Oak Creek The final practice of Soroco High School’s wrestling season has just wrapped up Wednesday evening, and inside the campus’s gymnasium, Rams coach Jay Whaley stands and stares at a long list of names.
The names start in 1971 with the school’s first state champion wrestler in Rocco Lombardi. There are other familiar names, as well, such as Travis Bruggink, Soroco’s assistant coach, and even Whaley’s brother.
A man walks into the gym and interrupts Whaley as he reflects on Soroco’s deep tradition on the mat with the list of names in front of him — the list of state champions and state tournament placers the school has boasted throughout the years.
“Got room for a couple more on there?” the man asks Whaley.
“I think so,” Whaley says, without taking his eyes off the board.
The man and Whaley, of course, are referring to Soroco seniors Cody Constine and Nate Ragan, the two wrestlers who will wear Rams uniforms at the 2A state championships, which begin Thursday at Denver’s Pepsi Center.
Constine at 195 pounds advanced to the state tournament after being the first Soroco athlete in years to take gold at the 2A Region 1 tournament last weekend.
Ragan punched his ticket by way of placing fourth at regionals in the heavyweight class.
They aren’t the most daunting pair. Both are very soft-spoken, the "yes sir, no sir" type. They also exemplify exactly what Soroco wrestling stands for, Whaley said.
“I hope they get excited when it comes tournament time,” Whaley said. “Neither one gets too excited. They’re both humble and easygoing kids. They are good kids to work with.”
They may not be the loudest bunch, but Whaley thinks they can make some serious noise in their respective 2A weight classes, Constine especially.
“I expect Cody to place,” Whaley said. “I think all indications in wrestling other people in his weight class, he’s one of the top-six kids at state in the rankings. He’s beaten No. 7 and some high-ranked kids.”
It will be Constine’s second straight year at the state finals and Ragan’s first appearance. Constine has wrestled for 13 years, a mainstay in Rams wrestling. Whaley said Ragan hasn’t competed for more than a couple seasons in his life, making his run to the state tournament as eye-catching as any.
No matter their years of experience or quiet attitudes, the state tournament will mark the final outing for each in their Soroco High School careers.
And they certainly don’t brag about expectations they’ve placed on themselves heading into Thursday's first-round matches.
When the weekend is over and the state wrestling tournament brackets are filled out, Cody Constine and Nate Ragan want to be on that wall and be the first Rams to place at state in six years. Maybe they even could be the first state champions in 12 years.
It’s the reason he’s wrestled two-thirds of his life, Constine said — to see his name up there, for Whaley to reflect on to future generations of Rams.
“I would be excited for Cody and Nate mostly, as well as the school and community,” Whaley said about the prospect of having his two seniors reach the podium. “You go into the gym they get their name on the wall forever. That means a lot for adults and kids.”
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll
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