This week we featured a Junction City wrestler, Isaac Ruiz (left), who has an interesting story – on and off the mat.
Isaac advanced to the Class 6A state finals last year, where he faced an intimidating opponent in the 103-pound class. Isaac was familiar with the other state finalist, Jeff Vesta of Manhattan. They had faced off several times; both schools are part of the Centennial League. In fact, Jeff – an undefeated state champion – had beaten Isaac nine times in his career.
But Isaac, a sophomore, pushed the state-championship match to overtime and pulled off the upset. Some family members witnessed the improbable achievement, but his father watched from Iraq. A member of the U.S. Army, Toni Ruiz was lucky enough to have the competition broadcast so he could watch from overseas.
Isaac placed second in last weekend’s regional at Wichita Heights, so he advanced to the state tournament. He spent the season as the top-ranked 112-pounder in 6A, according to the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association.
Isaac is no stranger to success. He also plays wide receiver for the Junction City football team, which capped its undefeated season with a state title in the fall. Isaac plays on the varsity and JV teams.
His Manhattan foe has moved up to 119 pounds, where he is the top-ranked wrestler in 6A. For most of the year, Isaac was No. 1 and Dalton Miller of Campus was No. 2 at 112. Junction City and Campus have not attended the same tournaments this year, so the two wrestlers have not had a showdown.
In today’s rankings, however, Dalton switched to No. 1. Ulysses DeShazer of Wichita Heights, the first 6A wrestler to beat Isaac, shot up to No. 2. Isaac is now No. 3.
Regardless of whether he defends his title, the upcoming state tournament at the Kansas Coliseum will be a special weekend for him. Isaac’s family will be there to support him – including his father, who is home from Iraq.
As wrestling season approaches its conclusion, basketball is nearing the post-season. Class 1A regionals are under way, and sub-state brackets are just being released.
It’s worth noting that the Rolla girls basketball team will enter sub-state action Thursday with a 17-1 record. The 1A school recently has benefited from the impressive play of senior Megan Taylor. She had 37 points and 17 rebounds Feb. 13 against Moscow, and she added 26 points in the Pirates’ last home game of the season Feb. 17. In those two games, Megan combined for 63 points and 24 boards.