Steamboat Springs More than two dozen wrestlers will take to the mats Saturday representing Routt County high schools in a season-opening meet in Granby.
Soroco, Steamboat Springs and Hayden each face challenges as the season starts, but together the trio is poised for what could be a banner year for local wrestling with larger teams and savvy, state-experienced upperclassmen.
Soroco looks for success in its 2011-12 season
Returning state qualifiers dot rosters across the county, and Oak Creek is no exception. Still, the Rams got rough news during the summer when they learned a pair of their most experienced wrestlers, brothers Josh and Jaden Baker, were moving away with their family.
Despite losing a state qualifier in Josh Baker, Soroco’s excited about the year to come and will head into action Saturday with three state qualifiers.
Senior Lauryn Bruggink leads the way. Injuries derailed her follow-up to what was a historic sophomore campaign, when she was the first girl to score a win at the state wrestling meet in Colorado. Now she’s after a state medal and again will wrestle in the smallest weight class, this year 106 pounds, after a shift in the state’s classifications.
She’ll be joined in that quest by state-experienced teammates Dillon Koler and Tristan Palyo. Koler made state at 119 pounds and will be wrestling this year at 138. Palyo, meanwhile, will be at 145 or 152.
After that, the Rams aren’t short on experience but are short on bodies. Without the Baker brothers, the team has just six athletes. Colton Martindale and Cody Constine wrestled last year, and newcomer Jaxon Ovard wrestled in middle school.
“We’ve just been able to cruise this year. We haven’t spent nearly as long on the basic stuff in practice,” coach Jay Whaley said, crediting his team’s experience. “We expect to have some state placers.”
Tigers wrestling team hopes to keep up pace
The Hayden High School wrestling team had been hoping to reload after the graduation of one of the Tigers’ all-time greats: two-time state champ Treyben Letlow.
Instead, they may be left to rejuvenate.
State championship-contending talent is listed on Hayden’s roster, but some of the team’s top threats will go through the season battling injury.
Senior Chad Terry, who’s pieced together deep runs in the state tournament in his first three seasons, re-injured the shoulder that crippled his hopes of a state championship a year ago.
Meanwhile, senior Nick Williams, a former regional champion, missed last season with an injury of his own and will have to push his comeback into 2012 as he’s again battling an injury.
“I won’t count those two out,” first-year coach Chad Jones said. “They’re not afraid to battle through a little bit of pain. They can still make it to state and do pretty dang good.”
Even with those early-season frustrations, Jones said there is plenty to be excited about. He has 15 wrestlers out and several outside his injured seniors with real chances in the state tournament.
Former state runner-up T-Lane Mazzola, a junior, will be back after missing state a year ago thanks to an incredibly ill-timed illness that kept him from the regional qualifying meet. He’ll be wrestling at 132 pounds.
Ryan Domson made state at 171 pounds and will return at 182, and Journey Vreeman will be back wrestling at 126 after making state a year ago at 119.
“I’m just happy to take over such a good, strong program that’s already been well taken care of,” Jones said. “We have a strong group this year. I’m happy.”
Steamboat wrestlers set to begin season Saturday
The Steamboat Springs High School wrestling team will begin its season Saturday with the most experienced and largest team it’s had recently. The Sailors have 14 athletes out for wrestling this season, and in that group are a few on the verge of big breakthroughs.
None are better positioned than junior Casey Williams, who is likely to wrestle at 152 pounds. Williams made state as a freshman and seemed to be one of the state’s top athletes in his weight class as the season came to a close. He was disappointed to miss the state tournament, however, failing to qualify in last year’s regional bracket.
“Maybe we were looking a little past regionals last year and on to state, but we realized you have to earn every spot,” coach Shane Yeager said about Williams. “Casey is looking really strong, and he’s gained a bit of maturity, and he’s a bit more dedicated.”
Steamboat also will field seasoned talent in Nathan Parks at 120 pounds, Dane Koepfer at 138, Connor O’Brien at 170, Brandon Yeager at 182 and Cole Sittig at heavyweight.
“We’re excited to get this year going,” Shane Yeager said. “The program is growing, and the difference is I have some leaders in the room now. It doesn’t all have to come from the coach. It’s coming from their peers. It’s getting better.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com