Romero’s motivation to put in the extra work actually came last season. After scoring a CIF-SS individual title, he fell just two rounds short of advancing to the state championships by losing in the consolation third round at the CIF-SS Masters Meet. But rather than pout, he went back to work. He’s now considered one of the favorites at 275 pounds to win a state title. “I think I was just overwhelmed by the competition,” said Romero, who will be one of 14 Santa Fe wrestlers who will compete at this weekend’s CIF-SS Inland Division championships, scheduled for today and Saturday at Los Osos High in Rancho Cucamonga. “I kind of just choked. The competition scared me. This year, I’m not going to let that happen.” A main reason for that swagger is Romero simply is better. He owns a 23-5 tournament record and has placed at each of the five tournaments he’s competed in this season. His 2006-07 resume includes a first place at Nogales and second-place medals at Camarillo and Morro Bay. His most impressive performance by far was a fourth-place finish at the Five Counties Tournament, which usually is a solid barometer for the state competition. He gets to continue to prove the point this weekend when he shoots for his second consecutive CIF-Southern Section individual division championship. “He’s really stepped it up (this season),” Santa Fe coach Sal Garcia said of Romero, ranked fourth in California. “It’s exciting to have him there at heavyweight. He just continues to work hard and get better every week.” “He’s really been pushing himself, getting in better shape in the sprints and in practice,” Garcia said. “Last year he had a problem of getting off the bottom. This year, he’s been getting up.” Romero, whose tournament record includes 18 wins by fall, can see the results as well. “My freshman and sophomore years, I wasn’t placing at any tournaments. Now I’m placing at every one,” he said. “I feel I’m really getting better. I’m ranked fourth in the state, and I’m competing with the state-ranked guys. I know I can get them.” But first he has some work to do this weekend. “Everyone’s goal is to be a state champion,” Romero said. “But if I could just place at state, just get there and just place, I would be happy. “I know you can’t let the mental part of this sport get to you. Even if (the opponent isn’t) ranked, I’m not going to underestimate them. I try to just go out and win a wrestling match. I’ve beaten guys ranked ahead of me already. I just want to keep going, keep going.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3061 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SANTA FE SPRINGS – Who said nothing good comes from losing? Certainly not Santa Fe High School’s Lenny Romero, who has shown the discipline and character this season to turn a negative into a positive by becoming one of the top heavyweight wrestlers in the state.