Steamboat Springs High School wrestlers Martin Farley, right, and Josh Reynolds lock up during practice on Thursday. The team kicks off its season Saturday with a meet at Middle Park.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Springs High School wrestlers Martin Farley, right, and Josh Reynolds lock up during practice on Thursday. The team kicks off its season Saturday with a meet at Middle Park.

Steamboat wrestlers hope to improve fortunes on the mats

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Casey Williams, left, will be one of Steamboat's top returning high school wrestlers. The sophomore was the only Sailor to qualify for the state tournament last season.

SSHS wrestling schedule

Saturday: 9 p.m. vs. Middle Park

Dec. 10: 5 p.m. at Glenwood Springs Triangular

Dec. 18: 9 a.m. at West Grand Invitational

Jan. 8: TBA at Vernal, Utah, Tournament of Champions

Jan. 15: 9 a.m. at Evergreen Invitational

Jan. 29: 5 p.m. at Thin Air Tournament, Estes Park

Feb. 1: 6 p.m. vs. Palisade Triangular

Feb. 3: 5 p.m. Steamboat Triangular vs. Hayden, Soroco

Feb. 11 and 12: TBA at Regionals at Grand Junction

Feb. 17 to 19: TBA at State wrestling at Denver

— Only one member of this winter’s Steamboat Springs High School wrestling team was on the squad two years ago.

That means yet again, the Sailors will be young and fresh to the pressures and challenges of varsity high school competition.

It doesn’t mean the team is in a bad place, however, coach Shane Yeager said. Rather, he said a giant sophomore class has been supplemented by a strong group of freshmen, and the program as a whole will be stronger this year than it has been in the past several years.

“Two years ago, that was a scrapped-together group,” Yeager said. “We have a lot more experience on the team now. We have some leadership starting to show through. These kids, they’re looking real good this year.”

Casey Williams will lead the pack after shining a year ago as a 135-pound freshman.

Williams became the first Sailor to break through reg­ionals to the state wrestling tournament in Yeager’s tenure. He should only be better as a sophomore, potentially wrestling again as low as 135 pounds.

Williams went 0-2 in Denver at state last year, but he said the experience was grand enough to motivate him even a year later.

“It was really cool being down at the Pepsi Center and being in a bracket with really high-quality wrestlers,” he said. “It was tough, though. Most of the kids felt a lot bigger and stronger than me. I have to get better.”

After Williams, Yeager said the Sailors pack skill, if not high school experience.

One big advantage over years past, Yeager said, is that the incoming freshmen aren’t grouped at lower weights. Rookie Cole Sittig, for instance, was a standout wrestler in middle school and is in his fourth season of working with Yeager.

He’ll begin wrestling at 215 pounds.

Dustin Andres, likely at 103, and Keegan Lyons, at 130, also will fill in as freshmen.

“I don’t know how high we’ll place, but this year, we will have placers at some of these tournaments instead of just showing up,” Yeager said. “These kids know what they’re doing. They’ve put in their time. It’s just a matter of making the right decisions in training and the maturity showing up.”

Nathan Parks, meanwhile, is another piece of the sophomore class that will represent the backbone of the team.

A veteran of the 103-pound classification last year, he’s moving up to 112, and like the rest of the team, has big plans.

“I’d love to place at state,” Parks said. “There are a lot more kids out this year. It’s still a younger team than most, but it’s nice to have more of the weights filled up. We just have to come in here, practice hard every single day and not take any days off.”

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