Transfer of power: Two transplanted wrestlers make state meet
summit daily news
FARMER’S KORNER – Teammates Devon Emerson and Stetson Fowler don’t appear very similar.
Emerson wrestles at 119 pounds, Fowler at 152. Emerson is originally from Pennsylvania, Fowler from Idaho. Emerson’s a little more laid-back heading into a match, sitting with his teammates and looking more like a kid watching cartoons – perpetual bed-head hairdo and all – rather than Fowler’s intense pre-match pacing routine.
But, for all their differences, Summit High’s top grapplers have one glaring similarity, or rather one common goal: winning a state title.
“This year, me and Devon really hit it off,” said Fowler, a junior who transferred to SHS last fall. “We knew what we wanted and we came in here every day to work for it.”
“I’m just glad to have such a good workout partner,” said Emerson, a senior in only his second year at SHS. “We kind of push each other every day.”
And they’ve pushed each other all the way to the state tournament, becoming the first pair of Tiger teammates to make the championship meet in the same season in decades.
State starts Thursday at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
When Emerson saw who he was matched up with in the Western Slope regional final on Saturday, he turned to SHS coach Pete Baker with a smile on his face. It wasn’t an opponent he could easily beat or anything; actually, it was the same kid who bounced him from the same match the year before.
“Going into finals, he was facing the kid who beat him last year and he was all excited about it,” Baker said. “That just showed where he’s come this year.”
The result did, too. Emerson nearly pinned the kid in the first period and controlled the match the rest of the way for a 5-1 win.
He won all three of his matches at regionals handily – or as SHS assistant coach Andy Morrison put it, “He totally dominated.” – and he cruised to the title.
“It went really good for me,” Emerson said. “It was a big confidence booster to beat that kid.”
Fowler, meanwhile, had a much harder time. He still made the regional final, but with the way he was feeling, he was simply happy he wrestled at all.
“I was puking my guts out all week,” he said. He was hooked up to an IV just a few days prior to competing but still rolled through his first two matches, winning by pins both times.
In the final, he struggled with energy and lost by points. His opponent from Moffat County wasn’t exactly a slouch, though. The kid set the state record for career wins (over 165) by besting Fowler.
“Being sick the week before regionals and being completely drained, just making it through practice was tough for him,” Baker said of Fowler. ” … It’s hard enough when you’re healthy to finish like that and to come in sick and finish second is pretty awesome.”
Junior Jonathan Ramirez almost joined the two talented Tigers at state. He finished sixth in a hotly contested 160-pound category. The top-four make it to state.
This is only Baker’s first year as the head of the Summit program, but he’s planning on it being the first of many – and, really, being the first year SHS turns into a real wrestling program.
He’s planning a summer program for his team through a mixed martial arts gym he’s looking into opening. Baker, who’s a professional ultimate fighter, feels that if he can get the kids working out in the summer, they’ll be a step ahead come winter.
“Hopefully, that can start to help us establish ourselves as a wrestling school, rather than a school with 13 kids who wrestle,” he said.
And, he said, it’s starting with having wrestlers like Emerson and Fowler on the team to be examples to the younger athletes.
“(The three of us) are all kind of transplants to up here,” Baker said. “Hopefully, we’ll get a good, homegrown program going.”
Fowler has lost just two matches all season, going 26-2 with every win coming by pin. Aside from his influenza-filled regional loss, Fowler lost to the two-time defending state champion in the 145 weight class this season, a wrestler he won’t have to worry about at state this week.
Emerson has gone 27-6 on the season. He won the Jeffco League title (Fowler missed that tourney while he was sick) and after some early struggles making weight, has been dominating his opponents of late.
“Since Christmas, though, he’s been phenomenal,” Baker said of the senior. “He’s got everything physically and mentally you need. He’s just got to go out and keep wresting.”
Baker is very careful about making predictions for how Emerson and Fowler might fare this week in Denver, not wanting to “jinx” them. He thinks they can both wrestle with and beat anyone they match up with, but they have to “wrestle to the best of their abilities.”
“There are no easy matches,” the coach said. “Those are the best kids in the state that they’re facing.”
Emerson and Fowler aren’t as political about it.
“I had one goal at the beginning of the year, and that’s not going to change now,” Fowler said. “I want to win.”
“I want to end my career here with a state title, for sure,” Emerson added.
For all their differences, there’s one adjective that might fit them both once this week wraps up: champion.
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