Joel Reichenberger: Give it up for Letlow

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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.

— Saturday’s thrilling Class 2A district championship basketball games helped make last weekend’s state championship wrestling tournament seem like it took place a month ago, but one thing has stuck with me.

Despite capping the season with a second-consecutive state championship, Hayden senior Treyben Letlow didn’t get the respect he deserved on the floor of the Pepsi Center.

When I wrote about his first championship, last year’s title at 215 pounds, I bracketed my story around the fact that announcers at the tournament mispronounced his name throughout that weekend. They called him “Tri-ben” Letlow.

Last year, I saw the flub as a convenient hook for my story, a way to illustrate the “underdog” mentality Letlow used to fuel a dominant tournament performance.

After stringing together his second consecutive undefeated season and 215-pound state title, however, I was fairly sure I wasn’t going to hear much of “Triben.”

I was wrong, and they first introduced the defending state champion by the wrong name.

On Day 2, I was determined to interject the way a reporter probably shouldn’t. The workers who announce the state tournament call the names of 896 wrestlers, athletes hailing from four Colorado classifications. They call 1,624 matches in the massive tournament.

I wasn’t keen on sticking my nose into their obviously busy day, but I figured they’d appreciate knowing they were making a consistent mistake.

Hayden coach Ty Cami­­lletti beat me to it, and when Letlow went out to wrestle in the quarter- and semifinals, they got the name right.

Of course, a day later, they blew it in the finals, “Triben” was introduced to a packed Pepsi Center as the champion.

The name thing was frustrating but petty. But the issue illustrates a larger point.

Letlow was one of 11 wrestlers to finish the season undefeated, and the only one in 2A. Only one other 2A state champ had fewer than two losses.

His back-to-back undefeated seasons — which put his winning streak at 71 matches — were surpassed only by Loveland’s Connor Medbery, who took his third consecutive state title and won 129 in a row.

Basically, Letlow finished the season as one of the very best in the state, regardless of classification. Still, he didn’t win his class’ outstanding wrestler award. That went to Layne Crumley, of Akron, who wrapped up a one-loss season with a state championship at 145 pounds.

Letlow used the disrespect card to fuel his first championship run. He said the disbelief of wrestling message board posters had gotten to him.

This year, he wasn’t looking for any sympathy or any extra respect.

I’ll give him a little, anyway. Letlow finished off one of the best athletic careers I’ve had the chance to cover with a pin in the state championship match. Hopefully, everyone up here knows how great he was, even if those across the state never seemed to have figured it out.

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