Resurgence in numbers and commitment to winning have lifted the Hayden Middle School wrestling program back to where the coaches think it belongs -- on top.
The Tigers took first at the East Grand Invitational Tournament, which acts as the league tournament for the Western Slope teams.
Hayden adopted the motto "Pin to Win" before the tournament, and the Tigers picked up three first-place, six second-place, two third-place and two fourth-place medals, pushing Hayden into a tie with Craig for the overall team title.
Seventh-grader Mitchell VeDepo (85 pounds), seventh-grader Mitchel Doolin (96 pounds) and eighth-grader Houston Mader (110 pounds) each captured gold medals for Hayden.
"There are two words that best describe Doolin and Mader -- determination and guts," coach Dallas Robinson said. "Those guys will never give up, never surrender. That's what makes them champions time and again."
Seventeen teams took part in the East Grand Invitational Tournament, which marked the end of the scheduled season at the middle school level in Hayden.
But eight middle school wrestlers chose to extend their season by another week and traveled to Grand Junction for the Southwest Colorado Kids State Wrestling Tournament during the weekend.
The annual state tournament features some of the best young grapplers in the state as well as athletes from New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
Doolin (95 pounds) and eighth-grader Zed Wheelock (80 pounds) took first. Doolin also wrestled up a weight class and took third at 100 pounds. Mader finished second at 112 pounds. Eighth-grader Jordan Williams (105 pounds) wrestled to a fourth-place finish. Seventh-grader Coy Letlow (130 pounds) came in fifth, and seventh-grader Jake Magee placed sixth at 120 pounds.
Sixth-grader Koleman Williams and seventh-grader Paden Morehead both participated in the state meet, as well. Both also took second at 90 pounds and 125 pounds, respectively, in East Grand.
"It's hard as a coach to let go of those kids moving up into high school, nevertheless, I am ever confident that they will continue to perform and benefit that program," Robinson said.
Assisting Robinson this year were Ty Camilletti and Ty Zable.
In the past two seasons, nearly 30 wrestlers have taken part in the middle school wrestling program, pushing the practice room to its limits and increasing the depth and talent in Hayden, Robinson said.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org