A new season begins Friday for Hayden wrestlers.
The two-day regional meet held Friday and Saturday at Grand Junction Central is the only meet that matters for wrestlers entertaining state tournament hopes.
The top four finishers in each weight class advance to the 2004 state wrestling tournament to be held Feb. 19 through 21 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Tigers 140-pounder Jake Doolin is looking for a return trip after placing among the top six in Class 2A last season.
But he isn't the only Tiger who plans to finish among the top four in his weight class this weekend.
Juniors Seth Copeland and Randy Muhme have the potential to place among the top four at 145 pounds and heavyweight, respectively. The Tigers' Jason Rolando should figure into the mix at 189 pounds, as well.
"Obviously, the freshmen and sophomores won't have that much of a chance because they are young," Hayden assistant coach Leif Jacobsen said. "But Seth, Jake, Jason and Randy have a legitimate shot. It depends on where they are seeded and their attitude. I think attitude is 90 percent of it. The other 10 percent will be conditioning."
The seedings for the regional tournament won't be announced until Friday, but none of the Tigers wrestlers was expected to be seeded at the very top or very bottom, based on their overall records.
Jacobsen expects Meeker, Paonia and Nucla to be the top three teams at the regional meet and expects great things from all of them in Denver.
"I'm going to predict that the state champ will come from this region if not this league," he said.
The Tigers wrapped up their regular season over the weekend at Eagle Valley. Hayden only took five wrestlers and didn't fare well in the dual format. Doolin picked up a win, and Copeland and Andrew Birch (160) won by forfeit.
Elsewhere in the county, Soroco is pinning its hopes on Whittier Gates (152 pounds), who placed in the top six in Class 2A last year, and junior Matt Iacovetto (140 pounds), who has been wrestling well all season and appears to be peaking at the right moment, as well.
Steamboat, meanwhile, will have to contend with arguably the state's toughest regional meet in Class 4A, to be held in Broomfield.
Sailors coach Jay Muhme was at the seeding meeting for his team's tournament last week, and one region coach's survey revealed that 60 percent of the state placers from 2003 came from Steamboat's region, which includes Western Slope league schools as well as Broomfield, Mullen, Conifer, Evergreen, Cortez, Montrose, Summit, Ralston Valley and Golden.
"This is basically the start of a new season for everybody," Muhme said. "You could have lost every single match, but this weekend is for all the marbles. I've got two or three kids that, if they put their mental game together, will surprise a lot of people, including themselves."
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org