the tournament.
After losing the third-place match for two straight years, Daves knows a thing or two about how tough it is to get a bronze medal.
“It’s hard to get,” Daves said about his bronze. “I would have like to have made it to the finals, but it feels good to finally get third.”
Finally! A third trip to state, and finally a third place.
This was the fourth time Daves has faced Ray this season. After losing the first match, Daves has won the last three. Obviously, none bigger than Saturday afternoon.
The match was tormenting to watch for Cortez fans but for Smith, he was just coaching, as the seconds ticked away.
“I was wrestling right along with him,” a smiling Smith said afterward.
Daves struggled early and looked like a third fourth-place finish would be his destiny. But things would turn in the third period and third place would instead be his destiny.
After falling behind 2-0, Daves controlled all but the final two seconds of the second. That’s when Ray scored a reversal to make it 4-0.
Daves scored a reversal of his own to make it 5-2, then cut the lead to 5-4 as the seconds trickled away. But Daves got the advantage just in time to score the final two points of the match. Ray slumped to the mat in fatigued disappointment, as Daves celebrated is third-place finish.
He jumped up, raising his arms into the air. His smile revealed as much relief and satisfaction instead of outright excitement.
His first thoughts after the victory?
“I was happy that I didn’t get another fourth,” he said with a huge, well-deserved smile.
Trenton Gustafson (182) and Seager Oliver (152) both were knocked out of medal contention for M-CHS. They each won one match at the tournament.
It took three trips to state for Daves to win his last match of the season. Saturday’s victory earned him a bronze medal. Next year, he’s hoping to again win his last match at state. But he’s hoping that he will be going for the gold.