Soroco wrestlers Bruggink, Palyo gear up for state tournament
February 15, 2012
Oak Creek — The goals now are mixed and mashed with Soroco senior Lauryn Bruggink combining maturity with appreciation, ambition with respect.
Three years ago, she took to the mats of Denver's Pepsi Center and the state wrestling championship as a freshman eager to win medals and championships, shattering whatever glass ceilings she came across, not to make a statement but because they were in the way.
"Since I was a pee-wee, I wanted to be a state champion," she said. "I grew up in the wrestling room with my dad, who was a state champion, and I wanted that."
She became the first girl in any class to score a point at state that first year and the first to win a match at state when she returned as a sophomore.
Things haven't been as simple since. She missed state a year ago after an injury-plagued season and this year needed an afternoon barely short of a miracle — fused with some excellent wrestling — to earn the ticket.
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That state championship still is possible, but a rough road is ahead. Bruggink, wrestling at 106 pounds, will open her final high school tournament against the classification's defending champion, Daniel Walsh, of Burlington, a sophomore who's burnt through the season with a 22-2 record.
"He's just some kid," Bruggink said, offering up a knowing grin. "Really, though, he's just another wrestler. Our coach said, 'They wouldn't make anyone wrestle those matches if they already knew the outcome,' so we'll see."
The prospects of an upset and a run through the state bracket lit her eyes as she weighed her chances, but three years of moments great and grisly provided a new lens. Preparing for her final trip to the great stage, she peered through it.
"Wrestling is a sport I've dedicated a lot of my life to," she said. "A state championship, that's still the goal. It's always going to be the goal until after this weekend, but I've learned I have to enjoy it. I've learned I have to have fun with it because I love this sport whether or not I achieve that goal."
Familiar foe awaits Palyo
Like his teammate, Soroco's other state-qualified wrestler Tristan Palyo said he's entering the state tournament with a mix of emotions.
The senior admitted to being just happy to make it when he qualified last year for the first time, and after he battled injury this season, he couldn't deny he drew a certain joy from seeing his name on the bracket.
He also said he's focused enough to take care of business.
"I'm really excited, and even though I know I will do better, I don't feel as much pressure," Palyo said. "I'm definitely expecting more from myself."
No wrestler in Palyo's 145-pound bracket is more familiar with his first-round opponent. Josh Baker racked up a 22-4 record wrestling for Merino this season, but he wrestled for Soroco as a freshman and a sophomore and was Palyo's partner in practices all last year.
"I remember he works the legs a lot and is fast," Palyo said. "From what I hear, he's only gotten better at those things."
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com