There’s one main reason why Vista del Lago senior Justin Ramos is ranked third in the state in the 285-pound weight class – hard work.
Ramos qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters tournament in his sophomore and junior seasons, but came up shy of qualifying for the CIF State Championships by placing seventh both seasons, finishing one spot away from a top-six qualifying effort. This past year, Ramos has dedicated himself to doing everything he can to achieve one of only two goals he has for himself this season: becoming a state champion. The other goal, earning a scholarship, has already been achieved, as he will attend and wrestle at San Francisco State.
“You don’t see too many guys who are wrestling junior varsity as a freshman and then are ranked in the top-three in the state as seniors,” Vista coach Frank Richmond said. “A lot of those guys are really good varsity guys as freshman. Justin is there through a lot of hard work. After his freshman year, he had a lot of potential, but he hadn’t seen the success yet. Then his sophomore year he took seventh at Masters and then he really got into it and was taking private lessons with me, was putting the extra work in and was wrestling in national tournaments in Fargo. Once he saw that success, he believed in himself and success breeds success.”
Ramos, who has won 37-of-39 matches this season, 25 by fall, is pleased with how he’s performed this season.
“This year is going a lot better than last year,” said Ramos, who won the Capital Athletic League 285-pound title with a pin of Del Campo’s Levi Markey, who’s ranked fourth in the state. “After finishing seventh in Masters again last year, I have put a lot more work into wrestling outside of the high school season. I did a lot of Greco and freestyle work, and spent a lot of time in the weight room. I’ve been focused. I’m 100 percent all in on achieving my goal and that’s to be a state champion.”
Ramos has only two losses this season, both to Turlock’s Mike Jeffus, who’s ranked just ahead of him in the state rankings. The wrestlers have met four times and both have two wins. Jeffus has beaten Ramos once in double overtime and once 2-1 on a stall call with 20 seconds to go in a match. Ramos has also won twice, 8-4 and 4-3.
The scores of those matches are important. Ramos has won the higher-scoring matches; matches in which he’s more aggressive. In the more conservative, closer matches he wrestles, his chances of losing increase.
“The matches I’ve lost, I haven’t been getting enough offense,” Ramos admits. “I’ve been passive. I need to open up.”
Said Richmond, “Both of those matches he lost he was very conservative. Sometimes he tries to match the typical heavyweight’s style, and that’s not who he is. He needs to be creative. Justin’s Greco is super solid and that’s an effective tool for him. I don’t think he’s been thrown all year and a lot of heavyweights like to use that. This year he’s improved his shot defense too, so now he’s confident in that. Guys don’t want to shoot on him now, so they go upper body and that’s where Justin is strong.”
Besides his two wins over Jeffus, Ramos said the quadruple overtime win over Ben Dooley from Churchill County (Nevada) at the Sierra Nevada Classic has been the highlight of his season. Not only was it a nice win against a high-caliber wrestler who would place third the following week at Doc Buchanan, but with the win Ramos became the first Vista wrestler to win a title at the Sierra Nevada Classic.
As the postseason is set to begin, Ramos is confident and hoping for big things.
“If I’m wrestling to the best of my ability, I feel no one can beat me,” Ramos said. “To be a state champion, I have to open up more. I need to take my shots and have fun. When I beat Jeffus in Chico, 8-4, that’s how I wrestled. I want to finish this season strong. I’ve got two younger brothers who will be coming through this program at Vista and I want them to have something to look up to and something to shoot for.”
Ramos was one of 11 Vista wrestlers who won CAL titles last week. Also winning league championships were Ethan Cota (108), Christian Soelzer (115), Dylan Duncan (122), Levi Burnett (128), Lucas Olives (134), Weston Ward (140), Erik Johnson (147), Alex Thornburg (162), Andrew Reese (172), and Liam Leckie (184). Zach Ellis (154) and Austin Walker (197) placed second in their weight classes, while Evan DePetrillo (222) finished third.