Steamboat Springs Fourteen area wrestlers earned a trip to the Pepsi Center this weekend as they took a fourth- place or higher at two regional tournaments.
Hayden had eight of its 10 wrestlers and Soroco had five of its eight wrestlers extend their seasons to the state tournament following their performances at the regional 2A tournament in Palisade.
Will Zimmerer was Steamboat's lone state qualifier at the 4A tournament in Montrose.
Four local wrestlers found their way to the top of the podium, capturing first places and the title of regional champs.
The Hayden Tigers' Kelly Bruchez, Kevin Miller and Tanner Copeland, along with Soroco's Josh Iacovetto, earned first-place honors.
At 215 pounds, Copeland had lost to two of the four grapplers in his weight class before entering the tournament. But he quickly took care of business in the first round as he pinned Dolores County's Tyler Hicks and then went on to pin Brandon Alexander in the championship round.
"(Copeland) looked really good this round. Alexander had beaten him before," Tigers coach John Svoboda said. "He had mentally prepared well. The whole match out there he showed a lot of heart and aggressiveness."
At 152 pounds, Bruchez dominated his way into the championship round as he recorded a technical pin early in the tournament. But Nucla's Jesse Gordon presented a challenge in the final round. Early in the match, Gordon caught Bruchez on his back and made things uncomfortably close until Bruchez pinned him in the second period. The score was 16-11 in Bruchez's favor before the pin.
Miller also pinned his way through Saturday's tournament. The 171-pounder earned his championship title by getting a fall in the third period against Nucla's Derrick Smuin. Miller was up 8-0 before he worked in the pin.
Iacovetto, a 103-ponder, won a close final match to earn his first-place berth.
Despite going up against three of the top-five ranked 2A schools in the state, Hayden walked away with a third-place finish as it placed behind Nucla and Dolores and came out ahead of top-ranked Mancos and Norwood.
"I'm really proud of the kids and the way they went down there and wrestled with heart," Svoboda said. "They wrestled their best since before Christmastime. They went down there with business on their mind and took care of business."
Area second-places were earned by Hayden's 160-pounder Riley Whiteman as he lost to Nucla's Sabin Mock, who came into the tournament with a 35-1 record, and Soroco's 130-pounder Whittier Gates.
For the Tigers, 119-pounder Jake Booco, 125-pounder Jake Doolin, 189-pounder Clayton Neumiller and heavyweight Alan Stark rounded out the contingent traveling to the state tournament next weekend.
Soroco's other state qualifiers are 112-pounder Matt Iacovetto and 135-pounder Brandon Ager. At 152 pounds, Tyson Gilleland took a fifth place but won a challenge match against North Park's fourth-place wrestler Joe Park to earn a trip to the state tournament.
In the 4A regional tournament at Montrose, Zimmerer evened an old score Saturday. He beat Palisade's Mike Messenger in the preliminary round of the tournament to advance into the finals for third and fourth place. Going into the match, Zimmerer had one win and two losses against Messenger for the season.
But Zimmerer came back from a 9-8 deficit in the second period to earn a three-point near fall and then let Messenger back up to earn another near fall and end the match 14-9.
"It was very intense, a very intelligent match," Sailors coach Jay Muhme said. "(Will) came back to win it."
In the match for third place, Zimmerer was pinned by Moffat County's Cliff Stehle to take a fourth place.