A new wrestling season begins Friday for area athletes.
The two-day regional meet held Friday and Saturday at Grand Junction Central for Hayden and Soroco and at Broomfield High School for Steamboat is the only meet that matters for wrestlers entertaining state tournament hopes.
"This is basically the start of a new season for everybody," Steamboat coach Jay 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."
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.
Hayden's Jake Doolin (140 pounds) and Soroco's Whittier Gates (152 pounds) are looking for a return trip after placing among the top six in Class 2A last season.
But they aren't the only ones who plan on finishing among the top four in their weight classes this weekend.
Juniors Seth Copeland and Randy Muhme of Hayden have the potential to place among the top four at 145 pounds and heavyweight, respectively. Tiger 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 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 is expected to be seeded at the very top or very bottom, based on their overall records.
Soroco junior Matt Iacovetto (140 pounds) has been wrestling well all season and appears to be peaking at the right moment, as well.
Jacobsen expects Meeker, Paonia and Nucla to be the top three teams at the regional meet, and he 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.
Steamboat, meanwhile, will have to contend with arguably the state's toughest regional meet in Class 4A.
Sailors coach 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.
Hayden and Steamboat wrapped up the regular season over the weekend at Eagle Valley and Eaton, respectively.
The Tigers took only 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.
The Sailors, meanwhile, took seven wrestlers to Eaton, but veterans Donald Dillon (140) and Dave Gittleson (135) did not compete. Muhme is hoping Dillon and Gittleson and sophomore Walker Hammond (152) will be able to practice this week and compete this weekend.
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