Steamboat Springs There’s a pair of signs above the doorway to the Steamboat Springs High School wrestling room.
When the Sailors enter for the day’s work on the mat, they slap the sign that reads, “My goal is ...” and when they touch it, the Steamboat wrestlers say to themselves what they want out of this season.
On Thursday, three Sailors have a chance to accomplish that season-long goal of being state champions.
But it takes work, and the work certainly isn’t over, Steamboat coach Shane Yeager said. As those three wrestlers — Dakota Thvedt, Brandon Yeager and Cole Sittig — leave the room the next couple of days after practice, they will slap the exit door sign, one that spells out, “I’m closer today.”
And they aren’t allowed to leave the room until they’ve proven they have made that progress — getting “closer today” to wearing a 4A state championship medal around their necks when it’s all said and done this weekend.
It certainly won’t be easy, Shane Yeager said, but the competition the trio faced at its regional tournament has them prepared.
“Our region is as tough as state,” Shane Yeager said. “We come out of the toughest region. There will be state placers in every weight there, so we’ve faced it.”
For two of the coach's wrestlers, it will be their last go at it. Brandon Yeager at 195 pounds and Sittig at 285 pounds are seniors and close friends.
Their experiences at the state level, though, are very different. Yeager, a former state qualifier, will be back at the Pepsi Center on Thursday after missing out during his junior year. Sittig has fallen just shy of a state bid twice and is hungry to get his chance.
Then there’s the considerably quiet freshman, Dakota Thvedt, who at 113 pounds, as his coach admits, isn’t sure of the limelight the state tournament brings.
Like Yeager and Sittig, Thvedt has had Shane Yeager as his coach since he took up the sport in kindergarten. He’s also trying to pave his own family legacy, following in his grandfather’s footsteps, who was a high school state runner-up in Kansas.
“That would mean the world to me,” Thvedt said about etching his own legacy. “I look up to it a lot. My whole family is pretty much going.”
Although not advancing to the state tournament with regional gold medals, all three are in a good bracket position to advance in their respective weight classes, Shane Yeager said.
Brandon Yeager has wrestled five of the 16 kids in his bracket, including an easy pin against Battle Mountain’s Alex Ramirez — who will compete in Denver — in the regional tournament.
Sittig has battled all season with the other Region 4 athletes and has a conditioning edge typically not seen in heavyweight after dropping 25 pounds down the final leg of the season.
And like Sittig, Thvedt is familiar with the regional opponents he is likely to see if he advances at state.
Brandon Yeager might have the best opportunity to advance to a podium finish. After grabbing second at 195 pounds in Region 4, he drew a first-round state match with Thompson Valley sophomore Patton Graff, who is 30-16 this season.
But ask his dad who has the best shot at bringing home gold — the first in Shane Yeager’s coaching career — and he said they all do.
After all, no one is ever out of a match until the official raises an arm.
“Wrestling is like no other sport,” Shane Yeager said. “You could be losing by 14 points and pin him and advance. That’s the coolest thing about it. Whoever’s heart is the biggest will win that day.”
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll
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