Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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The winter sports season is upon us, and every local team, at this juncture, thinks it has a chance to be good. Here is one player from each high school team who will have a huge impact on whether his or her team is successful.
Steamboat boys basketball - Isiah Forsyth
Forsyth will run the offense for the Sailors. He got a taste of varsity basketball last year and through the summer. If the sophomore can handle the offense, Steamboat again could battle for a Western Slope League crown.
Steamboat girls basketball - Brittany Long
The three-year starter has all the experience necessary to push the Sailors girls into the upper echelon of the league. Her ability to handle pressure at the point and run the offense will be instrumental to Steamboat's success.
Steamboat hockey - Matt Dawes
The junior goaltender led the Sailors last year in wins. Although there are several returning starters, Steamboat will rely heavily on a young contingent of talent. With that young talent will come mistakes. Dawes has the ability to erase those mistakes and make Steamboat a viable playoff contender.
Steamboat wrestling - Derek Morris
Morris has a ton of talent but has struggled to stay healthy the past two years. If Morris can maintain his health, he could dominate the 152-pound weight class and find himself in line to place at the state tournament.
Steamboat Alpine - Hanna Berglund
Berglund also will play girls basketball but has a legitimate shot at a state title in slalom. She finished fifth last year at Howelsen and is primed for another big season.
Steamboat Nordic - Mary Rose
Rose finished ninth on the second day of the state championships last year. With a lot of top skiers lost to graduation, Rose has an opportunity to win a state championship.
Hayden boys basketball - Graig Medvesk
It took Medvesk a little while to get used to the speed of varsity basketball last year, but the sophomore has the skills to run the Tigers' offense. If Medvesk can find his shot and run the team, Hayden will find itself right in the middle of fighting for a playoff spot.
Hayden girls basketball - Kylee Sweetser
If Sweetser shoots well, Hayden usually wins. Her perimeter offensive game usually opens the inside for the Tigers' tough post players. If Sweetser can stay consistent throughout the year, Hayden has a chance to win the league.
Hayden wrestling - Mitch Doolin
Doolin is primed for a run at a state championship. He was close last year and will probably start in the top three of the rankings at his weight class. If Doolin - a natural leader - can have a good season, his teammates should follow suit.
Soroco boys basketball - Alex Estes
Estes has all the athletic potential. If he is efficient at running the point for the Rams, Soroco could be in for a huge season. It should be interesting to see whether Estes has recovered from a broken leg in football. If he has, he's instantly one of the best athletes in the league.
Soroco girls basketball - Sarajane Rossi
Rossi will be expected to lead a relatively young group of girls this year. The senior has a wealth of experience and an ability to take over games. If she can do this while gelling with the youthfulness sprinkled throughout the rest of the roster, the Rams will have a good season.
Soroco wrestling - David Strait
The sophomore showed he has the ability to make it to state. With a smaller-than-usual team, Strait might be the Soroco wrestler with the best chance to make noise at the state championships.