Soroco junior Lauryn Bruggink faces off against freshman Colton Martindale on Friday as the Rams go through their final practice before the start of the regular season. Bruggink won twice at state a year and set her eyes on a 103-pound state championship this season.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Soroco junior Lauryn Bruggink faces off against freshman Colton Martindale on Friday as the Rams go through their final practice before the start of the regular season. Bruggink won twice at state a year and set her eyes on a 103-pound state championship this season.

Soroco wrestlers eye state tournament

Bruggink returns for 3rd stab at medal

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— Coach Jay Whaley said the atmosphere has been fun, but Friday night, the feeling coursing through the Soroco High School wrestling team was exhaustion.

The Rams threw their hands above their heads and breathed deeply after capping off their final workout before the regular seasons starts at 9 a.m. today at a large tournament at Middle Park.

Whaley and the Rams enter that contest and this season hoping the fun and the exhaustion can pay off. The squad, minus two not-returning members who would have figured in as a couple of the best, has ambitious plans that include four representatives at this year’s state tournament.

“I’ll say this,” Whaley said, surveying the room as the nine Rams out for the team sweated through drills. “This is the hardest working group I’ve ever had. It’s easy to work hard for these guys when they’re working hard for you.”

Soroco qualified two wrestlers to last year’s state tournament. Only junior Lauryn Bruggink returns, however, after David Strait, who qualified at 140, and his brother Ben, who was stopped at the regional tournament, didn’t return.

Bruggink, though, leads a team as varied in weight and loaded with talent as the Rams have fielded in Whaley’s tenure.

Bruggink lit up headlines across the state a year ago when she became the first girl to win a match at the state tournament. She won two, in fact, but fell short of her goal of medaling.

This year, still at 103 pounds, she’s responding to that disappointment by raising her expectations even further, to a state championship.

“That’s the goal. I have to keep working hard and keep my head where it needs to be and not get frustrated when I do something wrong,” Bruggink said. “I know what can be because I’ve seen it. Wrestling at state is a lot different, even than going as a kid and watching.”

Whaley said she could be joined in that quest for state glory by three teammates.

One of the most exciting to him so far this season has been sophomore Josh Baker, who came up just short of the state tournament last year, finishing fifth at regionals.

Baker is up to 140 pounds and has begun to figure things out on the mat.

“He’s really stepped up as a leader of the group,” Whaley said. “He’s turned a corner.”

Junior Richard Gonzales also could be in for a big year. He was fifth at regionals last year at 160 pounds, a weight class above where he weighed in.

Now filling that 160 pounds, he’s eager for a chance.

“I’m a lot stronger this year,” Gonzales said. “I want to work harder than last year. I want to make it to state. That would mean everything. It’d be the happiest day of my life.”

Soroco also returns a veteran wrestler eager for a postseason run in Tristan Palyo, at 145. Colton Martindale at 112, Dillon Koler at 119, Dalton McClung and Jaden Baker at 152 and Cody Constine at 171 will be tackling varsity wrestling for the first time.

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