By Dan Guttenplan
---- — BYFIELD — As a freshman, Victor Ramirez was one of the weak links on a Triton wrestling team that won a sectional title.
The 103-pounder struggled to a 13-24 record in his individual matches, leaving plenty of room for improvement over his final three seasons. That improvement has come in the form of two Cape Ann League titles, two Division 3 North sectional titles and two Senior National Championship invitations.
Ramirez, now a senior captain, posted his 100th career victory last week at the George Bossi Lowell Holiday Tournament, marking only the ninth time in Triton coach Shawn McElligott’s 15 seasons that one of his wrestlers reached the feat. After taking 24 losses his freshman year, Ramirez has lost only 17 matches since. He has a career record of 100-44, which includes a mark of 87-17 since his sophomore season.
“I wasn’t expecting much after my freshman year,” Ramirez said. “I started working hard, putting my best effort in. I was humbled by all the talent I saw that year. I realized I didn’t care so much about hanging out with friends and being cool. I wanted to dedicate more time on the mat to become a better person and wrestler.”
Ramirez began training year-round at Smitty’s Barn in Danville, N.H., under coach Matt Smith. Ramirez’ family encountered financial hardship just after he began training at the gym, and Smith worked out an alternative compensation plan for his coaching services.
“I owe (Smith) a lot for my success,” Ramirez said. “He told me as long as I work hard, it doesn’t matter if I’m poor. Money doesn’t matter. I struggled financially, and I didn’t know if I would be able to afford much. He told me to come in with a hard-working attitude, and he’d work out the rest.”
Ramirez’s hard work paid dividends during his sophomore season at Triton. He remained at 103 pounds, posting a record of 39-8. He won a sectional title and was the runner-up at the Division 3 Championships. That season, Triton also collected a Division 3 dual-meet championship.
“It was a breakout year,” McElligott said. “I know he worked hard in the offseason before his sophomore year. He’s extremely technically sound, very quick and tough on his feet.”
Ramirez’s family moved from Salisbury to Haverhill after his sophomore year. Thanks to school choice, he was not forced to transfer schools. As a junior, Ramirez posted a record of 35-6 at 106 pounds, earning another sectional title.
He appeared primed for an outright state championship run before suffering a concussion in the semifinal at the Division 3 Championships. He had to opt out of that match and forfeit all future matches, dropping to sixth place by default.
“I have a huge chip on my shoulder,” Ramirez said. “Last year, I feel I had it taken from me, right out of my hands. I didn’t want to sit out, and I was really humbled by it. It motivated me to work harder, so that I’m that much more ready for it.”
Ramirez is up to 120 pounds this season, wrestling at a more comfortable weight after feeling weak at 106 pounds last season. He has logged a 13-3 record so far, and is also taking on more of a leadership role.
“Most of my conversations with Victor are about the team and making the team better,” McElligott said. “He wants to know what the other kids can be working on, what they can do to help the team. He focuses on academics around the younger kids. He’s still highly motivated on the mat, but what’s important to him is the whole team.”
Ramirez plans to continue wrestling after high school; his first choice for college is Bridgewater State. He recognizes that if he does wrestle at the next level, his commitment to the sport is just beginning.
“These things really motivate me — the 100th win, the CAL titles, all of that,” Ramirez said. “The thing I keep asking myself is, ‘What wouldn’t I give up to achieve greatness and leave a legacy behind?’ It’s not that I’m sacrificing socially, it’s that I’m committing myself to excellence on the mat.”