Family footsteps are sometimes the hardest to follow.
Living up to standards set by older relatives is tough for a child, and it drives many away from sports. But for Hayden High School junior Randy Muhme, the decision to walk away from wrestling after the seventh grade had nothing to do with pressure.
He just wanted to be free of after-school commitments.
"I like my afternoons," Randy said. "Going into a gym when it's light and coming out when it's dark is no fun."
While many of his friends ran and wrestled to the point of exhaustion during the past three years, Randy was playing video games or riding snowmobiles with no regrets.
Meanwhile his father, Roger Muhme, a former state qualifier at Steamboat Springs, attended Tigers wrestling meets to show his support.
It was hard, Roger said, to sit in the stands without his son, but he never pushed Randy into the practice room. And while wrestling may have been in Randy's blood, it wasn't in his heart.
"A child does well in a sport if they wish to go out, instead of being forced to," Roger said.
In December, after a three-year hiatus, Randy said he decided to give wrestling another shot for his father. Roger said several of Randy's teammates had some influence, as well, promising to play video games and ride snowmobiles after meets and tournaments if Randy joined the team.
Randy gave in and joined the team but grew disinterested two weeks after his season began and nearly quit.
"I decided to stick it out," Randy said. "I'm glad I did."
Randy is 26-4 this season in the heavyweight division, the same weight class Roger wrestled in from 1978 to 1981 for Steamboat Springs. Randy's four losses have come to wrestlers with better technique because of more experience, Roger said.
"But he can hold his own," Roger added.
Randy's participation has solidified the Tigers' upper weights this season. The combination of senior Jason Rolando at 189 pounds and Randy at heavyweight -- he weighs 252 pounds -- has been nearly unbeatable, particularly in Class 2A.
Tigers coach John Svoboda said he is surprised at Randy's success considering the wrestler had no varsity experience.
"Probably the thing that has surprised me the most is his natural ability and aggressiveness," Svoboda said.
Randy agreed that he is a natural wrestler. He learned a lot about the sport during his seven years in elementary school and junior high, but patience is his strategy now.
"I wait for the other person to mess up, and then I capitalize on their mistakes," Randy said.
Hayden's final regular season meet is the Eagle Valley Quad on Saturday.
The Tigers' regional meet is two weeks away. If Randy finishes first or second at the Feb. 13 and 14 tournament in Grand Junction, he will earn a trip to the state wrestling tournament, following in the footsteps of his father, uncles Bob and Bruce and cousins Kenny, Jay and Levi -- just to name the Routt County Muhme's.
"That's what I'm trying to do," Randy said.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org