Second to none – finally! |

Second to none – finally!

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo by Chad SpanglerGrand Valley High School senior Ryan Gallegos leaps into the arms of his father, as a dejected Jordan Smith of Platte Valley High School looks on. Gallegos won the 3A, 145-pound State Championship at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Saturday.

DENVER, Colorado – No more settling for silver. Ryan Gallegos is a state champion.

After three straight years of state finals matches finishing in defeat, the Grand Valley senior finally has his title.

As three bright orange zeroes went up on the clock, bringing conclusion to a 4-0 win over Olathe’s Kris Nieto in Saturday’s Class 3A, 145-pound title match at the state wrestling tournament, Gallegos’ back dropped to the mat. He raised his arms and pointed his index fingers toward the Pepsi Center rafters.

Words don’t even begin to describe the medley of relief and elation ripping through Gallegos’ veins at that precise moment.

“It’s just been building up every year,” Gallegos said. “I was just short every year. It got devastating after last year. To finally get it is just amazing.”

A similar deluge of emotion overtook Rick Gallegos, Ryan’s dad and Grand Valley’s head coach. The man who saw Ryan through abject devastation the last three Februarys could finally celebrate a state title.

Only someone who’s watched his kid summit the tallest of peaks can understand just how Gallegos felt as the result became official.

“You have no idea, because I had no idea it’d feel this awesome,” said Rick, who only moments before watched another of his wrestlers, Jared Tonder, win a 140-pound title. “When Jared won it, that put me on cloud nine. I was jumping up and down and excited. In the back of my mind, I was still thinking about Ryan. Now I’m in outer space. Cloud nine is way down there compared to where I am right now.”

Rick had a gigantic hug waiting for his son as Ryan vacated the mat.

Moments later, the father and son, who have spent innumerable hours together in the weight room, shared another tender moment.

With Ryan’s left arm draped around his dad’s shoulders, each dropped to a knee in front of the scorer’s table and prayed.

“We thanked God we finally did it,” Ryan said. “We did it together.”

Rick introduced Ryan to the wrestling room as a tyke. One particular photo popped into Rick’s mind as he reflected on his son’s big moment.

“I have a picture of Ryan when his older brother was wrestling,” Rick said. “He was in his little singlet and head gear, just watching everything in the room.”

Ryan hasn’t strayed far from the wrestling room since. With the monkey of three straight finals losses resting heavily on his back, Ryan spent more time in the room than ever before this season.

“I’ve never seen anybody train harder,” Rick relayed. “He just goes and goes. We called him a robot. We’d try to break him and he wouldn’t break. Just when we thought we broke him, he’d take off and give us another mile, he’d give us another 10 sprints. He was non-stop.”

Ryan needed all those extra miles and sprints to outlast Nieto.

With Nieto attempting to muscle his way out of bounds late in the first period, Ryan used his arms to counteract his foe’s push. Two takedown points followed.

The score stood at 2-0 until Ryan padded his lead with reversal points in the second period.

The wrestlers battled on their feet for much of the third, with Ryan doing his best to sap the clock.

“Wrestle the score! Wrestle the score!,” his dad yelled more than once down the stretch.

By doing just that, Ryan Gallegos upgraded from silver to gold.

“It’s still unreal,” he said. “I just can’t believe it.”

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