Joel Reichenberger: Steamboat wrestling on the rise

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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.

Predicting high school sports results has proven nearly impossible, at least for me.

If you had asked me in mid-September, when I was as carried away as I’d be with the Soroco and Hayden high school football teams, I might have wildly speculated that the two teams would meet in the state championship.

That didn’t happen.

So, I won’t today make any great prophesy about the fortunes of the Steamboat Springs High School wrestling team.

Oh, but I want to.

I didn’t have any great expectations when I slid into the very end of the Sailors’ practice Friday, the day before Steamboat opened its season with a meet at Middle Park High School.

Those brief moments, a conversation with coach Shane Yeager and, more so than anything, results from the team’s first weekend of competition left me excited about this Sailors team's season.

Steamboat had four top-three finishes in the meet. It wasn’t exactly the state tournament, mind you, but for the first time since I started covering local wrestling nearly five years ago, Steamboat deserved the headlines in a wrap up of the fortunes of all three local high school wrestling programs.

Steamboat wrestling was all but dead when I first started here days after the end of the 2007-08 season. The program was simply sad. There were only two athletes.

Around the sports department, we wondered out loud whether there would even be a 2008-09 season.

Yeager took over that next year, however, and to be honest, it didn’t stir a tremendous amount of confidence right away. That’s not to say anything about him or his ability. I sensed a bit of reluctance on his part, however, as if he’d taken the job because no one else would. At the same time, I wondered how students would take to his at times gruff style.

Quite simply, I wasn’t sure the decidedly blue collar sport of wrestling still had a place in a Steamboat Springs that seems at times to shy away from those traits.

Yeager, however, has proven just the opposite. Wrestling has a long, proud sporting tradition throughout Routt County, and definitely in Steamboat Springs, and Yeager has managed to tap into that and completely revive the program.

The Sailors have 14 wrestlers out this year, giving them Routt County’s biggest squad. They hope to fill all but the 106-pound weight class. That’s somewhat a bit of luck, but also a wonderful sign about what’s happening inside the wrestling room at the high school. Steamboat seems poised to roll this season in a way it hasn’t since I’ve been around.

I won’t predict the future, but I'll tell you that right now Yeager is in the midst of a very successful rebuilding program that deserves to be noticed.

The Sailors wrestle with Soroco, Hayden and at least eight other teams Saturday in Oak Creek. It will make for a great chance to check out the Sailors for yourself.

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