Roman Ortiz gets chills every time someone mentions this week’s state wrestling tournament.
The conclusion of an athlete’s high school career is always emotional.
For the senior at Rocky Mountain High School, wrestling is more than just something to do after school.
“It made me a different person. It made me a stronger individual,” Ortiz said. “If I wasn’t wrestling I feel like I would be one of those trouble-makers ditching class. I feel like I wouldn’t be in life where I am now.”
Ortiz is one of three Rocky Mountain seniors who have high hopes for a state title at this week’s state wrestling tournament at Pepsi Center in Denver.
He is the second seed at 152 pounds and carries a 36-3 record into his first-round match Thursday night.
Danny Murphy is 28-1 and the top seed at 145 and Konnor Schmidt is 35-2 and the top seed at 182.
The “Big Three” are joined by Lobos teammate Joseph O’Donnel (24-14), a junior at 138 pounds.
Coach Ken Taylor calls them ideal citizens, the type of kids who have combined to miss less than a handful of practices over their four years.
“Our team is a family as a whole. Roman and Konnor are brothers to me,” said Murphy, who finished in the top two each of the last two seasons. “I love them to death.”
The “family” all get the same wry smile when last year is brought up, a bit of a bitter subject.
All three lost earlier in the tournament then expected or hoped. Instead of shutting down mentally, all rallied to finish in third place.
The final weekend of chaos at Pepsi Center won’t be the end of their wrestling careers. All are good enough to continue in college.
Murphy is committed to Iowa, a wrestling powerhouse. Both Ortiz and Schmidt have yet to decide where to go. Ortiz says he’s hoping for somewhere in-state and Schmidt says Western State is currently top of his list.
But first is some unfinished business.
A state title has eluded them and each says the focus this week has them as prepared as possible to bring home a state championship. It’s a long-standing dream and a realistic one for each member of the talented trio.
“We talk about winning a state championship every day. Ever since freshman year, even in middle school, you go down and watch those kids in the state finals and you see how excited they are,” Schmidt said. “It’s a huge deal to win it, not just for yourself but your coaches, family and all the people rooting for you.”
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.
Local state wrestling qualifiers
Fort Collins (5A): Stephan Ikeler (113), Jon Engle (285)
Poudre (5A): Brody Lamb (106), Jacob Greenwood (126), Diego Calderon (152)
Rocky Mountain (5A): Joseph O’Donnell (138), Danny Murphy (145), Roman Ortiz (152), Konnor Schmidt (182)
Windsor (4A): Sam Zdenek (113), Skyler Score (120), Josh Villa (126), Gerald Mack (138), Matteo Ambriz (145), Terrance Williams (152), Nicholas Hall (160), Bryce Bloom (170), Joe Keller (182), Josh Grasmick (195), Victor Bravo (220), Tyler Shubert (285)
Schedule: First-round begins at 7:15 Thursday night; Quarterfinals at 12:45 p.m. Friday, semifinals at 7:15 p.m. Friday; Parade of Champions begins at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.