The normally reserved John Foutz could finally show some emotions. There was nothing left to hold back, no more matches to prepare for. His last match as a high school wrestler ended with a win on the biggest stage. He was crowned a state champion
The Bayfield High School senior beat Cody Ponce of Eagle Valley in a 4-1 decision to win his first wrestling state championship. Foutz got it done in the 220-pound weight class in the Class 3A competition at the Colorado High School Activities Association’s State Wrestling Championships on Saturday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
After finishing fourth at 195 pounds last year, Foutz saw his final season in Bayfield purple as a chance at redemption and an opportunity to finish three spots higher on the podium. He did it.
“Since I was a little boy, I’ve been raised with a mindset of staying humble and never giving up,” Foutz said. “I guess the mindset is just part of growing into a man, accepting what’s in front of me and always giving it my all.”
In the championship match, Foutz (44-3) came out strong with a two-point takedown in the opening seconds in the first period to go up 2-0. That was the way it stayed through the end of the first period.
In the second period, Foutz started in the bottom position. He used brute strength to get a two-point reversal to take a 4-0 lead. He controlled Ponce (34-5) for the remainder of the period. In the third with each wrestler in the neutral position on their feet, Foutz defended his territory and did not go to the mat. He was called for a one-point stalling penalty with less than 30 seconds remaining, and he secured the 4-1 decision victory.
“The key tonight was for John to stay out of the headlock, keep his elbows in and wrestle smart,” said BHS head coach Todd McMenimen. “We knew where the danger with Ponce was, and he did a fantastic job of getting a shot in right away to get a takedown. I felt really good after the first period. ... The reversal was huge, and as long as we were able to stay out of the cradle, we knew we would be OK. John was really patient working from the bottom. In the third, he listened to us and kept his elbows tucked in, and it was a fantastic win.”
Foutz became the first state champion for BHS and all of La Plata County since 2012, when Bayfield’s Aaron Velasquez won at the Class 3A 160-pound weight class. He also won a title in 2011. McMenimen was an assistant coach for BHS when Velasquez won the title.
“It was an awfully long six minutes to be in the coach’s chair, but it was worth the wait,” McMenimen said. “We get to add to our wall of state champions and get to put a great photo up outside the wrestling room and add it to the wall. It’s been a long time coming, but I can’t think of a better way to end it.”
Foutz became the first wrestler in La Plata County to wrestle for a state championship since Bayfield’s Ryan Nava and Ignacio’s Ethan Appenzeller both finished runners-up in 2016.
Foutz added to his family legacy the last two years at the state tournament. His father, Mike, finished fourth at 155 pounds in 1981 for Ignacio High School. Foutz’s mother, Terene, is the head coach of Bayfield volleyball and has been to the state tournament many times, including teams in which his older sister, Maddi, starred.
“It feels a little surreal,” Foutz said. “Going from fourth last year in a different weight class to actually winning tonight, I couldn’t be happier. All of my hard work paid off, and when that final buzzer hit me, it was the best. I realized that I was a state champion.”
It was not an easy route to the title for Foutz, who entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed in his bracket.
Earlier this season, Foutz was pinned by Ponce in the finals of the Warrior Classic in December. He beat Ponce later in the season in the third-place match at the Mel Smith Invitational in Florence. His other two losses were against Drew Book of Sterling and Caleb Varzeas of Aztec. He rolled through the latter half of the regular season and dominated the 3A Region 1 meet to claim a regional title and reach state for his second consecutive season.
In his opening match Thursday in Denver, he controlled Terry Lindh of Manitou Springs and scored a pin 39 seconds into the second period after he led 7-0 after a dominant first period. After a fierce quarterfinal matchup against Dominick Ontiveros of Brush in which the two were locked at 2-2 heading into the third period, Foutz found the strength to pin Ontiveros 33 seconds into the third period to advance to the semifinals.
In the semifinals, he nearly gave up a 7-0 lead in the third period to Jimmy Hostoles Jr. of James Irwin after Hostoles scored five quick points in the final minute of the match. It took every ounce for Foutz to hold on, but he secured his spot in the finals in a 7-5 decision.
“He has definitely put in the work this year, and the biggest thing was him believing in himself,” McMenimen said. “We really focused on the mental side of things for the last year and a half. He really showed it last night with his fortitude to get through the battle in the semifinals when he was in a bit of trouble. Tonight, he wrestled an extremely smart, intelligent match and put it all together.”
It all led to a glorious finish Saturday night in front of more than 10,000 fans in the Pepsi Center on one of the best nights of the year for Colorado high school sports. It was a night that also saw four new four-time state champions crowned. That included Windsor’s Dominick Serrano, who became the second wrestler in the history of Colorado to finish undefeated for his entire high school career at 168-0. He joined Kyle Sand of Arvada West as the only wrestlers to accomplish the feat in Colorado.
Wray won the Class 2A final with 162.5 points. Eaton and Valley tied at the top of the 3A team standings with 105.5 points. Windsor won 4A with 190 points, while Pomona High won 5A with 198.5 points.