Coy Letlow, right, practices with his wrestling teammates at Hayden High School on Tuesday. The Tigers will open their season this Saturday at the Middle Park Invitational.

Photo by Brian Ray

Coy Letlow, right, practices with his wrestling teammates at Hayden High School on Tuesday. The Tigers will open their season this Saturday at the Middle Park Invitational.

From the field to the mats

Hayden High School wrestling returns sizable, determined squad

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Hayden High School wrestling schedule

9 a.m. Dec. 1 at Middle Park Invitational

5 p.m. Dec. 4 dual vs. Moffat County (tentative)

9 a.m. Dec. 8 at Soroco Invitational

6 p.m. Dec. 14 tri vs. Soroco/Rangely

9 a.m. Dec. 15 at West Grand Invitational

6 p.m. Jan. 4 dual at Paonia

9 a.m. Jan. 5 at Paonia Invitational

Time TBA Jan. 11 and 12 Uintah Tournament

9 a.m. Jan. 19 Western Slope League Tournament at Grand Valley

9 a.m. Jan. 24 dual at Meeker

9 a.m. Jan 26 at Rangely Invitational

9 a.m. Feb. 2 tri vs. Soroco/Steamboat, dual vs. Grand Valley

9 a.m. Feb. 9 Eaton Tournament

Time TBA Feb. 15 and 16 Regional Tournament at TBA

Time TBA Feb. 21 to 23 State Tournament at Denver

— One would think the Hayden High School wrestling team would have no trouble making the seasonal transition from football.

Nearly the entire Tigers wrestling team suited up for the football season that recently ended with Hayden's Nov. 17 Class 1A semifinal loss to state champion Akron.

But Hayden coach Ty Zabel finds it hard to compare the two.

"It's two different kinds of shape," Zabel said. "The cardio is there, but the (wrestling) endurance is absolutely intense. It's that quick burst control, and it's nonstop."

"It's all out for six minutes," Hayden junior Jake Magee said.

What Zabel called "13 weeks of championship football" also has taken a physical toll on the Tigers wrestling ranks.

From concussions to broken ribs to fractured limbs, many of Hayden's top wrestlers won't be ready to hit the mats when the Tigers open their season Saturday at the Middle Park Invitational in Granby. But even with a few recovering from injuries when the Tigers returned for their second practice of the year Tuesday, assistant coach Ty Camilletti already was running the county's largest high school wrestling team through an intense series of drills.

Zabel and assistants Camilletti and Dallas Robinson have coached much of this group - 18 of a projected 21 student-athletes participated at Tuesday's practice - since middle school, creating what Zabel called, " a continuity that allows us all to be on the same page."

Still, Zabel and his veteran upperclassmen understand the challenge ahead as they face one of the toughest regions in the state.

Zabel points to the 2007 All-Colorado list tacked to the door of the wrestling room. Four highlighted names of wrestlers on the team assembled from every classification were from the Western Slope, and eight of the 14 wrestlers on the Class 2A first team were from the Western Slope.

"Five of the top six teams at state were from our region, and last year was our best finish at regionals in a while," Magee said. "We got sixth or seventh. This year should be better."

Magee, Coy Letlow and Mitch Doolin return as juniors and as Hayden's three state qualifiers from last season to a team that graduated no wrestlers. Doolin advanced the furthest in the state tournament - as far as the 140-pound class semifinals - to earn sixth place.

While a lot of the team's new faces will be competing for spots in the deepest 140 to 160 pound range, Letlow, senior Russell Waugh, sophomore Tucker Vestal and freshman Treyben Letlow will help fill the upper weight classes. Still, Zabel foresees a few empty weight classes but doesn't think he'll have a clear idea of the team's true makeup until the Dec. 15 West Grand Invitational preceding the holiday break.

"My expectations are high - particularly for some of our individuals that are ready to go," said Zabel, who added he won't be surprised to see a few of the Tigers' select grapplers in title contention when regionals and state roll around.

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