The crucial moment for Rolando Baltazar-Felipe was his round three consolation match.
“I think that was the most stressful match,” the Seymour 113-pound wrestler said of his showdown at Saturday’s sectionals hosted by Jennings County. “If I lose it, I go home.”
He won it.
Baltazar-Felipe then won his next match, as well, placing third overall and advancing to this coming Saturday’s regional at Jeffersonville.
His was one of the prime finishes for the Owls grapplers, who tied for fifth place with Scottsburg in the 10-team event.
“I’m more than pleased,” said Seymour coach Adam Wolka. “I wouldn’t have said I’m shocked.”
The Owls sent forward seven wrestlers keeping their seasons alive in the state tournament. The top four finishers in each weight class advanced, and although Seymour had no individual champs or second-placers, they showed very well with thirds and fourths in the brackets.
“It was an exciting day” is how Wolka summed up his team’s performance on the mat. “We took some losses there early we didn’t expect. Those same guys came back. We had to go through the back door. We showed grit.”
Wolka could have been dismayed by the early defeats since he emphasized how important it was to get off to a good start. The losses thrust wrestlers into the consolation rounds, making it difficult to continue. Each wrestler was guaranteed two matches, but it was two losses and you were out.
That’s why Baltazar-Felipe was thinking the way he was.
His day began with a round one bye. Then Baltazar-Felipe scored a pin at the 5-minute, 23-second mark over Elijah Weatheree of Southwestern (Hanover). However, he was pinned by Kellen Carter of Scottsburg at 2:50, setting up his make-or-break match.
Baltazar-Felipe came through with a 4-0 decision over Braden Isbell of Jennings to propel himself into the third-place match. Carrying the momentum over, he defeated Mason Jones of West Washington 3-1.
“Overall, I feel good about it,” Baltazar-Felipe said of his 3-1 record in the sectional. I felt I competed to the best of my ability.”
Sam Castetter (132 pounds) and Ben Kriete (138) also took third in their weight divisions.
Castetter was pinned by Jennings’ Jonah Matthews in the quarterfinals but faced him again in the third-place match, literally flipping the result with his own pin.
Wolka said Castetter demonstrated renewed determination to beat Matthews, essentially saying, “I’m tired of letting the kid beat me.”
Kriete advanced on a bye, a decision and then fell off when pinned at 1:07 by Joey Moran of Jennings. But he bounced back to capture two more decisions, accompanied by an “audible gasp” from fans, Wolka said, when Kriete recorded a big turnaround.
Ed Ramirez (120 pounds), Alex Schlatterer (145), Hector Ruiz-Rosa (182) and Brody Shipley (220) each took fourth place in a weight division and join the trio of third-placers going on to regional.
There are eight-man brackets at regional with the top four going on to semistate. Winners in the first round automatically advance, and there is no advancement through a consolation bracket.
“It’s definitely a little more cutthroat at regional,” Wolka said.
Baltazar-Felipe knows there is no such thing as a slow start at regional, but the payoff is great for a single victory.
“If you win your first match, you’re done,” he said. “I want to make my season last as long as possible.”