Steamboat’s Dane Koepfer puts the squeeze on his opponent Saturday during a wrestling tournament in Steamboat Springs. The Sailors shared first-place honors in the event with Middle Park. Koepfer finished second in his weight class.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat’s Dane Koepfer puts the squeeze on his opponent Saturday during a wrestling tournament in Steamboat Springs. The Sailors shared first-place honors in the event with Middle Park. Koepfer finished second in his weight class.

Wrestling tournament returns to Steamboat; Sailors tie for 1st

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— For the first time in five years, Steamboat Springs High School was filled Saturday with the whistles and cheers, groans and celebrations of a high school wrestling tournament.

Wrestling came back to Steamboat in a big way as the Sailors ended up tied for first in the Carl Ramunno Invitational, knotted up with Middle Park.

“This is the first time any of these guys could wrestle in a tournament at home, in front of a big crowd. A lot of people have been reading about them. Now, they got to see them,” Steamboat coach Shane Yeager said.

His squad was led by 170-pounder Connor O’Brien, who won his bracket, going 3-0 in the round-robin tournament.

Like several of Saturday’s local winning wrestlers, he credited his success to an improved mental approach.

“I came in with a new mentality, to get it over as soon as possible,” O’Brien said. “This sport is the hardest thing I’ve ever done physically and mentally, and it can burn you out after awhile. But getting your hand raised at the end makes it all worth while.”

Soroco’s Dillon Koler was of a like mind about the mental part of the sport and its role in Saturday’s matches. Koler entered the season with hopes of the state tournament, but things have been anything but easy. His decision to join the Marines has led him to miss several weekends of wrestling, and when he has been there, he hasn’t performed as well as he’d hoped.

On Saturday, however, he was on top of his game.

“The best he’s wrestled this season,” coach Jay Whaley said.

He finished second at 138 pounds.

“It was mental preparation,” Koler said. “I got more focused today.”

Hayden’s Tanner Guire got one of his best wins of the season early Saturday against a Rangely wrestler who’s tortured him this season. That powered the 113-pounder on to one of his team’s two second-place finishes. Kent Miller also was second, wrestling at 132 pounds.

“I’m pretty proud of myself,” Guire said. “I’ve been trying for so long and finally got him.”

Guire has his eyes forward three weeks to the regional tournament, hoping to earn his first trip to state. Saturday provided a big confidence boost.

That came thanks in part to getting things straight in his head.

“If I went to state this year, just qualifying would really be nice,” he said. “I have to work on finishing my shots. I need to improve my hips, and I have to start keeping my mind in it. Today, I got out of my head, and I was tearing it up.”

Plenty of other local wrestlers also found success. Steamboat got second-place finishes from Nathan Parks at 126 pounds, Dane Koepfer at 145, Guerin Lewis at 152, Brandon Yeager at 182 and Cole Sittig at 285. Dylan Wallace also placed, finishing fourth at 160 pounds.

“That was great. It was his first time ever placing in a tournament,” Shane Yeager said about Wallace. “He deserved it.”

Soroco got other top finishes from Andrew Schupner, who was fourth at 113 pounds, Colton Martindale in third at 120 and Cody Constine in third at 195.

“If we could ever put it together on the same weekend, life would be good,” Whaley said.

Hayden, meanwhile, scored with Taylor Lewis in third at 160 pounds. Judd Magee at 106, Koa Cash at 138 and Hunter Rummel at 195 all finished fourth.

“Taylor did an excellent job,” Hayden coach Chad Jones said. “All those guys battled pretty good. I was really proud of their effort. They all wrestled with good heart and good smarts.”

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

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