Rocky Ford Wrestling

A Brief History of the Rocky Ford High School Wrestling Program

The High School wrestling program in Rocky Ford was established and first competed in the 1949-50 season. Colorado had only one team classification and 12 weight divisions. In that season, Walt Payne’s Meloneers had 6 state qualifiers and its first state placer in Fred Garcia who finished 4th @ 95 lbs. In 1952, Tom Shirashi and Ron Teubner became Rocky Ford’s first State Champions. Winning its first district championship in 1953, Rocky Ford was favored to win state as they had returning state champions Shirashi and Teubner. Favorites to make the finals were Carrol Donelson, Ron Gettel, Buddy Ratliff (placing 3rd) and John Fraser, the eventual state 154lb champion. Shirashi, Gettel and Teubner all lost tough semifinal bouts and then lost in their wrestleback attempts for 3rd place. After four years, Walt finished his coaching career following the 1952-53 season.

L.L. “Inky” Ingersoll coached from the 1953-1954 season until the end of the 1961-62 season. Highlighting “Inkys” career at Rocky Ford was 1955 when they had 6 district champions and a State champion in Larry Call who won the heavyweight division. During his time he saw a change in 1957 from one state team classification to two. Under “Inkys” direction, Rocky Ford had thirty-eight individuals qualify for the state tournament and 4 state placers.

The season of 1962-1963 found Robert Casteel directing the team. In that season, the team moved from the old gymnasium at the Arkansas Valley fairgrounds which is now the exhibition hall to the new high school which is still the existing gymnasium used today.

With the 1963-64 season, a new coach, Ron Nordin took over the program. During his tenure he brought the Meloneer wrestling team a 3rd place finish at the Colorado State Wrestling Championships in 1966. In 1967-68, Rocky Ford temporarily moved to Division II before a new classification system was born in the 1968-69 season that included A, AA and AAA. Rocky Ford found its place in the AA classification. After winning districts in 1967, they continued the tradition into 1968 where they also took 4th place at the state championships. He had 11 state placers and 2 state champions. Ron finished his career at RFHS in 1969 after developing a strong wrestling foundation that was a prelude of things to come.

A big fundraiser was created in 1966 to send Lyn Bickford, Rocky Fords 133lb state champion that year, to the AAU Nationals in Omaha. Ron Nordin(head coach), Bill Busch(businessman), Bob Smith (banker) and others decided to establish the Rocky Ford Wrestling Foundation with the excess funds. The foundation created the Rocky Ford Freestyle Tournament that summer, which was originally held at the Arkansas Valley Fairgrounds and in the past has been host to many national and international champions . It continues this day as the oldest running freestyle tournament in Colorado.

Charlie White brought a fresh new look to a program that had already begun to take root when he signed on in his first season of 1969-70. Many milestones occurred during his 20 years spent at the helm. In 1975, Rocky Ford had 12 district champions, which has not been repeated since. After a disappointing finish as state runner-up in the previous year, the Meloneers finally won their first state team championship in 1976. Charlie Amaya was named Outstanding Wrestler that year and is Rocky Fords first two time state champ. In 1977, a state record was set in having 4 state champions in a single season. Mike Arnold became the only 3 time state champion in Rocky Ford history in 1980, when he was also named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler. In 1985 the team had 7 wrestlers in the state finals. Robert Baca, David Garcia and Ron Pino all completed the season undefeated in 1986, which is the only time in state history that a team has had 3 undefeated wrestlers in a single season. Other accomplishments under Coach White’s belt included 17 district titles in which 14 were consecutive from 1973-1986 and 9 state championships of which 4 were consecutive from 1982-1985. Twenty-one individuals won 27 state titles and an additional 57 competitors medaled at state 77 times. Rocky Ford completed 6 seasons without a dual meet loss from 1973-1978, which currently ties a state record.