Valdez title at 152 leads Mesa Ridge to 4th in 4A

0
Photo - Mesa Ridge's Elijah Valdez hugs his father Procopio Ruben Valdez after defeating Pueblo County's Christopher Fasano 4-2 at the finals of the State Wrestling Championship at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on February 17, 2018. Elijah's mother Rebecca Valdez and sister Reina Valdez wait to get celebratory hugs as well.

(Nadav Soroker, The Gazette)
Mesa Ridge's Elijah Valdez hugs his father Procopio Ruben Valdez after defeating Pueblo County's Christopher Fasano 4-2 at the finals of the State Wrestling Championship at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on February 17, 2018. Elijah's mother Rebecca Valdez and sister Reina Valdez wait to get celebratory hugs as well. (Nadav Soroker, The Gazette)

DENVER - Soon after he achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a state wrestling champion, Mesa Ridge senior Elijah Valdez realized that helped his team finished high in the team standings.

The Grizzlies placed fourth.

At this level, that finish is a reason to celebrate. Valdez, still breathing heavily from his 152-pound win over Pueblo County's Christopher Fasano, couldn't help but smile. After all, the Grizzlies qualified only five wrestlers to the Class 4A state tournament at the Pepsi Center - compared to the top three teams that brought wrestlers in the double digits.

"It's actually pretty awesome," Valdez said. "Not only did I achieve a major personal goal, but I helped the team achieve a goal."

The Grizzlies finished behind winner Windsor, Pueblo County and Pueblo East, respectively. All those teams had at least 150 points, while Mesa Ridge had 86.5 before senior Mike True's 285-pound match, the last match of the tournament.

"I really thought we could be fourth," Grizzles coach Rob Braaten said. "I knew we didn't have enough guys to hang in the top three, but wow, we were the best in that next group."

Mother Rebecca Valdez, father Procopio Ruben Valdez and sister Reina Valdez cheer as Mesa Ridge's Elijah Valdez defeats Pueblo County's Christopher Fasano 4-2 at the finals of the State Wrestling Championship at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on February 17, 2018. (Nadav Soroker, The Gazette)
Mother Rebecca Valdez, father Procopio Ruben Valdez and sister Reina Valdez cheer as Mesa Ridge's Elijah Valdez defeats Pueblo County's Christopher Fasano 4-2 at the finals of the State Wrestling Championship at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado on February 17, 2018. (Nadav Soroker, The Gazette) 

All but one of the Mesa Ridge wrestlers finished in the top six. Sophomore Jared Volcic (195) and senior Dominick Fini (220) placed third, while True competed in a finals match.

Mesa Ridge senior Devin Lueck (120) was knocked out in the consolation rounds and went 2-2 in the tournament.

The Grizzlies will have to replace four seniors who placed at state, but Bratten isn't too concerned about that - at least on Saturday night.

"That's what high school is all about," he said.