DENVER - Three St. Vrain Valley athletes competed in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state wrestling tournament Friday afternoon at the Pepsi Center.
Unfortunately, all three of them went up against the top-ranked wrestlers in their weight classes. Frederick's Ryan Fountain (145 pounds), Skyline's David Gossett (160) and Longmont's Steven Haddock (171) all had their championship hopes dashed with quarterfinal losses.
No question, the toughest loss of the three belonged to Haddock. Ranked No. 3 at 171 pounds, Haddock went up against an old nemesis, No. 1 Johnny Ortega of Thompson Valley. In three previous matches this season, Ortega had won two, and Haddock one.
Friday, Ortega made it 3-1 against Haddock by scoring on a takedown with 1 second to go in the third period, breaking a 9-9 tie and winning 11-9.
Haddock (37-8) and Ortega battled back and forth for the entire six minutes. Ortega had an 8-4 lead midway through the second period, but Haddock fought back to tie it at 8 with a takedown with 1:25 to go in the final frame.
After giving Ortega an escape point, Haddock tied it at 9 when he was awarded a stall point with 43 seconds to go. It stayed that way until the closing seconds. Haddock frantically tried to prevent Ortega from securing the takedown, and held on until the last second.
The losses for Gossett and Fountain were disappointing, but not as devastating. Gossett (26-7) lost, 12-4, against defending state champion Cody Yohn of Alamosa.
"I think I did pretty well sticking with him," Gossett said. "There was a couple spots where I felt I could've got a few more points."
Still, it was an improvement for Gossett, who lost by technical fall to Yohn a few weeks ago at the Thornton Invitational.
"I didn't want to get embarrassed by him again," he said.
And, despite the loss, Gossett still has medal hopes. He needs to win two consolation matches to secure a medal, and needs to win four straight to get third place.
"Now I have to work harder," he said. "Third place is just as good as first place."
Fountain had a tough time getting out of the grip of Cheyenne Mountain's Austin Stubaus at 145 pounds.
Stubaus is ranked No. 1, and showed why against Fountain. Although Fountain (31-7) hung tough, he was unable to utilize his strength of scoring from the bottom position. Stubaus was strong enough to keep Fountain in his grip for much of the match.
"That's usually where I score (from the bottom)," Fountain said. "It was really tough. He had control of my wrists the whole match."
Still, Fountain was pleased to avoid the pin against the top wrestler in his weight.
"It's all mental when you get pinned," said Fountain, who has been pinned just once all year. "I hate getting pinned more than anything."
In Class 5A, all three Centaurus entrants have advanced to Friday night's semifinals.
At 125 pounds, Dominic Valenzuela battled to a 7-6 victory over Tyler Nelson of ThunderRidge. At 145, Ceasar Crespin pinned Durango's Ronnie Goodman in 2:47, and at 160 pounds, Garrett Lanham won by injury default. All three will compete in the semifinals tonight at 7:15 p.m.