Steamboat wrestling dropped to 3A

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— Shane Yeager's not the kind of guy to go begging for help. When he first considered the news of a potential shake up among the high school wrestling classifications, one of his thoughts was actually regret, even though the changes proposed to bump his team from the radically oversized Class 4A class to the radically undersized Class 3A.

"It's a double-edged sword," he said. "When you made it to state in 4A, that was a big deal."

But he couldn't deny, when the news came down Thursday that the Sailors would indeed be moving — with about 20 other schools — to 3A, this was a good thing for Steamboat wrestling.

The Colorado High School Activities Association voted to address a fairly drastic unevenness in the state’s wrestling classes. Before the adjustment, Steamboat’s Class 4A was laden down with 71 teams, compared to 3A’s 38.

The enrollment for 3A schools was upped to 780 students, easily including Steamboat. After the move, both 3A and 4A have 53 schools each.

“It’s definitely good they did the right thing as far as evening out the divisions,” Yeager said. “We will have to see how it works out. It will still be tough to make it to state.”

The size of the various classes are more balanced in other sports, mainly basketball, but grew lopsided as some schools around the state dropped wrestling programs. Steamboat found itself swiftly approaching that cliff, as well, fielding just two wrestlers in the 2007-08 season. But Yeager took over as head coach after that year and rebuilt the program.

State appearances, in the brutally tough 4A Class, have been rare, and that didn’t help his rebuilding job.

“If we had been in 3A all of that time, we definitely would have qualified more kids,” Yeager said. “You can’t look back, though. You have to look forward. We’ll just build on what we have now.”

What the Sailors have now is a much stronger program, and one Yeager said will be bolstered by another strong class of freshmen next year.

Just how it will impact the program is difficult to predict. Being 3A doesn’t mean things will be easy, especially considering that strong regional programs like Rifle, Eagle Valley and Delta are dropping down with Steamboat.

It's not a change Yeager and the Sailors were begging for, but it's one they'll take.

“I know it will still be tough to make it to state,” he said. “It will still be an honor. We’re excited to see what will come of this.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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