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Smiths top-16 finish in state a culmination of hard work
Ripon High senior Travis Smith is the Bulletin’s 2010-11 All-Area Wrestler of the Year - photo by HIME ROMERO
When wrestlers hit the mat in early November in hopes of putting together a quality season, most of the elite wrestlers have open aspirations of bringing the season to a close at the California Interscholastic Federation State Championships.

 For The Bulletin’s All-Area Wrestler of the Year, those aspirations became reality.

Ripon High standout Travis Smith was one of two area wrestlers that were able to solidify a trip to Bakersfield, cementing the final touches on a decorated season and a triumphant Indians career. Smith wrapped up the 2010-11 season as one of the top-16 215-pounders in California.

When Smith took the mat his freshman year at Ripon, it was safe to say a trip to Bakersfield was a long way off.

“I think I got 50-times better since my freshman year,” Smith said. “My freshman year I couldn’t buy a match. It was not a good year, because I had a hard time adjusting to a different level of wrestling.”

Smith opened the 2011 postseason with a relatively easy advancement during the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-V tournament, where he would take second and earn a spot in the SJS Masters action. Smith was the No. 1 215-pounder in the Trans Valley League, leading into the Division-V tourney.

The Masters would be a monster of its own, as Smith was seeded against some of the most dominant 215-pounders in the entire state. Earning one of the section’s six berths would undoubtedly be challenging, with a few of the state’s best vying for one of those spots.

“It was a tough bracket,” Smith said. “I knew I would have some tough matches right away, and I knew I would have to win them. I knew I’d have to give it my all those first couple of matches.

“I think I did great the first day, but the second day has always been a problem for me.”

Each of the factors from Masters made their way south, making the 215-pound bracket one of the toughest championships to earn. Smith made his state berth worthwhile with a 6-4 win over Marshal Thrasher of Ramona of San Diego, but ran into eventual state champion William Knowles of Calvary Chapel in the second round.

Smith refused to go quietly, going to the consolation bracket and picking up another victory, 5-1 win over Antonio Lopez before succumbing to senior Garrado Aguirre and bringing his state tourney run to a close.

Ripon High has a rich tradition on the mats and will have some momentum remaining for next season. Each of Smith’s teammates saw his season-long grind come down to the final weekend alongside the state’s very best.

“My team was pretty excited,” Smith said of his teammate contingent. “They had expected of me, but when I was in the tournaments it got a lot more important to them. They were proud, I’d say, and some of them were really wishing that they were on that stage.

“It will definitely push them harder next season.”

Even with a season that merited three separate tournament titles, a league championship and divisional runner-up honors, Smith’s season came down to one tournament. A tournament that seemed like an unattainable mirage a few short years ago, turned into Smith’s most impressive moment on the mat.