Soroco’s Whaley earns historic finish in 1st-ever sanctioned girls wrestling state championships
PUEBLO — Once again, Soroco High School is at the forefront of girls wrestling, as freshman Larhae Whaley competed in the first-ever Colorado High School Activities Association-sanctioned Girls Wrestling State Championships in Pueblo on Thursday.
Whaley is continuing a legacy started by Soroco’s Lauren Bruggink. A decade ago, in 2010, Bruggink was the first female to win a match at the boys state tournament.
Whaley, who has been wrestling since she could walk, came in with one goal — win a championship. She fell short of that, but she still made history with a fourth-place finish, becoming the first Soroco girl to place at the state tournament, girls or boys.
“She’s making her own history,” said Jay Whaley, Soroco coach and Larhae’s father.
Whaley’s third-place match opponent, Fort Lupton freshman Rylee Balcazar, was tenacious. She never stopped moving and evaded all of Whaley’s attempts at a takedown. Even when Whaley started in the top position, Balcazar escaped and regained control of the match. Four minutes and 45 seconds in, the Fort Lupton wrestler pinned Whaley.
“She learned a lot, that’s what I think,” Jay Whaley said. “It was definitely a day of learning for her. I think she knows that she can take it to another level with time.”
The Ram went into the tournament as a lower seed, an underdog if you will, but she blazed through her quarterfinal. She used multiple near falls to win over Denver East sophomore Kiana Suro by a 10-0 major decision.
With 10 seconds left in the semifinal match against Rosalind Ramos-Cruz, Whaley found herself on her back. She fought, lifting her head up and keeping her shoulders off the mat, but the Mountain Vista junior got the best of Whaley. Ramos-Cruz used her leg to pin down Whaley’s arm, limiting the Ram’s range of motion and pinning her in the final second of the second period.
While disappointing, the loss wasn’t surprising. Ramos-Cruz came into the tournament undefeated and ended the day as the second-place finisher behind Loveland’s Morgan Johnson, who finished the season undefeated.
“She’s pretty good at running legs,” Larhae said of Ramos-Cruz. “She’s pretty strong, as you can see.”
Whaley was still guaranteed at least sixth place. In the eight-person brackets, just six girls place, so she looked forward to that as she moved to the consolation bracket.
“I got to win the rest,” she said.
Whaley won the next one, a consolation semifinal against Candice Brickell out of Doherty. Just as she did in the opening match, Whaley controlled her opponent the whole way, earning a win via fall in two minutes and 16 seconds.
Fourth place isn’t exactly what Whaley had hoped for, but she’s still happy with her day, especially knowing she has three more years to improve on her result.
“It could have been better,” she said. “But I did pretty good.”
Girls State Wrestling Tournament
Thursday, March 11
100: Quarterfinal: Larhae Whaley, S, maj. dec. Kiana Suro, DE, 10-0. Semi: Rosalind Ramos-Cruz, MV, fall Whaley, S, 3:59. Cons. semi: Whaley, S, fall Candice Brickell, Doherty, 2:16. 3rd: Rylee Balcazar, Fort Lupton, fall Whaley, S, 4:45.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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Steamboat Springs 2021 graduate Thomas Lewer will always set lofty goals.