The Hayden High School wrestling program's schedule had been thinned in recent years.
The Tigers weren't competitive at most weights, so they dropped out of certain tournaments and meets.
Some of those tough meets -- the Olathe Tournament and the two-day Uintah Tournament in Utah -- have returned to the team's calendar.
"We have an awesome attitude and work ethic," coach Ty Zabel said. "We are on the good road back."
Zabel's optimism can be attributed to the improvement of established varsity veterans and a new crop of freshmen hungry to win.
"I've been waiting for these guys," Zabel said.
It's easy to see why.
On Saturday, freshmen Dakota McCarty, Mitchell Vedepo, Mitchell Doolin and Jake Magee won matches for the Tigers, helping the team place sixth at the Carl Ramunno Invitational in Steamboat Springs.
Another talented freshman -- 152-pounder Coy Letlow -- sat out the tournament with an injury.
"This year, we are kind of growing," Doolin said.
"We will be better than in years before," Vedepo added.
Zabel replaced former assistant coach Leif Jacobsen, who moved to Alaska, with middle school wrestling coach Dallas Robinson. Zabel thinks the coaching continuity will help the younger wrestlers.
"Dallas taught us how to work hard," Doolin said.
In the freshmen's first varsity tournament, Doolin placed second at 130 pounds, Vedepo placed second at 103 pounds and Magee finished fourth at 145 pounds. Vedepo is a 112-pounder, but there was no 112-pound bracket in Saturday's tournament.
"I was disappointed," Vedepo said about his finish.
Junior Dustin Jones placed third at 125 pounds. Chris DeBowes was third at 135 pounds, Isaac Haskins was third at 160 pounds and David Blair was fourth at 140 pounds.
Haskins and Tim Taylor, who also sat out with an injury, are the only seniors on the team.
The departure of state-qualifier Robert Culver, who moved to Olathe after football season, leaves a hole at Hayden's upper weights, but the Tigers are crowded at their lower ones.
McCarty and Zed Wheelock are listed at 103 pounds. Jeff Dunn and Matt Holden are Hayden's 119-pound wrestlers. Doolin and Tyler Manzanares are listed as 130-pounders, and DeBowes and Zathan Bark are 135 pounds. Magee and Ray Curtis are 145 pounds.
Up next for Hayden is a home meet against Moffat County's junior varsity squad at 6 p.m. Thursday at Hayden High School.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
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