Former CCCAA wrestlers excel at the next level

Abner Romero (Fresno City College) wins the Division II National Championship for Lindenwood University
Abner Romero (Fresno City College) wins the Division II National Championship for Lindenwood University

Year in and year out, California Community College wrestlers move on to the four-year level for the sole purpose in which they were recruited: to help their new team succeed. That sentiment holds true the most for former Fresno City College wrestler Abner Romero, who helped Lindenwood University to a third place finish at the NCAA Division II National Championships. Romero, a 2018 CCCAA State Champion at 174 pounds for the Rams, matched that feat for the Lions, as he won the National Championship. The senior followed up an NWCA (National Wrestling Coaches Association) All-American season as a junior with his national title and second All-American honor.

"I predicted this," Romero told the Lindenwood athletics website. "A year ago today, I had this moment taken from me. I know things were out of everyone's control, but everything happens for a reason. This is not random. I worked harder than everyone else and just believed that I was better than everyone else. I'm better than I was a year ago, and all the hard work I put in paid off. I stayed ready so I didn't have to get ready."

A trio of former CCCAA wrestlers qualified for the NAIA Championships, while two were Division II qualifiers. Additionally, there was a pair of competed in their respective conference championships at the NCAA Division I level.

Santa Ana's Armon Fayyazi Heading the list of NAIA qualifiers was former Santa Ana College All-American Armon Fayyazi (pictured, left). Competing for Vanguard University at 174 pounds, Fayyazi earned NAIA All-American recognition with his fourth place finish at the National Championships, Seeded #3, Fayyazi reached the semifinals before a tough 4-3 loss to Asher Eichert of Life University dropped him into the consolation round. Fayyazi rebounded with a 13-2 win over Keegan Mulhill (Eastern Oklahoma University) before a 14-8 loss to #2-seeded Casey Randles of Grand View University put him in fourth place. Fayyazi was also an All-American as a junior at Vanguard after taking third place for the Dons in 2016.

Wrestling for Graceland University, both Ivan Gomez (141 pounds) and Jordan Denny (174 pounds) were NAIA national qualifiers, but did not place. Gomez, who was a two-time CCCAA place winner for Modesto Junior College, was unseeded, but opened with a 9-6 win over Gabriel Cortez of Vanguard University. A loss dropped him into the consolation rounds, where he posted a 14-6 win over La'Stot Pleasant of Texas Wesleyan University before he was pinned in 2:24 by #5-seeded Trent Leon Rein of Reinhardt College ended his tournament. As for Denny, who was a CCCAA state qualifier for Sacramento City College in 2015, he dropped both of his matches and was eliminated. Gomez placed third at the Heart of American Conference Tournament, while Denny took sixth place, which qualified them for the NAIA Tournament.

A pair of former Fresno City wrestlers took seventh place at the NCAA Division III National Championships for their respective schools. Although it was not considered to be their official national tournament, that didn't prevent all of the competitors from giving it everything they had to offer. For 141-pound Louis Ramos of Central (IA) College, he registered a 7-0 victory over Luther College's Tyler DiFiore after opening with a tough 4-2 loss to Jalen Schropp of Loras College in his first match and finished in seventh place. With the Rams, Ramos took second place at the CCCAA State Championships at 141 pounds in 2018. Now wrestling for Loras College, Daniel Ruiz competed in a number of hard-fought matches at 157 lbs., recording a seventh place finish in a tough weight class. Ruiz started his tournament with victories over Ferrum College's Christian Hite and the United States Coast Guard Academies (USCGA) Anthony Ulaszek to gain a spot in the quarterfinals. After a setback, Ruiz rebounded and gutted out two victories to earn All-American honors and seventh place finish.

At the Big 12 Tournament, another former Fresno City wrestler Chris Gaxiola competed at 157 pounds and was pinned by Parker Simington of the Air Force in 6:54 in his lone match. While with the Rams, Gaxiola reached the CCCAA championship match at 149 in 2019, where his opponent in the championship match was Fresno City teammate Ruiz, who capped off a two-year career with his second state championship after a 1-0 win. In the PAC-12 Tournament, former Sacramento City College wrestler Hunter LaRue competed three times at 165 pounds. He failed to win a match and finished in sixth place for the Roadrunners. With the Panthers, LaRue entered the 2019 CCCAA State Championships as the #1-seed from Northern California, but suffered an injury and was forced to default into sixth place.