Palisade When the first day of the 2A Western Regionals came to a close Friday, the Hayden Tigers loaded the bus back to heir hotel carrying a big lead over the rest of the competition.
The Tigers, who are competing with eight other teams at Palisade High School, showed no mercy against their foes and scored 23.5 points to surge into first place.
The Tiger wrestlers are battling to qualify for the state games, which run Feb. 15-17 at the Pepsi Center n Denver.
Regional action resumes today when the championship semifinals get under way at 9 a.m. The championship round is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m.
Last night, the Tigers cemented themselves in the first-place spot by winning six matches and collecting five first-round byes.
Soroco is in a four-way tie for fourth place. The only Ram who earned a victory on the mat was sophomore 130-pound wrestler Cody Denning, who pinned the Tigers' Cameron Keadle late in the third period after frustrating him with a half-nelson.
Denning was behind six to eight but took control in the final period and pinned Keadle with 20.3 seconds remaining.
"I just knew I wanted to go to state," Denning said. "I just wanted it."
In other wrestling action between Routt County rivals, Hayden wrestler Josh Geissinger made short work of Soroco's Tyson Gilleland in a 140-pound bout. Geissinger got the pin with 55 seconds left in the first period.
Other Tigers who scored victories on the mat included Jimmy Rossi, Kelly Bruchez, Kevin Miller, Tanner Copeland and Alan Stark.
Rossi, a 125-pound senior, defeated Norwood's Wade Henderson 16-0.
Hayden's Jake Booco fell to Casey Spitzer of Dolores County at the 1:57-mark of their 119-pound match.
Copeland beat Soroco's C.J. Horn in the 215-pound class.
Dolores County and North Park are tied for third place with eight points apiece and Nucla is second with 12 points.
Hayden coach John Svoboda said his team wrestled well overall, though it made a few costly mistakes.
"We're looking good," Svoboda said, "but we were a little sluggish tonight. Hopefully we'll look a little more on edge for the semifinals."
In other wrestling action, Steamboat Springs takes the mat at 10:30 a.m. today at Grand Junction High School for the conclusion of the 4A Regional Tournament.
Senior 135-pound wrestler Levi Muhme is hoping to make another state appearance.