Thursday, February 13, 2003
Steamboat Springs Wrestlers from Soroco and Hayden begin their quest for a berth into the 2003 State Wrestling Tournament today with the opening of the Class 2A regionals.
The two-day, double-elimination tournament will be held at Grand Junction High School with opening-round matches set for 6 p.m. today. Saturday's matches begin at 9 a.m. and run all day.
The top four finishers in each weight class will advance to the state meet to be held Feb. 20-22 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
With six of the top 10 teams in Class 2A taking part in the Region 1 tournament, Soroco coach Doug Gates and Hayden coach John Svoboda expect a tougher meet than in recent years.
"I bet there will be more state champions and state placers from this region than any other," Svoboda said.
Gates sees the similarities between 1997 and this year's regional. In 1997, wrestlers that Gates believes would have placed at the state tournament stayed home because of mishaps in a tough regional field.
"We're all going to have to wrestle hard, and we'll have to wrestle well," Gates said. "We have our work cut out for us."
Nucla, the defending state champion in Class 2A, leads the 13-team field into Grand Junction.
All eight teams from Hayden and Soroco's league are part of the field as well, including Meeker and Paonia, squads that ripped through the brackets at last weekend's league tournament hosted by the Tigers.
Several wrestlers from Hayden and Soroco, however, helped themselves out by placing high at the Western Slope league tournament Feb. 8.
The Tigers' Troy Kochenower, for example, went from a possible No. 7 seed to as high as No. 3, Svoboda said, with his second-place showing in the 119-pound division.
"That's the best Troy's wrestled all year," Svoboda said. "It's a good time for it. We hope he'll continue that."
Other wrestlers, including Hayden's Alan Stark and Soroco's Matt Iacovetto -- both of whom competed despite injuries -- lost matches in the league tournament that will likely cost them a higher seed, making the path to state that much harder.
Of course, it's impossible to be a regional champ unless a wrestler wins all his matches anyway.
Still, Svoboda said, it is comforting for some athletes to know there is a small margin of error.
"You try to beat into the kids (that) anyone can get beat at any given time," Svoboda said. "It's just who is on that particular day."
The 13-team field consists of: Dolores, Dolores County, Grand Valley, Hayden, Mancos, Meeker, North Park, Norwood, Nucla, Paonia, Rangely, Soroco and West Grand.