Students sign to follow their sports to college |

Students sign to follow their sports to college

Parents and coaches snap photos and cheer Wednesday as about a dozen Steamboat Springs High School athletes sign letters of intent to play sports in college.

— They often made it look easy on the court, on the field and on the mat, but not everything came easy to the the 12 athletes who signed collegiate letters of intent Wednesday morning at Steamboat Springs High School.

The band of Sailors are spreading far and wide, from the East Coast to the West, from Kansas to Montana, Illinois to New Hampshire.

For many, however, it wasn't exactly easy.

"It's a huge opportunity," Cole Sittig said. "It's a dream come true."

Sittig is aiming for a degree in education from Chadron State College in Nebraska so that he can teach and coach.

He's relishing the opportunity to continue to compete, but he didn't always seem to have the makings of a college athlete. He won just three matches in his first season of wrestling, in sixth grade. He was better in high school, of course, but he never quite broke through until his senior season. In February, he qualified for the state tournament for the first time, an achievement that marked his progress from that unspectacular start.

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"Coming out on top like that this season was great," he said. "Being able to make it to state and wrestle in college is a huge deal."

College wrestling was something Sittig had considered, but he wasn't sure it was a great option right away. He started down the recruiting road, then got the offer he was looking for with a buzz on his cellphone one day during school.

Chadron State had gotten back to him.

"They texted me during math class one day. That's when I found out," Sittig said. "I really just wanted to go wrestle again. I decided when I was wrestling this year that I wasn't ready to let it go yet."

Ellie Becker, a volleyball player headed to Sterling College in Kansas, had her own doubts about whether she'd end up playing.

She started playing club volleyball as an eighth-grader and got more serious in the sport as she grew older. Finally, as a junior, she signed up with a recruiting service and focused on polishing her resume in hopes of landing at a college.

Everything was going smoothly until she injured her foot on the eve of her senior campaign.

"That was rough," Becker said. "I was hoping when I got recruited through club volleyball I'd always have something to go after, but when I got hurt, I lost hope for awhile."

The injury didn't erase her opportunities, however, and her recruiting continued. She decided on Kansas because it was near friends and near Colorado, but not in Colorado.

She chose Sterling because it simply felt right.

"It's a small Christian college and when I went there to visit, the girls were amazing and the coaches were beyond helpful," she said. "It felt like a really good place where I belonged."

She just belonged. The new batch of graduating Sailors who signed up Wednesday for four more years of athletics at colleges and universities across the country know that feeling.

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

College-bound Steamboat athletes

Mikaila Jegtvig, volleyball, Laramie County Community College, Laramie, Wyo.

Maggie Crouch, basketball, Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Ill.

Connor O’Brien, football, Colorado Mesa University, Grand Junction

Evan Weinman, skiing, Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt.

Ellie Becker, volleyball, Sterling College, Sterling, Kan.

Cole Sittig, wrestling, Chadron State College, Chadron, Neb.

Cara Piske, skiing, Dartmouth, Hanover, N.H.

Carter Kounovsky, basketball, Lake Forest College, Lake Forest, Ill.

Gretchen Burkholder, skiing, Montana State University, Bozeman, Mont.

Kaleb Vanarsdale, lacrosse, DePauw, Greencastle, Ind.

Maddie Robertson, volleyball, Western State College, Gunnison

Ellie Bender, tennis, Doane College, Crete, Neb.

Cutter Pasternak, baseball, West Valley College, Saratoga, Calif.

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