A first-place finish at the 4A regional wrestling tournament last weekend was testament to the hard work Glenwood Springs High School senior Ray Rosenmerkel and sophomore Leobardo Meraz have put in to earn a trip to state this week.
After a back injury sidelined him his sophomore year, and with last year’s season upended by the pandemic, Rosenmerkel (22-7) was just looking to finish in the top four in his 138-pound class at regionals to be able to qualify for state .
“I just kept winning matches, and everything fell into place,” he said of the regional title, which gives him one of the top seeds in the state championships at Ball Arena in Denver.
“It felt pretty great, and obviously was pretty special,” said the dual-sport athlete who also played running back for the Demons football team.
As for continuing the ride at the state championships, “I’m taking nothing for granted going in. Everyone there earned their spot, and they’ll all be tough matches. I’m just excited to get to go,” Rosenmerkel said.
A total of 14 area wrestlers from five different schools qualified for the 3A and 4A State Wrestling Championships, taking place Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Ball Arena in Denver.
Joining Rosenmerkel will be Meraz (17-1), who took third at 132 pounds at the regional qualifier in Broomfield.
“I’m feeling pretty good about it,” Meraz said. “We’ve both worked hard to get there, and it’s a different level of competition, for sure.”
Second-year Demons head wrestling coach Josh Wilson acknowledged that hard work on the part of both wrestlers, and their leadership on the team.
Meraz, also a Demons football player, had to battle back from a broken leg suffered during football season.
“It was a little slower for him because of the recovery time he needed,” Wilson said. “He didn’t really get on the mat much before Christmas break, but once he did, he really didn’t miss a beat.”
Rosenmerkel has been grinding it out for four years, and that effort has paid off, Wilson said.
“He’s just come around and is finally realizing what good position is, and making sure we don’t beat ourselves in certain situations,” he said. “It’s been a learning process all year for both of these wrestlers.”
Added Rosenmerkel, “With Leo especially, it’s just really cool to finally be able to get to the show.”
Grand Valley sends 6 to state
Meanwhile, Grand Valley High School senior Hayden Grice — the 3A regional champion at 285 pounds last weekend in Gunnison — leads a contingent of six Cardinals wrestlers to the state championships.
After placing sixth in both his sophomore and junior years, Grice will be looking to move up on the podium. It’s his fourth trip to state, having qualified in each of his years at Grand Valley.
“I’m feeling pretty good this year, and know I have the skills to do it,” Grice said Tuesday. “I just have to put my mind to it and commit.”
Grice (10-8) earned the No. 2 seed in the 16-wrestler field in the heavyweight division.
“I know all of them are pretty good, and have worked hard to get there,” he said. “You just have to stay focused and not let the big arena get in your head.”
That’s also his message to his five teammates who will be joining Grice for their first-ever trip to the state wrestling meet.
Also representing the Cardinals will be seniors Aydan Fisher (22-12, 152 pounds) and Brayden Harper (16-6, 220 pounds); juniors Teagan Jacobs (33-3, 113 pounds) and Dominic Mendoza (26-7, 160 pounds); and freshman Jaysen Skeen (28-8, 106 pounds).
Also at the 3A championships are two wrestlers each for Rifle, Coal Ridge and Basalt.
For the Rifle Bears, senior Levi Miller (26-18) will be wrestling at 160 pounds, and sophomore Parker Miller (14-9) will wrestle at 138 pounds.
The Coal Ridge Titans send junior Angelo Perea (17-5) at 220 pounds and sophomore Cooper Thurman (18-9) at 126 pounds.
And Basalt will be represented by juniors Brady Samuelson (25-6) at 182 pounds and Jose Munoz (18-8) at 285 pounds.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.