Steamboat's Mader returns to podium


— Relieved and revived, Steamboat Springs wrestler Houston Mader is back on track.

The 140-pound senior with state title aspirations picked up his first tournament win in almost a month, and in the process got a look at several wrestlers he'll see at the regional tournament Feb. 15 and 16.

"It got me back into it - at least into the right mindset," said Mader, admitting that his struggles the past couple of weeks had left him a little frustrated. "I needed it. I started to get bummed. But this will definitely keep me working hard."

After dispatching Bear Creek's Ben Dennis, Summit's Sam Netherton and Chatfield's Adeline Gray, Mader beat Golden's Wes Okonzak, 6-4, in the finals.

At regionals, Mader is likely to face Dennis and Okonzak.

"This was a positive momentum tournament for us. We kind of needed it," Steamboat coach Sean McCarthy said. "I guess it would be fair to say Houston was focused. He knew he'd have a look at regional opponents he hasn't faced."

Mader (22-4) credited his recent work with the Hayden High School wrestling team for part of his success. With Steamboat's other wrestler, Derek Morris, out because of a broken hand, Mader has practiced several times with Hayden to stay sharp.

"It felt good. It boosted my confidence," Mader said. "I had to get a win."

Steamboat now prepares for the Valley Tournament on Saturday. McCarthy said Morris may be ready for the tournament, but a more realistic scenario would have the sophomore returning Feb. 2 at the Routt County Showdown. Although Mader isn't likely to see any regional opponents at the Valley Tournament, he knows the competition will be akin to the state tournament. With Saturday's win, Mader's confident he'll peak at the right time.

"It was good. It's been awhile," Mader said. "It felt like I needed it. It felt like I was getting out of it."


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