And while Yount correctly predicted 84.8 percent of the medalists across all classes – his best percentage in 23 years of compiling rankings – there were two Panthers that came from under his radar to secure Top 6 finishes.
Senior Josh Ramos and sophomore Shawn Higgins may have surprised Yount and their opponents by making their way to the medal round on Saturday, but the M-CHS pair and their head coach Shad Bellmire knew what they were capable of, regardless of rankings.
“We just keep quiet and mind our own business and go out there and compete,” Bellmire said. “We don’t put too much thought into it. We’ve got to wrestle who we’ve got to wrestle, so there’s no sense in sitting there and wondering what he’s ranked, because we can compete with anybody.”
Whether he knew it or not, Ramos, a senior, took down two of On The Mat’s projected Top 6 finishers – twice – on his way to a third place medal.
Wrestling at 145 pounds, Ramos opened Thursday with a 4-3 win over Ty Addington of Florence, whom On The Mat had projected to finish fourth. And then he started Friday by thumping Quentin Jiner of Weld Central – who was projected to finish sixth – in a 12-4 decision.
Ramos fell to eventual runner-up Brandon Buhr (Centauri) in the semifinals, but he bounced back and beat Addington again, this time a 6-4 sudden victory to advance to the third place match. There, he again beat Jiner, claiming third place with a 3-2 decision.
“Josh just came together,” said Bellmire. “As soon as he got there, he just believed. We didn’t care about any of the rankings or anything, Josh is a tough kid and just went our there and competed and showed them that he’s right there with him. He didn’t back down from anybody and had some tight matches.”
Wrestling at 106 pounds, Higgins also defied the projections to finish sixth.
The M-CHS sophomore won his opener on Thursday in an 11-6 decision before falling on Friday to the eventual champion Jacob Duran of Fort Lupton. However, he responded with two consecutive wins – including a victory over Carlos Hutchings of Salida, whom On The Mat projected sixth – to reach the fifth place match, where he was defeated by Eagle Valley’s Luke Morrissey to finish sixth.
“As a sophomore, qualifying for state is awesome, for all my sophomores getting there,” said Bellmire. “But for a sophomore to come through and bring home some hardware, it took a lot of hard work and he fought tough and brought a medal back to our community.”
Fellow sophomores Stevie Fuentes and Matthew Broughton also competed at state.
Wrestling at 113 pounds, Fuentes dropped his opener to Noah Damian of Valley in a 6-1 decision and was eliminated on Friday in a 4-2 decision to Colton Pasternak of Steamboat Springs. Broughton lost his opener to eventual third place finisher Austyn Binkly of Berthound in a 9-4 sudden victory match, got a 3-2 win over Blake Weimer of Middle Park to start Friday, but was then eliminated by eventual sixth place finisher Jaylen Torrez of Fort Lupton.
While they didn’t place, Bellmire was proud of Fuentes and Broughton for reaching state and said that they can build off the experience.
“Matt and Stevie wrestled tough and had some close matches, like Matt had with Binky,” he explained. “And Stevie, for his first time performed well and now he knows what to expect in the room and get better on his feet. Just getting to state and being one of the Top 16 in the state is an accomplishment in itself. We want to medal and we didn’t get all of them, but we’ve got next year and I’ve got two more years with these sophomores.”
“I’m proud of all those kids that qualified,” he continued. “And I’m thankful for the help of my assistant coaches Evan Frost and Ryan Daves, the parents and everybody in the community that supported the wrestlers, and my employer, Empire Electric, to allow me to be involved in the community.”