Soroco’s Larhae Whaley falls just short of championship goal
DENVER — Soroco sophomore Larhae Whaley wrote a Bible verse on the inside of her left forearm to motivate her through the Colorado High School Activities Association State Wrestling Championships. It’s from her favorite story in the Bible — David and Goliath.
“First Samuel, 17:47, it says, ‘For the battle is the Lord’s,’” Whaley said. “I just go out there knowing it’s his journey where he wants me to be.”
That journey took Whaley to the championship match on Saturday, Feb. 19, at Ball Arena, but it didn’t conclude with a victory. Whaley fell 4-0 to Fort Lupton’s Rylee Balcazar.
Still, the fact she made the finals and placed second made Whaley the most successful female Soroco wrestler in history. She’s also the most successful Routt County female wrestler, and she potentially has two more years to come back and make more history.
“I’ve got to work harder,” Whaley said. “And look forward to next year.”
If Whaley was David, then Balcazar was her Goliath. A beast of an opponent that Whaley was tasked with taking down, and the odds weren’t in her favor.
She first encountered the Fort Lupton wrestler at the Loveland Girls Invitational in late January, where Balcazar won via sudden victory, serving Whaley her first loss of the season.
A week later, they met again. That time, Balcazar won by pin in 3 minutes, 31 seconds. Going into the state championship, Balcazar was the only opponent to have beaten Whaley.
Whaley was hoping she could figure Balcazar out and beat her when it really mattered, but the Fort Lupton wrestler weakened Whaley’s strengths. Balcazar earned the first takedown, and Whaley struggled to escape. She’d stand up and move forward, clawing at her opponents hands around her waist, but she’d either get out of the circle or be thrown back down to the mat.
“When I would get up, I was trying to run away,” Whaley said. “I just didn’t have enough mat.”
Knowing she is normally strong in the bottom position, Whaley opted to start the third period on bottom, while down 4-0. She couldn’t gain control of Balcazar, though, who rode out the victory.
Whaley’s coach, Jay Whaley, who is also her father, knows Larhae as a daughter and an athlete, and knew the perfect thing to tell Larhae after facing such a tough match.
“You just tell them you love them,” Jay said. “That’s all you can do. It didn’t work out the way she wanted, but under a lot of standards, it was a pretty stinking big deal.”
Whaley’s Soroco teammate and Moffat County High School student Makaela Simpson won her consolation match early Saturday to finish in fifth in her weight class.
Steamboat Springs senior Adalia George had the chance to place as well, but first had to win a consolation match.
George faced Kim Carlin of Loveland, who got the Sailor on her back and won by pin in the first round, ending George’s high school wrestling career. George still made history as the first and only girl to ever compete in a Sailors wrestling uniform.
Even if her legacy didn’t include a moment on the podium, she hopes to help grow the sport that gave her so much.
Shelby Reardon is the assistant editor at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach her, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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