Nelson Toro, who became the second state wrestling champion in Harmony High School history, and Rey Ortiz, who placed third in states at the highly competitive 138-pound weight class, will both continue their careers at the Division-1 collegiate level after signing scholarship papers over the weekend.
Toro, which means Bull in Spanish, will literally become a Bull after signing during a Friday evening ceremony at St. Cloud’s Beef O’Brady’s Restaurant to join the University Buffalo Bulls wrestling program.
As a senior, Toro posted a 46-0 record – winning the Class 3A, 285-lb. state championship with a 7-4 win over Palmeto Ridge’s Austin Foye in the finals. The win capped an incredible undefeated season for Toro, who moved up from the 220-lb. weight class a year ago and was often giving up 30, 40 or even more pounds to his opponents.
He joins Sawyer Root as the only two Harmony wrestlers to win a state title. Root was a transfer student from Alaska, so Toro become the first Harmony state champion to have spent all four years of his high school career in the program.
“Absolutely no disrespect to Sawyer and his great accomplishments, but Nelson is our first ‘home-grown’ champion,” Harmony coach Vic Lorenzano says. “It was both exciting and gratifying to watch him grow in our program and become both a champion and a team leader.”
“Becoming the school’s first state champion to spend all four years in the program does mean a lot to me,” Toro said. “Harmony’s program, its coaches, and my teammates are like a second family to me. It was important for me to win states, but it was also important for me to inspire the younger wrestlers in our program. It’s an experience I will always remember, be proud of and be able to hold on to.”
Moving up a weight class was a huge challenge for Toro.
Lorenzano said that because of a highly competitive schedule, Toro had to face a lot more quality opponents than he did at 220-lbs. a year ago. His 46 wins included a lot of matches that were determined by four or fewer points. “It was a grind all season and there is always a tendency to have a letdown after winning a close match,” Toro said. “But in tournaments that letdown could cost you in the next round – all season long I just tried to reset and keep my focus after a close win.”
As the wins piled up for Toro so did the interest of college recruiters.
Toro said he spoke to several schools, but something just felt right about the University of Buffalo. “I went up there on a visit and immediately felt a connection with the athletes, coaches and campus. It was a real family atmosphere and reminded me of our program at Harmony.”
With just 78 Division-1 schools competing in wrestling nationally, practically every college roster is stacked with high school state champions with impressive credentials. Toro knows he is taking a huge step up in competition but has set his goals high and looks forward to the competition. “My goal is to be a starter as a freshman, I know I am taking a big leap in competition and it’s going to be difficult, but I am ready to accept that challenge.”
Also signing over the weekend was Ortiz, who was out of town and will have his ceremonial signing ata later date. Ortiz, who finished his senior season with an impressive 48-3 mark, will wrestle at Division-1 level for Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC. Presbyterian is a member of the Big South Conference, whose members include nationally ranked Appalachian State.
“Rey is definitely an under-the-radar guy,” Lorenzano said. “He didn’t not get a lot of attention from colleges his senior year but his stock really started going up with his tournament performances in the summer. He had a great senior year for us, but just kept getting better and better after the season by traveling around the country this summer and doing well in tournaments.”
Lorenzano says Ortiz’s strengths include his tenacity and his ability to quickly put opponents in dangerous positions. “Rey is just really beginning to scratch the surface of his potential,” Lorenzano added.