Rummel’s Josh Ramirez is one victory away from amending an early loss during his first season of high school wrestling.
And another win away from a state championship — not bad for a freshman.
On Friday evening, Ramirez, the top Division I seed at 160 pounds, breezed through the opening day of the LHSAA State Championships with a 17-1 quarterfinal victory by technical fall against Catholic of Baton Rouge’s Denver Denison, joining a stellar contingent of 42 New Orleans area wrestlers to advance to Saturday’s semifinals, starting at about 10:30 a.m.
There, Ramirez will face Dutchtown senior Kaleb Faul, who in early Feburary beat his younger opponent 3-1. Back then, Ramirez said he wasn’t emotionally equipped to compete in high-intensity wrestling meets.
Weeks later, he’s more than ready for a rematch at the Pontchartrain Center. He’s anticipating a trip to the finals, starting at 6 p.m.
“I didn’t wrestle the best I could (have),” said Ramirez, who holds a 39-7 record. “Looking back at the film, I didn’t wrestle 100 percent, so I don’t know what I could have done. But I do know (on Saturday) I’m going to wrestle my hardest.”
Also advancing to Saturday’s semifinals were 11 wrestlers from Brother Martin (first place with 183 points), the four-time defending Division I champions, led by Paul Klein (132 pounds) who is aiming to end his prep career with a fourth state title. Also advancing for the Crusaders were defending champions Steven Shields in the 113-weight class and Yehia Riles, who will compete at 182.
Jesuit (156 points) and Holy Cross (154), which enjoy more than a combined 40 state titles, stayed within reach of their latest championships by sending nine and seven wrestlers, respectfully, to the semifinals. Six wrestlers from Rummel (123) also advanced, including Ramirez. For Fontainebleau (102 points), top-seeded Ethan Eisenhardt (220 pounds) advanced as well. Jesuit senior Dominic Carmello (285) has tallied pins in both state matches, as did Holy Cross wrestlers Chris Zea (106) and Beau Bush (113).
Area wrestlers dominated lower weights on Friday, setting up all-New Orleans semifinals in the 106, 113, 120 and 285 pound classes. Meanwhile, at least two area wrestlers qualified for the semifinals in all but one weight class.
Younger teams make mark
Shaw showed promise Friday in the Division II quarterfinals. After Friday, the Eagles tallied 121 points to stand behind only Teurlings Catholic at 139. Live Oak is at 94.5.
In Division III, Brusly (105) leads De La Salle (97) and North Vermilion (83.5).
“We wrestled well so far to this point. I feel like we’re wrestling to our potential,” Shaw coach Paul Hatty said. “We could be doing a little better, a little worse in spots. For the most part I’m pleased with how we’re doing up to this point.”
The Eagles had two top seeds in this year’s tournament with Mason Mauro 126, who pinned Huntington’s Irasen Smith. Mauro will face Parkway’s Matthew Pitts in the semifinals. Cameron Berlot in the 182 class pinned Benton’s Taylor Rivet. Berlot will face Rayne’s Tanner Leger in the semifinals.
While Hatty had two no. 1 seeds, he said he wanted his other wrestlers to work like they were the highest seed for their weight class.
Senior Max Chambers is one step closer to winning a title Saturday as he pinned Central’s Reed Hardin in the 160 weight class and will face Teurlings Catholic’s Brennan Trosclair in the semifinals.
“It’s great experience. It taught me a lot, how to not give up,” Chambers said.
Belle Chasse returned five people from last year and most of the team members started wrestling four months ago.
“We are a young team. Most of our guys started wrestling four months ago,” said Belle Chasse coach Mike Cronin. “We’re very young, but we’re learning fast.”