Let the Battle Begin!
2X State & Fargo Champs Collide in Denver
By Bill X. Barron
Pressure and spotlight come with being talented, but how each individual handles a situation can influence the outcome of a high-profile match. Two-time state champions Juniors Dominick Serrano (Colorado) and Jesse Ybarra (Arizona) will test their philosophies on matching up against the best when the two face off as part of the NWCA All-Star Classic this November 2nd in Denver.
Under partnership with the nation’s most prolific youth wrestling tournament promoters, RMN Events and NUWAY, the NWCA agreed to expand the event’s format to include top K-12 wrestlers from Colorado against nationally ranked opponents. Ybarra says this about his opponent: “In my view, it will be fun to face a wrestler as good as Serrano.” In turn, Serrano describes his Western foe: “Jesse will be tough. He’s a strong kid, so it will be a battle. I give him props for going up a weight.”
Serrano takes this view of the challenge: “I believe I have yet to be at the top. I try to see myself like anyone else. It keeps me from getting ahead of myself. I try not to live in the past, nor use the spotlight to my advantage. I just stay focused on my goals and get to my attacks.” For Ybarra, “eyes on me, being under pressure cost me matches when younger. Over time, I have learned to handle – even welcome – the big lights.”
Both wrestlers express gratitude for the opportunity which RMN Events has provided for them to share recognition with their college idols. Though this is Jesse’s first time in Denver, he describes other RMN tournaments as “really well run, big but quick. RMN prepared me to be around people and competition. Their events helped me progress by developing a feel for what worked best under pressure.” Dominick, on the other hand, matured quickly by having the out-of-state competition in his backyard: “RMN has always been a big part of my wrestling career. Since childhood, I have looked up to Ed Gutierrez and his family. Now I am excited that they are allowing me to be in the spotlight.”
Serrano’s training regimen begins with “working hard, maintaining a consistent weight.” Dom is successful, he believes, because “I try to break kids,” a mentally tough approach he garnered from his Windsor High School coach, Monte Trusty, and Bear Cave Club coach, Ben VomBauer. Dom is also “focused on doing the same training every year but doing it harder and better.” Ybarra attributes his success at Tucson’s Sunnyside High to “holding good position, being real technical on my feet, working different tie-ups, setting up my shots. I’m hard to score on. My coach, Mike Bravo, taught me to do the extra work in order to win, and how to keep scrambling until I score.”
Jesse states: “Freestyle is my first and favorite style; through that I developed a feel for folkstyle.” Dominick (126 lbs.) and Jesse (120 lbs.) are proficient in freestyle; both come into the All-Star Classic as reigning Fargo Cadet national champions. Serrano was a Fargo freestyle runner-up in 2017, but he thanks Coach Tim Grasmick for “teaching me not to defend a place but to aim higher.” Ybarra is a Pan Am champion; his role model is former teammate Roman Bravo Young, a 4-time Fargo champ and 4-time undefeated (182-0) Arizona state titlist who is now a Penn State freshman.
For the past two years, Dominick has been asked to address younger wrestlers at the RMN Middle School State Championships, which he won before earning two high school state titles. He tells his audience: “Don’t expect everything to be possible, unless you work harder than your opponent. Wrestling is not an easy sport. If you lose, which you will, use it as motivation to get better.”
“School is very important to me, since I plan to wrestle in college,” states Ybarra. “I strive to be as good in school as I am on the mat. My favorite subject is math. Academics taught me discipline, how to problem solve. Out of school, I donate time to the little kids’ program to show them what I know.” Likewise, Serrano proclaims: “Wrestling makes me a better person and student. When I do well in school, I don’t have to worry about being eligible to wrestle. Wrestling has changed my life. I will be forever grateful for the sport and what it’s taught me.” Dom also thanks his mom: “She showed me the way – we pray before every match. I feel safe knowing that someone else will always be by my side.”
Both young athletes, for all their successes on and off the mat, remain humble. “I have made a conscious decision to take each opponent as just another kid in my weight,” says a wise Dom. “It will bite you in the head if you get ahead of yourself. It’s definitely a choice that I have stayed with my entire career.” Jesse speaks to those who have shaped him: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mom, dad, coaches, and teammates pushing me to be the wrestler and person I am.”
DOMINICK SERRANO, FARGO CADET FREESTYLE CHAMP, 126 LB 2018
JESSE YBARRA AZ, SUNSET HS DUAL 2017, 113 LBS.
DOMINICK SERRANO - CO, FLO NATIONALS CHAMP 2017
JESSE YBARRA AZ, FLOWING WELLS INV'L CHAMPION 2018, 113 LBS.
DOMINICK SERRANO, COLORADO STATE CHAMP, 126 LB 2018
JESSE YBARRA AZ, AZ STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS, 1ST 106 LBS.
VANCE BOMBAUR, DAN CARDENAS, DOM SERRANO - CO - Fargo 2018 Quarterfinal Qualifiers
JESSE YBARRA AZ (R), JOURNEYMAN WORLD CLASSIC, VS. RUSSIAN FREESTYLE WORLD CHAMPION