Soroco High School senior Levi Gonzales, left, and Justin Iacovetto spar in the high school's weight room last week during practice. Gonzales is working hard this season with hopes of returning to the state high school championships at Denver's Pepsi Center and for another shot at winning a state title.

Photo by John F. Russell

Soroco High School senior Levi Gonzales, left, and Justin Iacovetto spar in the high school's weight room last week during practice. Gonzales is working hard this season with hopes of returning to the state high school championships at Denver's Pepsi Center and for another shot at winning a state title.

Soroco wrestlers start season with sights set on return to state

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Wrestling

Soroco High School 2007-08 season

8 a.m. Dec. 1 Steamboat Springs Carl Ramunno Invitational

8 a.m. Dec. 8 Soroco Tournament

Time TBA Dec. 14 Hayden Tri (with Rangely)

9 a.m. Dec. 15 West Grand Tournament

Time TBA Jan. 5 Paonia Tournament

Time TBA Jan. 12 Wiggins Tournament

Time TBA Jan. 19 Western Slope League Tournament at Grand Valley

Time TBA Jan. 26 Rangely Tournament

Time TBA Feb. 2 Routt County Tri

Time TBA 15-16 Regionals at TBA

Time TBA Feb. 21 to 23 State at Denver

— It's not the Denver Nuggets' inconsistent play that makes Soroco senior Levi Gonzales cringe. It's the tough memory of a shared venue.

Once a year, the state's top wrestlers from every high school classification converge at the CHSAA State Wrestling Tournament under the lights of Denver's Pepsi Center. A first-round loss to Burlington's Cameron Penny last February at state put Gonzales in a consolation bracket. He wasn't able to make it out of the bracket and onto the Class 2A podium.

As the Soroco Rams grapplers began going through the moves and getting the toughest conditioning days out of the way, the memory has stuck with Gonzales.

"I remember being at state every time I see a Nuggets game, and now I'm just trying to get in shape and trying to get back there," Gonzales said.

The memory has just as much of an impact on Soroco junior Justin Iacovetto.

"All summer, I was thinking about not winning at state and not taking advantage," said Iacovetto, who entered the tournament undefeated as Class 2A's No. 1-ranked 103-pound wrestler.

Iacovetto still can see the moves Rocky Ford's David Garcia, the state's No. 2-ranked 103-pounder, used to defeat him in the Feb. 16 semifinals. The loss knocked Iacovetto out of title contention.

"That was my worst match of the year - it scarred my mind," Iacovetto said.

So, with these painful memories in mind, Iacovetto and Gonzales hit the mats determined to return to the big lights of the Pepsi Center.

"It can be hard to just look at every meet," Iacovetto said of the challenge of maintaining short-term season goals. "It's just about getting a feel for it again, starting hard in the beginning and about enjoying practices this early."

"It's about helping the younger guys too, and getting them better," Gonzales added.

Soroco wrestling coach Doug Gates was pleased to see two of those young guys - freshman twins Ben and David Strait, likely to be wrestling at 135 to 140 pounds - going through some basic moves at Tuesday afternoon's practice.

Gates said freshmen, who will comprise half of the school's eight-member team, will help fill the mats but may not help fill weight classes at dual meets. The underclassmen may overlap with the lighter 112-pound and 119-pound weight classes that Iacovetto and Gonzales, respectively, likely will wrestle in.

"I wish we had a roomful, but past about 140 (pounds), we're vacant to 215 (pounds)," Gates said.

Rounding out the Rams' handful of impressive returning wrestlers is senior Dennis Morgan, likely to wrestle at 215. Morgan took fourth place in the 189-pound class last year at state, losing in double-overtime to Limon's Drew Clay. Gates said he hoped to have Morgan, who still is recovering from a knee injury, back by the second week of the season.

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