Last year, when the Steamboat Springs wrestling team traveled to Rifle for a dual, it took all of 10 minutes before the Sailors were defeated and back on the bus.
Steamboat coach Jay Muhme told the team that wasn't happening again this year. The Bears still beat the Sailors, 64-9, but Steamboat didn't roll over on its back Thursday.
"Everyone wrestled hard," Muhme said. "I've told them it isn't about winning or losing a match. It's about what they are gaining."
And Thursday, Houston Mader took two steps toward a possible state berth as a freshman at 125 pounds, defeating Rifle's Brandon Bulhman and Battle Mountain's Julian Quintana in a triangular hosted by the Sailors.
Regional seedings are based on head-to-head results between regional opponents, so Mader is searching for every win he can get against regional foes in the coming weeks.
Mader defeated Bulhman, 5-1, and Quintana, 5-0, dominating both wrestlers on top.
"Once I get on a roll, I do very well," Mader said. "I have high expectations from everyone."
The Sailors have more wrestlers this season, particularly at their middleweights, forcing teammates to beat one another in practice for certain weight slots. Competition forces improvement, and Muhme said that's exactly what he's seeing from his pack of 130- to 140-pounders.
Mader was the only Steamboat wrestler to pick up match victories Thursday, but sophomore Alex Centner (215 pounds) won an exhibition against Battle Mountain's Billy Shue, and freshman Luke Rummel defeated the Huskies' Sergio Sandoval at 152 pounds. Rummel weighs 135 pounds.
Steamboat heavyweight Josh Tremellen received two byes.
Muhme said Rummel wanted to know whom he wrestled, but Muhme wouldn't tell the young athlete because it would have changed the outcome. Instead, Rummel nearly pinned Sandoval three times, despite giving away nearly a foot in height and nearly 20 pounds in muscle.
Freshman Ben DeLine is another aggressive young wrestler the veteran Steamboat coach is bringing along.
"(The freshmen) don't know how tough they are," Muhme said. "They are there. That's the nice thing. It's all mental with them."
A.J. Carmack and Andy Morell are in the mix, as well.
In the final weeks of the regular season, the Sailors will work on consistency on the mats. Muhme said it isn't uncommon for a Steamboat wrestler to lose a match at a tournament, get angry, come back and win the second, then lose some intensity in the third.
The Sailors, as a whole, need to stay aggressive, intense and focused for the duration of duals and tournaments, and they may be impressed with the results.
Steamboat has a week off before taking on Moffat County and Eagle Valley in a triangular in Gypsum. The Bulldogs and Devils are regional opponents, so Steamboat will be jockeying to improve seeds next week, as well.
Regionals are Feb. 4 and 5 in Montrose. The top four placers at regionals advance to this year's state tournament Feb. 10 to 12 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. The state wrestling tournament was moved up on the calendar this year to accommodate the NBA All-Star Weekend being hosted by the Denver Nuggets and the Pepsi Center the next weekend.