Joel Reichenberger: Wrestling’s future is daunting

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Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

— It’s hard not to fall in love with wrestling at the state tournament. Rarely, if ever, is the passion of high school sports put on such grand display as it is at Denver’s Pepsi Center, where hundreds of athletes take the mats and let their power and emotion fly.

Still, I worry about the future of the sport in Routt County, and that’s why I applaud its three high school coaches here now.

When I started digging into the history of Routt County wrestling, I did so sure that I was going to prove Treyben Letlow was one of, if not the very best, Tiger to ever take to the mats.

Letlow entered the state tournament with a 67-match winning streak and the chance to win back-to-back championships.

But one thing in my research was immediately apparent: Treyben Letlow is a very unique athlete with amazing skills, but he only joins, not defines, the list of great Routt wrestlers.

Steamboat, Hayden and Soroco have combined for 89 individual championships. Great teams and great athletes litter the programs’ histories throughout each decade, at least until the last one.

The schools combined for just two championships in the past 10 years, one being Letlow’s from last year.

Now, all three programs struggle to keep their numbers up. There still are good and great athletes involved. There just aren’t very many.

Hayden coach Ty Cami­lletti, Soroco coach Jay Wha­ley and Steamboat coach Shane Yeager all were great wrestlers themselves.

They know what wrestling meant to them and what it still can mean to young athletes today. All three now work tirelessly for their programs and ensure wrestling’s continued existence, at times by sheer force of will.

Wrestling won’t die in Routt County tomorrow, next year or in five years, but I do fear for it in 10 years and 20 years. Our region has changed. These towns are different towns than they were even 20 years ago, and they produce different kinds of children and athletes.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Great athletes still sprout from Steamboat, Hayden and South Routt. I don’t expect that to change.

But I don’t know that the region can ever return to being the breadbasket of state wrestling.

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