Wrestling season heats up for local squads

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— Mitch Doolin and a handful of Routt County wrestlers fought hard but fell short of medals against a talented field last weekend at the Tournament of Champions in Vernal, Utah.

Doolin, a 145-pound wrestler for Hayden High School, went 5-2 en route to a fourth-place finish at one of the most respected tournaments in the region. Doolin defeated Jesse Talon and Adam Cole in the opening rounds of the double-elimination tournament before falling to Brighton's Jonathan Gappmair in the third round. Doolin rebounded by topping Northridge wrestler Kevin Marston, Meeker's Josh Prescott and Central's Alex Escalante in the consolation brackets. He lost his final match of the two-day tournament to Rock Springs' Rodney Dollar, but not before earning his place as Routt County's top wrestler in the 33-team Tournament of Champions.

Hayden wrestlers Coy Letlow and Jake Magee also won opening matches but were unable to advance in the brackets. Scott Armbruster, Zed Wheelock, Mitch VeDepo, Zathan Bark and Treyben Letlow also attended the tournament.

In addition to the Tigers, three members of Steamboat Springs High School's wrestling program also competed in Vernal.

Houston Mader highlighted the weekend for the Sailors. He won his opening match at 135 pounds against Delta's Kade Dalton. But Mader lost a heartbreaking contest to Rangely's Travis Witherell, dropping him into the consolation bracket. The Steamboat wrestler defeated independent wrestlers Cory Wilson and Jarrad Watts before falling to Green River's Scott Verner in the consolation bracket.

"Houston had hoped to place, so this was a little disappointing for him," Sailor's coach Sean McCarthy said. "But hopefully he will learn from the experience and become a better wrestler because of it."

The bad news for the Sailors is that Derek Morris will miss the next two weeks of the season, after breaking a bone in his hand during a first-round loss in the 130-pound bracket. It's a huge loss for a team that has only three members, and just two veterans, currently in the weight room.

McCarthy said he hopes Morris will be able to make it back to the mat in time for the final stretch of the season, but that will depend on how quickly he can recover from the injury. McCarthy said the team got a boost from David Prater, Steamboat's only other wrestler, who showed a lot of heart in the 112-pound bracket, but didn't have the experience to pick up a victory.

"This was a great test for David, but he just needs to gain some more experience to be successful at a tournament like this," McCarthy said. "This was a huge tournament, with a lot of talented wresters."

Soroco High School did not participate in the Vernal tournament. Head coach Doug Gates instead elected to take his team to the Wiggins Invitational on the Eastern Plains and was rewarded with two individual tournament champions. Soroco finished fifth in the seven-team tournament, which was won by host Wiggins.

Soroco's Levi Gonzales (21-1) won the tournament title at 119 pounds. Dennis Morgan topped the 189-pound bracket despite battling several key injuries. Freshman David Strait, at 135 pounds, and first-year wrestler Sean Price picked up fourth-place finishes. Soroco standout Justin Iacovetto missed the tournament because of illness. He is expected back in time for next weekend's league tournament at Grand Valley High School.

Hayden and Soroco are both expected to attend that tournament, while Steamboat is expected to travel to Conifer.

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