Soroco's Joel Schlegal spent last year watching wrestling, injured and unable to compete. This year, he will be part of the 2005 Colorado State Wrestling Championship field after winning the Region 1 tournament at 103 pounds Saturday.
But he won't be heading to the Pepsi Center alone.
Joining Schlegal will be teammates Matt Iacovetto (152 pounds) and Levi Gonzales (112), as well as Hayden wrestlers Robert Culver (215) and Randy Muhme (275).
Soroco's Shaye Bruggink narrowly missed out, placing fifth at 160 pounds. No wrestler from Steamboat Springs advanced in Class 4A, though Houston Mader (125) and Ben DeLine (135) picked up wins and valuable experience this season.
Schlegal wasn't the top seed heading into the regional tournament, but he was the champion as the team drove away from Palisade High School. His regional championship should help him garner a favorable seed heading into Thursday's opening round.
Although Iacovetto, Culver and Muhme were expected to advance to the state tournament after successful regular seasons and high regional seeds, Gonzales was a slight surprise.
Rams coach Doug Gates said Gonzales had the potential to be a state qualifier as a freshman, but he would have to wrestle well to advance. He accepted the challenge during the weekend.
Gonzales placed fourth at 112. Iacovetto and Muhme were third at 152 and 275, respectively, and Culver was runner-up at 215. He lost to Dolores' Orin Hainey in the championship match. Hainey is the state's top-ranked wrestler at 215. Muhme lost to Paonia's Chris Kennedy in the semifinals but came back to pin Dolores' Don Powell in the third period.
Paonia won the Region 1 team title. Soroco placed seventh, and Hayden was 10th. The team race between Paonia, Meeker, Rocky Ford and Merino will be an interesting storyline to follow next weekend, as well.
The 2005 Colorado State Wrestling Championships run Thursday to Saturday at the Pepsi Center in Denver, and tickets are available.