Hayden, Steamboat, Soroco wrestlers ready for regionals

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If you go

What: Regional wrestling tournaments

When: Matches start at 9 a.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday

Where: Hayden and Soroco will go to a Class 2A regional at Palisade High School. Steamboat will compete in Mullen.

What’s at stake: Wrestlers can capture a trip to the state tournament with a top-four finish in their weight brackets.

What: Rulon Gardner speech

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: Steamboat Springs High School auditorium

Cost: Free

Certain expectations come with wrestling in a town with as proud a high school wrestling history as Hayden. That’s something the seniors on this year’s Tigers team are keenly aware of as they prepare for what could be the most important and, as far as they’re concerned, not the last meet of their careers.

“I had an uncle that was a two-timer, my dad placed well at state, and my great-uncle was one of the first wrestlers to take state in Hayden,” senior 152-pounder Koleman Williams rattled off Wednesday afternoon as he prepared for one of the final practices of a wrestling career that started in kindergarten. “This is it. This is the last year, so everything counts this year. This is something people are going to remember.”

Williams and Kolton Miller hope to join what could be a long procession of Tigers making their way next weekend to the Pepsi Center in Denver for the state wrestling meet. First, though, they must fare well in the regional wrestling tournament, which starts Friday at Palisade High School and wraps up Saturday afternoon.

Williams will be looking to earn his second trip to state, and Miller, at 172 pounds, hopes to punch his first ticket.

Wrestlers must place in the top four in their weight class to advance.

“It’d be real nice to go down to state and do well,” Miller said, “but I have to make it through this tournament first. I’m going to need to win a couple of hard matches.”

This year for the Tigers, it’s about more than just winning a few hard matches to creep into the top four. Williams as well as anyone knows how important it is to finish as high as possible in the region. The region’s fourth-place finisher will be matched against a regional champion from another area in the first round of the state tournament.

It’s a formula that sent four Tigers to quick exits at last year’s state tournament, and it’s one this year’s squad hopes to avoid.

As always, the Tigers will be led by the undefeated Treyben Letlow, a junior at 215 pounds. Junior Scott Armbruster, at 125, and sophomores Chad Terry at 119 and Nick Williams at 135, join Koleman Williams in attempting to make return trips to state.

Ty Camilletti, though, said his young team could be in for a big weekend and qualify as many as 10 kids for state.

“We could take our whole team if they all wrestle like they’re capable,” the first-year head coach said. “A couple of kids might have to pull some upsets, but they can do it.

Rams hope to top 2009

The Soroco High School wrestling team is without a senior for the second consecutive year, so to call the squad “experienced” might seem a little funny. Still, coach Jay Whaley said there’s a seasoning on his salty group that’s helped it to an improved season this winter and, he hopes, to an improved showing in the regional tournament.

A year ago the Rams qualified just one wrestler, 103-pound freshman Lauryn Bruggink. Now, the squad hopes to qualify a few wrestlers for state through the Friday and Saturday regional tournament in Palisade.

“We’ve had a good week,” Whaley said. “I hope that reflects this weekend. Their attitude has been good, and they’ve been working hard, and hopefully that all comes together.”

Bruggink is still one of the team’s top threats and should be one of the top three seeds again in the 103-pound bracket.

Better seasons by her teammates give them a better chance at making it through the regional gauntlet.

Juniors Ben Strait and David Strait also are among the team’s top threats to break through, finish in the top four and earn a trip to Denver.

Gold medalist inspiration

Steamboat Springs High School wrestling coach Shane Yeager said he was well aware that his young and inexperienced wrestling squad will need a surprise or two if it’s to qualify any wrestlers for the state tournament from its regional tournament in Mullen.

“Hopefully we can win the matches we’re supposed to win, steal one from someone else and qualify,” he said. “They are hoping to play the spoiler role. They’re going in there as underdogs, and hopefully they can pull it off.”

It’s one thing for the team’s wrestlers to hear Yeager speak of succeeding as an underdog. It’s quite another when that pep talk comes from perhaps the most famous underdog wrestler of all time — Rulon Gardner, who defeated seemingly unstoppable Russian Alexander Karelin in the finals of the Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2000 Olympics.

Gardner will speak to the team at 6 p.m. today in the high school’s auditorium.

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