Both of them have taken their lumps to get to the top.

Now, San Mateo seniors Romelo Rivas and Sam Kolokihakaufisi are the ones dulling out the lumps. And for the first time in their respective careers, Saturday at the 56th Annual Jim Root Memorial Classic Varsity Tournament, the two boys’ wrestlers reached the top of the podium in doing so — and in the process have garnered Daily Journal Athletes of the Week honors.

Entering the tournament, neither had ever taken home a varsity gold medal. That includes two previous appearances at the Root tourney, where the Bearcats had never finished better than 15th place, though they still performed well in 2017 and ’18, according to San Mateo head coach Jason Cervantes.

“Not as well as [Saturday] though,” Cervantes said.

As the Bearcats earned fifth place in the team competition in field of 35 varsity squads at the daylong event in Saratoga, Rivas and Kolokihakaufisi each swept their brackets, earning four wins apiece, all via pin. Rivas took gold in the 145-pound bracket. Kolokihakaufisi did the same in the 285s.

“After I won it, I was just going to be humble because I can’t let this be the only first place,” Kolokihakaufisi said. “I want to get more. So, that’s what I kept thinking.”

At 5-11, 280 pounds, Kolokihakaufisi doesn’t look like someone who has ever been pushed around in his life. In the fall, he shined on the gridiron and was named an all-Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division defensive tackle for the San Mateo football team. After high school, he is expected to play the same position at the College of San Mateo.

Being one of three brothers, though — all of whom are proven wrestling standouts — Kolokihakaufisi earned his humility through tussling with his older brother Tevita, a former Burlingame wrestler. And while Kolokihakaufisi had a habit of rambunctiously squaring off on his brother, it was all fun and games for Tevita, who is 15 years his senior.

“Sometimes I would be bad and would fight him on the spot,” Kolokihakaufisi said. “And he’d just be playing around.”

While Kolokihakaufisi is a three-sport athlete — he also plays baseball — Rivas is strictly a one-sport athlete. With his focus on wrestling, the 147-pound senior doesn’t even consider himself much of a sportsman.

Taking up jujitsu when he was 6 years old, however, he transitioned into wrestling in middle school. He arrived at San Mateo somewhat in his own world, as the friends with whom he was closest growing up all went to Hillsdale. And during his freshman year, since San Mateo did not have a frosh-soph wrestling program at the time, the then 113-pound Rivas was thrown right into the varsity arena.

“Because of my jujitsu background I was able to pick up on things pretty quickly,” Rivas said.

But Rivas still draws on the inspiration found in proving himself to others — and to himself.

“Compared to many of the wrestlers, I’m one of the smaller ones,” Rivas said. “So … it kind of boosts my confidence to prove to others, and to myself, what I can accomplish.”

Rivas swept through 145s Saturday, opening with a second-round pin of Sequoia’s Daniel Camacho. He moved on to the quarterfinals, pinning Del Mar’s Daniel Leavitt in the first round. In the semifinals, he went to three rounds to pin Live Oak’s Zach Souza.

It was two weeks previous when Rivas last reached a championship round. That was in the Bill Martel tournament in Walnut Creek, though he was forced to retire due to a nagging groin injury, one that cost him most of his junior season last year. In Walnut Creek, it struck again to relegate him to second place.

This time around, Rivas used his lower half to win the day, taking down Aptos’ Luke Keaschall in the third round with a guillotine move, which requires locking up with an opponent in a dual headlock, then using both legs to apply pressure to just one of his.

“It was just a matter of time where the ref was getting ready to call the pin,” Rivas said. “I just had to sink a little pressure.”

Kolokihakaufisi’s title match was more closely contested. The senior upped his season record to 13-3 with his four wins, starting with a pin 21 seconds in against Gunderson’s Cristian Vasquez. In the quarterfinals, it took him just 18 seconds to pin Aptos’ Elijah Rodriguez. The semifinal round lasted a whole minute and 10 seconds before he pinned Silver Creek’s Jarrod Calk.

In the championship match, Kolokihakaufisi again earned a first-round pin, but not before he suffered quite the scare against Live Oak’s Harold Baugher.

“He tripped me and I was almost pinned,” Kolokihakaufisi said. “I was on my right shoulder, and I was thinking in my head, ‘if my shoulder goes down, it’s over.’ And I wanted this to be my first first-place win”

Kolokihakaufisi countered by rolling left, then getting on all fours for a tripod reversal, causing his opponent to lose his feet. When that happened, Kolokihakaufisi caught his leg and took him down, then proceeded to leverage for 40 more seconds for the pin at the 1:49 mark.

And with it: San Mateo’s second individual gold medal of the day.

Now that the two gold medalists are making names for themselves, maybe they can actually get those names pronounced correctly. Rivas lists by his full name — Romelo Rivas Aguilar — though he insists ‘Rivas’ will do.

As for Kolokihakaufisi, through four years of high school, he has yet to hear a teacher pronounce the Tongan surname correctly during roll call on the first day of a new class.

“No,” Kolokihakaufisi said. “A lot of teachers, they always mess it up.”

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