Ramirez pins down second place at nationals
By Konner Hancock - Staff Reporter
Highline wrestler Andrew Ramirez was crowned the second best in the nation at the 141-pound weight classification, last week.
Overall, he led the T-Birds to an 18th place finish this past weekend when the team traveled to Council Bluffs, Iowa to compete against 36 other wrestling squads in the National Junior Collegiate Athletics Association's two-day national tournament.
"I really enjoyed my season. I chose to not to cut to a lower weight this year. I didn't have to stress as much and was able to just focus on my wrestling," Ramirez said.
Unfortunately, in the first round of wrestling Ramirez sprained his right ankle, but decided to continue.
"I feel great that I placed second, but also frustrated that I sprained my ankle in the first round. There's nothing I could have done, but I feel like I didn't get to do what I've been training all year for," he said.
Ramirez went on after the first match to defeat three more competitors before his 10-4 decision loss in the final match against Nick Casella of Nassau College.
"I am proud that [Ramirez] wrestled, but I think that Andrew, if he would not have injured his ankle, he would have won the whole thing," said Assistant Head Coach Bradley Luvaas.
Miguel Morales ended at eighth place in the heavyweight class.
Morales won his first two matches before falling to Lisiate Anau of Northwest college by decision, 10-4. Then Morales went on to compete for the seventh-place spot against Tom Halecki, of Camden County College. Morales lost by decision, 6-4, keeping him in eighth place.
"I feel that all of them failed to reach their full potential we should have left with five all-Americans and one national champion," Luvaas said.
As a team and individuals, the coaching staff feel they could have performed much better at the end of the year when it really counted, Luvaas said.
Nevertheless, Ramirez said he thought the team rallied for nationals.
"I am proud of my teammates. They didn't hold anything back," Ramirez said.
Wrestlers Jesus Torres, 125, Claudeus Laude, 133, Antonio Nieves, 149, Cole Morrison, 157, Bobby Jackson, 165, Jacob Zocco, 174, Mario Luevano, 184 and Joshua Wessels, 197, all either lost their first or second matches of the national tournament, keeping them out of the top eight ranking in their weight.
"We haven't had the most talented group and we've had a lot of ups and downs this year, but through it all we've got good kids and model citizens on our team. Every kid who finished the year has my utmost respect. We run tough practices and most kids can't handle it. The wrestlers we have left in our room can," said Head Coach Scott Norton.
"Bottom line all the credit goes to them for showing up [to the tournament] and competing."
Iowa Central topped out at first place, Clackamas finished in second and in third was Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
This is Iowa Central's sixth national victory in the NJCAA since 2006.
It ended with four national champions in Todd Small, 125, Dayton Racer, 157 and Preston Lauterbach, 184, heavy weight Thomas Petersen won by pin. Iowa Central also had several second- and third-place wrestlers in several other weight classes.
Highline has already started focusing on next year's team, Luvaas said.
The T-Birds had several freshmen this season, one of the most in the NJCAA, which could translate to more experienced sophomore wrestlers next season.
But Coach Luvaas is cautious about predicting success based on numbers.
"Every season is different and at the junior college level there is a ton of turnover every year. Having a young team this year does not ensure an experienced team next year," Luvaas said.