DENVER – This time last season, Eaton sophomore Ryan Dirksen was sitting out of postseason wrestling due to eligibility issues.
A year later, he’s a state champion.
“I got in trouble in school and I had to screw my head on right,” Dirksen recalled. “I was hanging out with the wrong people and following the wrong crowd and had to turn things around.”
Just like he did the classroom, Dirksen turned things around in Saturday night’s title match. An underdog entering the Class 3A 145-pound match with Jefferson senior Zander Condit, Dirksen was quickly seeing both his own and Eaton’s team title hopes fade away. Condit controlled the majority of the match building a 9-5 lead on points. Late in the third period however, Dirksen flipped the match around with a late pin of Condit as the last seconds ticked away.
“The biggest thing with Ryan is you can never count him out,” said Eaton head coach Tony Mustari. “He’s a gamer. You never know what he’s going to throw at you and you’ve always got to be prepared. We teach our guys to wrestle to the whistle and never stop.”
Dirksen was one of two Eaton wrestlers in the finals, with teammate Tanner True competing at 285 pounds.
Dirksen’s win put Eaton into a tie for first place in the 3A team standings with Valley. Valley senior Jaziah Whaley completed a perfect season (41-0) to claim the 160-pound title over Weld Central’s Tanner Baumgartner in a 12-5 decision. Whaley is set to join Northern Colorado’s program in the fall.
When all was said and done, Eaton tied Valley for the team title with 105.5 points. It was the first time a team other than Valley or Alamosa won a share of the 3A team title since 2010.
“If someone would have would asked me three weeks ago if we would have been in this situation at the end of Friday or Saturday morning, I would have choked them out,” Mustari joked. “But these guys work their butts off. This is a group of kids that has ton of confidence in themselves and the team. They rally around each other. The camaraderie between these guys is second to none. It’s a brotherhood.”
In another 3A match, Weld Central freshman Roberto Estrada completed a perfect season by defeating Eagle Valley senior Matt Medina at the 106-pound weight class in what has been an emotional season for the Rebels.