Rams enter season with high hopes

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With three freshmen, two juniors and a senior on the roster, it's safe to say that this year's will not be the largest wrestling team in Soroco High School history.

But what the team lacks in size it makes up for in talent, coach Doug Gates said.

"I've got four kids with a real good shot at making it to state, and two that can do pretty well once they get there," Gates said.

The coach and team will use the 11 regular-season meets leading up to the regional tournament as a chance to gain the skills necessary to be successful this February in Denver.

"We had five seniors that graduated last year, but I've got some very good wrestlers coming back this season," Gates said.

But like many teams in Northwest Colorado, the Rams will face the challenges that come from having a small team.

That includes giving up points at dual meets for open weight classes, pitting a 103-pound wrestler against a 140-pound wrestler in practices and maintaining morale on a team that has plenty of room to grow.

"We just have to focus on individual accomplishments," Gates said. "Our size is going to make it hard for us to win dual meets, but we have several wrestlers who will do very well this season."

Luckily for the Rams, there is only one dual meet on the schedule this season, against Rangely in January.

Soroco is scheduled to compete in seven tournaments, including the regional and four triangular meets.

The team's first bouts will come today in Grand Valley and Saturday in Steamboat Springs.

"That will tell us where we stand right now and what we need to work on this season," Gates said.

What Gates does know is that juniors Matt Iacovetto and Whittier Gates will anchor the team.

Iacovetto qualified for state as a freshman but missed earning a berth at last year's regional tournament.

This year, Iacovetto will return to the team at 145 pounds, and Gates expects the young wrestler to be driven to get back to state.

"He was sick last year and didn't wrestle real well at the regional tournament," Gates said. "I think his top priority is getting back to the state tournament."

Last year, Whittier Gates placed sixth at state. He is looking strong this season in the 160-pound bracket, and his coach expects him to make another solid run.

The Rams' only senior, Matt Crawford, will step in to represent the team at 152 pounds. Freshmen make up the remainder of the squad.

Gates is expecting a strong season from Joel Schlegel at 103 pounds. He said Schlegel started in the peewee programs and also wrestled through middle school.

"He's just a tough kid, and we expect some big things from him this season," Gates said.

Freshman Mark Bell will fill the 140-pound spot, and first-time wrestler Chris Williams will give the sport a chance at 215 pounds.

Gates said he would have a clearer picture of where the team stands after today's opener in Grand Valley. The meet features the hosting Cardinals, Battle Mountain and Soroco.

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