Steamboat Springs Sailors head coach Chris Decker expected the Salida Spartans would roll into town Friday night and teach his young wrestlers a few hard lessons.
But after falling to the visiting team in a 65-18 dual match, Decker was anything but disappointed with his squad's efforts.
"Hey, we are still a little green and that showed tonight," Decker said. "I knew we were going to get thumped, but there is a lot of talent on this team. Sure we are going to take some lumps this season, but if these kids stick with it I think you will see a dramatic difference by the end of the year."
Steamboat got off to a slow start in the match with 112-pounder Justin O'Leary, 119-pounder Lonny Radford, 125-pounder John Stanko and 130-pounder Zack Forcum all getting pinned by their Spartan counterparts. But Steamboat's spirits got a small spark when state veteran Levi Muhme stepped onto the mat for the 135-pound bout.
Muhme had to work hard, but eventually pinned Salida's Robin Gertach at the 4-minute, 20-second mark of the match.
"I wasn't sure what to expect when I went out on the mat," Muhme said. "He was a stocky kid and it looked like he had a real solid base."
Muhme said he had to force himself to stay patient at points during the match and was finally able to break down Gertach's hips and find the leverage he was looking for to win the match.
"I had to wait for him to open something up," Muhme said. "Sometimes that's the hardest thing to do sit back and wait."
The third-period pin gave Steamboat its first six points of the match, but Salida still held a commanding 48-6 lead.
The Sailors 145-pounder, Lee Gittleson, fought a tough match with Salida's Josh Hightower but fell in a 15-0 technical fall it was the only match of the night outside of Steamboat's two forfeits that was not decided by a pin.
The heartbreak continued for Steamboat as Jamie McKelvie fell to Cameron Davidson at 152 pounds, Shea Hurley lost to Burt White at 160 pounds and Wes Adams was knocked off by Brent Wilcox at 171 pounds.
First-year Sailor Gaspar Perricone also put up a hard fight at 189 pounds, but eventually fell to Spartan Brian Sack in the second period.
The Sailors' fortunes, however, finally turned at 215 pounds as Mike Radford pinned Salida's Ty Farney at 3:37 of that match. Steamboat's heavy weight Will Zimmerer came on to close the night out with another Sailors win in the final match. He pinned Salida's Dusty Paquette at 5:26 of his match to bring his record to 2-1 for the season.
"Every time he put me in a head lock I would roll him right through," Zimmerer said.
The sophomore, like most of the Steamboat Springs team, said he will focus on improvement this season and not necessarily wins and losses.
"I only won four matches last season," Zimmerer said. "So this year I just want to keep getting better with every match."
The Steamboat wrestlers will see plenty of action today as the Sailors host 12 other top teams from around the region in the Steamboat Invitational.
"I'm planning on taking the tournament," Muhme said after Friday's win. "But I will just have to take it one match at a time."
Muhme said he thinks he will be seeded No.1 in the brackets. He also thinks the biggest threat will come from another Routt County grappler in Hayden's Anton Fredrickson.
"I beat him last year," Muhme said. "But if we meet again this year one thing is for sure it's going to be a good match."
Wrestling will start at 8 a.m. today at the Steamboat Springs High school gym. All three Routt County teams Steamboat, Hayden and Soroco will be in the tournament.
Moffat County will also have a junior varsity team coming.
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