The Hayden High School wrestling room has undergone a transformation with the addition of talented freshmen and assistant coach Dallas Robinson.
"It's been a lot more intense," sophomore Zed Wheelock said.
But that won't guarantee results during this weekend's Class 2A Region 1 meet at Fruita-Monument High School.
The Tigers arguably are in the best region in Class 2A, and only four wrestlers from each weight class advance to the 2006 Colorado State Wrestling Championships in Denver.
"I tell you, we will leave a lot of kids at home from our region that would medal at state," Hayden coach Ty Zabel said.
Hayden is in Region 1 with Dolores, Dove Creek, Grand Valley, Mancos, Meeker, North Park, Norwood, Nucla, Paonia, Rangely, Soroco and West Grand.
"We will have to wrestle tough," Zabel said. "We have to win some key matches."
The official seedings for the two-day regional tournament won't be announced until after a coaches meeting Friday morning, but Zabel knows where his wrestlers are ranked in the region.
The coaches from the 13 Region 1 schools will be lobbying to move their athletes into the top four seeds.
"Tonight is the night I stay up until 1 a.m. and go through the list to see where we are head to head and take that ammunition into the seeding meeting," Zabel said.
Freshman Coy Letlow is ranked third at 160 pounds, the highest of any Hayden wrestler, but there is no guarantee Letlow will be seeded third or finish third at regionals. Every weight class, particularly the lower and middle weights, is loaded.
"There are two or three kids at every weight that have been to state, if not medaled at state," Zabel said.
Isaac Haskins is back from an injury and ranked fourth at 152 pounds. Wheelock and Mitchell Vedepo are ranked fifth at 103 and 112 pounds, respectively. Tim Taylor, who has wrestled only 15 matches this season because of a knee injury, is ranked sixth at 171 pounds.
"He's going with parental and doctor permission," Zabel said. "It's his senior year."
Aaron Haskins is ranked sixth at 189 pounds.
Mitchell Doolin is ranked seventh at 125 pounds.
"Your freshman year is tough enough as it is," Zabel said. "Mitchell is probably walking into as tough a weight class as there is."
Chris DeBowes (135) and Jake Magee (140) are ranked eighth, and David Blair (145) is ninth. Tyler Manzanares (130) is not ranked.
"A lot of us have to upset a lot of people," Wheelock said.
Wheelock is one wrestler who hopes to move up after the seeding meeting. He finished second at the Western Slope League tournament, which featured many of the wrestlers who will compete at 103 pounds Friday at the regional tournament.
One of those is Soroco's Justin Iacovetto, who defeated Wheelock in the league tournament and during the annual Routt County Triangular held Saturday at Hayden High School.
West Grand brought three wrestlers to the meet typically featuring only Hayden, Soroco and Steamboat athletes.
Saturday's meet was the regular season finale for all four schools and was more a chance to compete than it was about winning and scoring team points.
At this point in the season, the wrestlers are in shape, though the Tigers conditioned hard through last week.
"We've played games like floor hockey," Wheelock said. "We've got to keep moving. If you don't, you have to run halls."
Wheelock picked up a win at Saturday's meet, as did Vedepo, Doolin and Letlow.
Iacovetto, Joel Schlegel (112) and Levi Gonzales (119) won matches for Soroco. Steamboat's Houston Mader (130), Andy Morell (135) and Luke Rummel (140) picked up wins for the Sailors. Most of Steamboat's wrestlers sat out resting injuries.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org