Steamboat Springs Hayden wrestling coach Ty Zabel had only three words to describe the competition at Saturday's Paonia State Bank Screaming Eagle Tournament: tough, tough and tough.
"Almost everybody in our region was there," Zabel said. "It's like a mini-regionals. We were only missing four schools."
Missing from the competition were Nucla, Rangely, Meeker and Mancos.
Soroco coach Jay Whaley also noted how stiff the tournament brackets were.
"It was a good tournament," Whaley said. "Five of the top-10 ranked teams in Class 2A are in our region. In every weight, there was a kid that was ranked No. 4 or up (according to statewide On the Mat rankings). There were even a bunch of No. 1 versus No. 2 matchups in several weights."
Among the field of 15 teams, the Routt County wrestlers had respectable showings. Hayden's team won sixth place overall, and Soroco took seventh. Dove Creek won the tournament, followed by Paonia in second, Dolores in third, Grand Valley in fourth and Norwood in fifth.
Of the 10 weight classes they wrestled in, Hayden placed three wresters in the top four places. Zed Wheelock took fourth in the 112-pound class, Mitch Doolin took third in the 135-pound class, and Coy Letlow took third in the 171-pound class.
"Even in some of their losses, I feel good about taking them into regionals," Zabel said of his top-finishing wrestlers. "They got caught (in the final matches), but they know what it's about and are ready to get after it."
Zabel said many of his other wrestlers were able to win several matches in their respective weight brackets, and they won by pinning their opponents, which gave Hayden valuable team points.
"All of them were key matches," Zabel said. "It's the road to regionals in each weight. These are the guys we're going to have to beat to get to state, and now we know exactly what we want to do to get there."
Hayden heads to the 27-team Tournament of Champions on Friday and Saturday in Vernal, Utah.
Although Soroco could not match Hayden's team score, the Rams had three impressive individual finishes.
Justin Iacovetto pinned all the way through his bracket to win the 103-pound class. Currently ranked No. 1 for Class 2A 103-pounders, Iacovetto pinned No. 6-ranked Chris Curtice from Paonia for the win.
"(Iacovetto's) just a tough kid," Whaley said. "He hasn't gone a full match (winning all his matches in pins) since he dropped down to 103s" after the Dec. 9 Sargent tournament.
Dennis Morgan also won three matches in a row by pinning to win the 189-pound class, taking only 1 minute and 16 seconds to beat Cedaredge's Nick Miller in the championship match. The win moved Morgan's ranking up to No. 3 in his class.
Joel Schlegel lost 7-2 to No. 2-ranked Drake Smith of Dolores in the championship match of the 130-pound class. Schlegel now ranks fifth statewide.
Whaley echoed Zabel's tone of the tournament's indications.
"Now they know how they'll have to wrestle to get to state," Whaley said.
Soroco wrestles Saturday at Wiggins.
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