Hayden wrestling coach Ty Zabel knows that at the state wrestling tournament, anything can happen on any day. But that sentiment also rang true in regional rounds Saturday, the final day of tough competition with berths to the state tournament on the line.
As luck and skill would have it, Hayden's Coy Letlow and Soroco's Dennis Morgan met up in the 189-pound Class 2A regional final in Grand Junction. It was a match that wrestlers and coaches from both Routt County programs knew could go either way.
Letlow emerged on top Saturday, beating Morgan by decision and earning the regional title.
"He's coming around and looking good, so is Mitchel" Doolin, Zabel said.
Doolin, a 145-pound junior, lost his regional final by one point to Meeker's Josh Prescott. Zabel feels confident in the two juniors' chances as both make much-anticipated returns to Denver's Pepsi Center later this week. The state championship tournament is Thursday to Saturday.
"They know exactly what their job is and are ready to go down there," Zabel said.
Hayden freshman Scott Armbruster will join the upperclassmen after knocking off Paonia senior Chris Curtice in the 103-pound class to earn third.
"He wrestled very, very well - he knew he had a chance, rose to the occasion and got 'er done," Zabel said of Armbruster.
Soroco had all three of its returning state qualifiers from last season - Justin Iacovetto, Levi Gonzales and Morgan - earn a coveted top-four spot in the stacked 13-team Western Region Tournament.
Iacovetto continued his determined unbeaten streak, earning a regional title in the 112-pound class with his 23rd victory this season. The Rams junior will be on the opposite side of the state bracket from Wray's Drew Ritchey, the only 2A wrestler that currently ranks higher than him.
Soroco senior Levi Gonzales cut his chances of qualification the closest, finishing fifth in the consolation bracket, but then challenging (and beating) Rangely's Stephan Boleng in a wrestle-back match to earn the 125-pound class' final qualifying spot.
Hayden's Mitchell VeDepo finished fifth at 130 pounds. Zed Wheelock finished sixth at 119 pounds, and Treyben Letlow did the same at 171 pounds.
The Class 2A preliminary state rounds run from 3 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Thursday.
Steamboat hockey earns No. 10 seed
The Steamboat Springs High School hockey team earned the state's No. 10 seed heading into the single-elimination, 16-team bracket that combines the Foothills and the Peak Conference's top teams. The Sailors will face the No. 7 Aspen Skiers at 5:40 p.m. Friday at The Edge Ice Arena in Littleton. Steamboat lost two games to Aspen during the course of the season, 4-1 on Feb. 1 and 4-0 on Dec. 1. If Steamboat wins, it advances to play the winner of No. 2 Regis vs. No. 15 Standley Lake at 8 p.m. Saturday at The Edge. The state semifinals are scheduled for Feb. 28 and March 1, respectively, at The Colorado Springs World Arena.
2A District hoops bracket announced
The Class 2A Western Slope League (District 5) playoff seedings have been announced. The Hayden girls basketball team, at 3-4 in league, earned the county's top seed at No. 5. The Tigers will face the No. 4-ranked Plateau Valley Cowboy Girls at 1 p.m. Saturday in Collbran. The No. 7 Soroco girls will play No. 2 Paonia at 1 p.m. Saturday at Paonia.
On the boy's side, Hayden, at No. 6, also will head to Paonia on Saturday to face the No. 3-ranked Eagles boys team for a 2:30 p.m. game. The No. 8-seeded Soroco boys team will face the top-ranked Grand Valley Cardinals at 2:30 p.m., Saturday in Parachute.
Winners from Saturday's games advance to the boys and girls four-team District 5 tournaments, Feb. 29 to March 1 at Paonia.
Sled dog success
A group of Routt County sled dog racers found success at the recent Mancos Mush, a pair of back-to-back, 30-mile races in the San Juan Mountains on Feb. 9 and 10.
Krista Halsnes, 14, took sixth during the first eight-dog race and fourth at the second to finish sixth overall.
"I think the dogs ran as well as they could," said Halsnes, who thought the dogs may have been tired from racing with her father, Jarle, at a snowy, late January 400-mile International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race, where he took 11th.
Still, only two minutes separated Krista from finishing in the top five of a skilled field of 17 mushers.
"You usually stop the dogs to shake off, rest and gain energy, and when we did that, it was so hot out, they were rolling in the snow," said Halsnes, who is now planning to run some younger puppies and looking ahead to running a 10-dog team next winter.
Oak Creek's Daryl Gruet took 11th overall, and Carol Bloodworth, owner of Red Runner Dog Sled Tours, took 14th.