Soroco's Shaye Bruggink placed fourth, and Joel Schlegal and Matt Iacovetto placed fifth in the tough Leadville Tournament on Saturday.
The tournament consisted of 18 quality teams from a variety of classifications, giving the Rams a little exposure to an intense, tough environment two weeks before regionals take place in Grand Junction.
Bruggink placed fourth at 160 pounds, taking over a weight class vacated by Whit Gates, who will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery Thursday in Steamboat Springs. Bruggink had been wrestling at weight classes up to 171 pounds and took advantage of his chance to wrestle closer to his actual weight.
"Shaye wrestled probably the best of any of our kids," Rams coach Doug Gates said. "He kind of woke up. We can see the maturity in him, and we're excited about that."
Schlegal competed well at 103 pounds, getting to the tournament semifinals before falling to the top-ranked wrestler in Class 4A from Eagle Valley. Schlegal took the Eagle Valley wrestler to three periods. It was just the third time this season the Devils wrestler had to go to a third period. Schlegal then fell in the consolations by one point to a wrestler from Gunnison, a Class 3A team.
"He did wrestle well," Gates said. "But we felt like he should have won his consolations."
Iacovetto, on the other hand, could have wrestled better at 152 pounds, Gates said.
"He had the toughest weight there," Gates said. "He lost to a Merino kid that is the defending state champion. There were two state champs and about seven ranked kids, including Matt, between 4A, 3A and 2A (in that weight bracket). He didn't wrestle as well as I've seen him."
Levi Gonzales (112 pounds) and Dennis Morgan (215) also made the trip for Soroco. Neither placed, but both won matches. Morgan has been wrestling with an injury, so Gates is going to rest him this week in preparation for regionals Feb. 4 and 5.
The top four wrestlers from each weight class at regionals advance to the state tournament.
Unfortunately for Soroco and the rest of the state field who enjoyed watching Whit Gates wrestle, his high school career is done. Gates suffered a shoulder injury during the final football game of the season and wasn't able to fully recover.
He got on the mats in Paonia on Jan. 8 and was dominating opponents before reinjuring his shoulder in the championship match at 160 pounds. Doug Gates said his son was determined to get back out and compete, but doctors suggested surgery.
"He tore a tendon that comes over the front of the bone that hooks to the bicep," Doug Gates said. "He's taking it real hard. You work all four years for you senior year. That's what I've told our kids. You can't always look for your senior year."
Soroco's next meet is the Routt County Triangular featuring Soroco, Hayden and Steamboat Springs at 6 p.m. Friday in Steamboat.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org