Oak Creek Hayden wrestling coach Ty Zabel was happy to travel to Oak Creek on Saturday and give his wrestlers a final chance to hone their moves before the big one.
"I'm glad we could come over and get several matches in to give a good little finish to the (regular) season," Zabel said.
And he wasn't talking about Hayden's annual wrestling fundraiser - one that had 18 teams of students grappling Saturday night in a pit full of 60 gallons of Jell-O.
He was talking about the Class 2A regional tournament Friday and Saturday at Grand Junction High School. To advance to the state wrestling tournament Feb. 15 to 17 in Denver, Hayden and Soroco wrestlers know they'll have to finish in the top four of a talented mix of wrestlers from the 13 teams in the Western Region.
Saturday's match was intended to be a "Routt County Showdown" tri-match between the two schools and Steamboat Springs. But Steamboat did not attend, so the match turned into a cross-county dual with a few familiar match-ups.
The Soroco and Hayden wrestlers have seen quite a bit of one another this season, including recent pairings at the league tournament and the Rangely Invitational. Still, Saturday's dual featured match-ups that likely could determine who will advance to state and who won't.
"It's going to be me and Caleb (Mitchell) for who goes to state," Hayden's Jake Magee said about the fight for the final spots in the 160-pound class.
In their Saturday match, Mitchell came out strong with a swift takedown of Magee.
"He takes me down early every time," Magee said. "He makes it seem close, but then he gets there and it's like he doesn't know what to do, and I'm more comfortable on the bottom."
Magee won by pin in 47 seconds.
"I went too high, he got over my shoulders and rolled me over my head," Mitchell said.
Hayden won the dual, 35-21.
Magee's win, along with victories from Mitch Doolin (140-pound class), Zathan Bark (145) and Chris DeBowes (152), helped Hayden to the team win.
Soroco had to forfeit only two weight classes compared to the six it gave up in its last meeting. Three of Soroco's top four wrestlers - Levi Gonzales, Joel Schlegel and Dennis Morgan - all won their matches by pin. The fourth, Justin Iacovetto, wrestled up in the 112-pound class and defeated Zed Wheelock, 5-1.
"I got frustrated with how he wrestles and plays the edge of the mat," said Iacovetto, who is the state's No. 1-ranked, 103-pound wrestler in 2A (according to On The Mat Rankings). Schlegel is ranked third (130s), and Morgan is ranked second (189s).
Soroco's team earned the No. 10-ranked position in the state behind the strength of that threesome and a recent string of wins from Gonzales, who Soroco coach Doug Gates said is now ranked No. 10 for 125-pounders.
"Everybody's looking good, we just have to get them healthy and get them going," Gates said, pointing to a Gonzales elbow injury and a Morgan rib injury.
"State felt so far away at the beginning of the season," Iacovetto said. "Now it's 12 days away. We know all the moves, it's just about getting in extra shape and getting aggressive working on few key things."