Small numbers, big plans in Hayden | SteamboatToday.com

Small numbers, big plans in Hayden

Experienced Tigers excited for season

Treyben Letlow tries to roll senior Mitchel Doolin last week during wrestling practice. Doolin is one of four Tigers returning this season with state tournament experience.

— Wrestling programs at Soroco and Steamboat Springs high schools teetered on the brink of folding this off-season. Routt County’s other team, from Hayden High School, endured a similarly rocky off-season.

The squad never was close to closing up shop, but when practice opened last month, the team’s numbers had dipped dramatically.

Hayden returns a powerful, senior-heavy team with enough state-tournament experience to dominate – at least, if it had enough wrestlers to fill out all the weight classes.

“We’re looking solid,” senior Mitchel Doolin said. “We don’t have as many kids this year, but every kid in here is tough.”

The Tigers who did show up have the potential to propel the team to a fantastic season.

That starts with seniors Doolin and Coy Letlow, who both fell short of their goals at state last year.

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But they each still managed fifth-place finishes, so there’s not a lot of room for error if they plan to move up.

“I’m hoping to have a state title,” Letlow said. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger from lifting over the summer, and I have better mat sense now with four years of experience.”

Doolin, second at regionals last season at 145 pounds, figures to wrestle this season at 152 or 160. Letlow, meanwhile, will hold the same 189-pound slot he held last year while grabbing the regional championship.

Hayden’s strength goes deeper than its top two wrestlers.

It also has state experience from Jake MaGee, who qualified as a sophomore, and Scott Armbruster, who was third at regionals and advanced to state at 103 pounds.

Treyben Letlow also returns, though it may take fans two glances to confirm as much.

“Treyben grew so much,” Zabel said. “He’s moving from 171 (pounds) to 215 this year. I’m looking for some good things from him.

“We have good younger guys, and we’re brining them along real quick,” Zabel continued. “We have a pretty focused room.”

They, along with freshman Nick Williams, offer Hayden hope now and in the future. But the team’s small size could be a lingering concern.

“I talk to kids in the hallway every day about wrestling,” Zabel said. “A lot of the time, jobs and other things are getting in the way. There is a lot of pressure on young kids nowadays. That counts for a lot of the problem.”

It’s not a problem that leaves him necessarily wishing for more warm bodies.

Instead, it makes him all the more appreciative of those who did show up for the season.

“Wrestling is hard work. It comes down to flat-out hard work, dedication and a lot of focus,” Zabel said. “The kids that wanted to develop a good work ethic and have a lot of pride in something, those kids are here.

“We have small numbers, but we have great quality, good attitudes and leadership from the upperclassmen. I feel really good.”

– To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com