Saturday, February 11, 2006
Don't roll up the mats yet.
For the first time since the 2001-02 season, the Steamboat Springs High School wrestling room will not be empty the week before the state tournament.
Senior Andy Morell was the first Sailor to advance to state by winning a narrow 6-4 match against Conifer's Eric Evans for third place. Four hours later, sophomore Houston Mader joined Morell by winning in double-overtime against Conifer's Travis Stickney to capture fourth place through a wrestle-back.
"I have to start middle school practice next week, but now I have high school practice, too," Steamboat coach Sean McCarthy said. "It's a good problem to have, and I'm just really proud of the guys right now."
Morell and Mader started the day with tough losses in the semifinal championship round. Morell was pinned by champion Jordan Reese of Montrose, and Mader lost during the final seconds to Ralston Valley's Nathan Bretz.
Mader led the semifinal, 1-0, with 30 seconds remaining but he was penalized a point when he threw his opponent down after going out of bounds, and he was called for stalling in the final seconds, which led to a loss.
"Both of those points could have gone either way," McCarthy said.
Mader was visibly frustrated with the match's outcome, but he had to calm down after the match to reach his goal of going to state.
"I really had to regroup because I was so angry," he said. "It took me another match to do that."
Mader lost his next match 8-2 to Montrose's Kyle Avery, last year's second-place finisher at 130 pounds.
After his second loss, Mader came back to defeat Montezuma-Cortez's Jesse John-son, 8-5, for fifth place.
Avery then helped Mader by defeating Stickney to set up a wrestle-back for fourth place. Wrestle-backs occur when the wrestler who finished fourth and fifth didn't face each other during the tournament. The fifth-place finisher can challenge for fourth place.
Morell came right back from his loss to pin Evergreen's Trevor Lenz in the first period.
"Andy is a really good wrestler on top," McCarthy said. "He used his cradle well this tournament."
Morell used his newly acquired skills to win the consolation championship match.
"I've gotten a lot better at hand control," he said. "I felt like (Evans) was beat in the third period, and I took advantage."
The two Sailor wrestlers credited each other with their improvement this year.
"We got at each other every day in the room," Mader said. "It's been good to have someone to compete with."
Mader showed his competitiveness in the wrestle-back, which went into overtime tied, 3-3. Neither wrestler earned a takedown in the first overtime. In the second overtime, the wrestler on the bottom of referee's position is given 30 seconds to try to escape. If he escapes, he wins, if the wrestler on top holds on, he wins.
Mader chose bottom and ex--ploded out at the whistle. He was able to earn the escape with 15 seconds left.
"Three times Houston has had the situation where he had to score in the final seconds this year, and all three times he's done it," McCarthy said. "He's got the heart of a champion."
Mader knew he had to escape to reach his goal of making state.
"It was a matter of who tried the hardest," he said. "There was a lot of tension and I tried harder."
The state tournament starts Thursday at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
-- To reach David Pressgrove, call 824-7301 or e-mail email@example.com