Joel Reichenberger: Role grows on Bruggink

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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.

— Lauryn Bruggink wanted to place in the state wrestling tournament. She even sometimes dreamt of winning a state championship, but on Friday when she was unmercifully pinned in the second round of the consolation bracket of the 106-pound division at the Class 2A state wrestling tournament in Denver, it became official.

She never would realize those goals.

Although the Soroco High School senior didn’t accomplish what she set out to, it would be a mistake to say she accomplished nothing at all.

Bruggink was a sensation from the moment she first set foot in Denver’s Pepsi Center, which houses the gargantuan annual tournament. In her freshman season, she became the first girl to be ranked by the statewide On the Mat rankings, and smelling a story, statewide media swarmed to her in a way that may make anyone this side of Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow blush.

She was the second girl ever to qualify for Colorado’s tournament, and that weekend, she became the first ever to score a point at state.

A year later, she was one of three girls in the field, but with a pin of Custer County’s Cameron Ham in the first round of the consolation bracket, she became the first girl to win a match at state.

The media again coalesced, but she shunned most of the attention, granting only two interviews, one to Woody Paige, of The Denver Post, and ESPN.

When she returned to state this year — she missed last year after an injury-riddled season — she said people still recognized her in the hallways, stopping her for a handshake or a “good job,” but the attention vastly was diluted from what it had been when she left two years prior.

Bruggink never was quite the champion most sports writers were looking for. She said she wasn’t in it to be a pioneer, and no matter how many barriers she rolled through, she never wavered.

She left any concerns about vanity in the changing room. Many Routt County girls basketball players take the court sporting makeup. Bruggink, on the other hand, didn’t shy from showing a photographer the black eye she picked up in a match.

Although most of that never changed, some of it did. Ducking between the storm of reporters after that historic win in 2010, Bruggink said she was happy but that she wouldn’t be able to sum it up until her career was over.

On Friday, after she was pinned 2 minutes, 25 seconds into her final high school match, she did just that, shedding the exterior of a wrestler intent on the highest prize and revealing someone coming to terms with a career that, while short of an ambitious freshman’s goals, was accomplished by any definition.

“That I’ve inspired other girls to wrestle, that means the world to me,” she said. “Being a role model was never the original goal, but after my sophomore year, when people would come up to me and ask for an autograph — I even got a letter in the mail from the Manzanola coach’s daughter — it did turn into that some.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done. This has all been amazing.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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