DENVER – The gravity of wrestling in the state tournament on the Pepsi Center floor can shake even the most talented wrestlers.
Bayfield High School freshman Ryan Nava walked in wide-eyed and struggled in the early part of his first match, trailing Corbin Usry of Sterling 3-1 early in the second period of their Class 2A 120-pound bout.
“I thought I’d shake it before the match, but it’s such a beautiful sight down here,” said Nava, son of Ramona Nava and Allec Rodriguez. “My nerves got the best of me.”
He found a way to best both the nerves and Usry.
Nava tied the match at three at the start of the third period, grabbed a 5-4 lead via takedown and held on for a 7-4 win in his first ever state tournament match.
“I realized, ‘This isn’t a scrub; this is a legit kid,’” Nava said. “I just told myself, ‘This isn’t going to come to me; I’ve gotta go get it.’”
It’s exactly what BHS head coach Todd McMenimen wanted from him: Handle the nerves, get the first match out of the way and know how to improve.
“I’d like to see him push the pace a little more,” McMenimen said. “But for his first match at state, I’m not going to second-guess this one.”
Nava will wrestle Michael Johnson from Lamar in Friday’s quarterfinals.
Johnson pinned Buena Vista’s Patrick Huffman to reach the quarterfinals.
The Wolverines’ other wrestler, Class 2A No. 2 Colter McMenimen, wasn’t phased at all by the stage or his opponent. He won a 19-0 technical fall victory over Fabian Estrada from Jefferson with 1 minute, 29 seconds remaining in the second period.
“I want the near fall,” said McMenimen, son of Missy and coach McMenimen. “That gives me a lot of points.”
McMenimen, who finished third at state last year, will face Brush’s Alec Peterson, who is ranked No. 3 in Class 3A, in the quarterfinals.
Peterson won a 5-1 decision over Peter Williamson from Cedaredge in the preliminary rounds.
“The kid from Brush is the real deal; it’ll be a good test,” coach McMenimen said. “He knows he needs to beat the best to get where he wants to be.”
The Class 3A quarterfinals will begin at 10 a.m. Friday.