The Steamboat Springs High School wrestling team opens its season at home Friday, and if coach Sean McCarthy has his way, the Sailors wrestlers will not leave the mats until the state championships in February.
"As the head coach, my end all goal is to have my wrestlers get to state, and then do something when they get there," McCarthy said.
The new coach thinks returning wrestlers Houston Mader, Ben DeLine, Joey Melius, Andy Morrell and AJ Carmack have realistic chances of making it to the Colorado State High School Wrestling Championships in Denver. He also thinks they have a legitimate chance of placing when they get there. Steamboat hasn't sent a wrestler to the state tournament since 2001, when Will Zimmerer wrestled in the heavyweight division.
The quest to reach the team's end-of-season goals begins Friday night with a 6 p.m. dual meet against Rangely at Steamboat Springs High School.
The team returns to the mats at 8 a.m. Saturday for the Carl Ramunno Invitational, which will draw nine teams from across the state to the Steamboat Springs High School gym for an all-day tournament.
"The tournament is a good starting point for the season, but the dual is a chance for our wrestlers to get their feet wet against a guy that they might face the next day," McCarthy said.
Historically, Rangely has brought strong teams to Steam--boat for the opening matches. McCarthy expects the same this season. He said the teams should match up well in terms of weight classes, and he expects most of his wrestlers to participate in Friday's meet.
McCarthy is following in the footsteps of former Sailors coach Jay Muhme, who resigned during the offseason. McCarthy is pleased to have 16 wrestlers this season, and he expects a lot from the young but talented group.
The team is struggling to fill the 103-, 112- and 215-pound weight classes, but it will have a number of wrestlers competing for spots in the middle weight classes.
McCarthy said Brent Becker will open the season in the 119-pound division, and Beau Becker will fill the 125-pound slot. Andy Morrell is the team's only senior and is expected to make a run for a state berth at 135 pounds.
Steamboat will be strong in the 140-pound class, in which Houston Mader returns to the team, and in the 145-pound class with veteran AJ Carmack.
Luke Rummel will wrestler at 152 pounds, and Ben DeLine will see what he can do at 160 pounds. Tyler Harris, a new student from Nevada, will step in at 171 pounds, and Joey Melius is expected to be competitive at 189 pounds. Alex Centner will step into the heavyweight slot, but McCarthy said he might drop to the 215-pound class.
McCarthy said the team will spend less time on general conditioning this season and more time on getting in wrestling shape. That means spending more time on the mats in practice and performing specific exercises that will enhance athletes' performance during matches.
"In the past, we've had guys that could run for hours, but they couldn't keep up physically when they got on the mat," McCarthy said.
The team is focused on the fundamentals of wrestling. Wrestlers will reduce the number of moves they learn and concentrate on perfecting a few key ones, McCarthy said.
"Why teach a guy a bunch of different moves that he may or may not have the confidence to use on the mat?" McCarthy said. "I would rather work on a few, and make sure our guys are very confident with them."
Although the first weekend will be important in terms of setting a tone for this year's team, many of the team's top wrestlers were playing football through last week.
McCarthy said those guys should be in good shape, but it might take a few days for them to catch up with their teammates on the wrestling mats.
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