Routt County spotlight

Steamboat, Hayden, Soroco showcase talent in triangular meet

— Jay Muhme looks around Routt County and asks the "what ifs."

What if his wrestlers at Steamboat Springs joined forces with the athletes in Hayden and Soroco to make a single team?

Muhme has thought about it. He has even talked about it, but Steamboat wrestles in class 4A, and if the three schools incorporated into one team, the Tigers and Rams would have to move up two classes to compete.

As much as all three coaches want a wrestling room filled with athletes, it's a tough thing to ask kids used who are to competing at 2A to wrestle schools double the size of their own.

"It's interesting to see when you stop and look at it," Muhme said. "Hayden has a couple of good kids. Soroco's got some good kids, and we've got some good kids. Quite honestly, between the three, we have a decent team."

For one night, at least, all three will be in one gym, providing a small glimpse into the quality, not necessarily the quantity, of talented wrestlers left in a county that once dominated the sport in Colorado.

Thursday, Soroco hosts a Routt County triangular, as the Rams, Tigers and Sailors get together for a 5 p.m. meet in Oak Creek.

"We have it every year," Hayden coach John Svoboda said. "We're basically pretty good friends. We go to a lot of the same tournaments where we see these people and support each other."

Until they meet on the mat.

The Sailors don't have a whole lot riding on this triangular other than having the opportunity to wrestle against the people they grew up with. Soroco and Hayden, on the other hand, are in the same region and postseason seedings may depend on Thursday's results.

Take the 152-pound match between Tigers senior Kelly Bruchez and Rams sophomore Whit Gates. In their first match of the season, Bruchez was up before Gates pinned him. Recently, Bruchez got revenge in a decisive victory over Gates.

"That will be a good match," Svoboda said.

Several wrestlers enter Thursday's triangular with impressive recent results.

Steamboat senior Will Zimmerer took the title in Salida, defeating the top-ranked heavyweight in Class 3A in the final.

"Will wrestled a real smart match and ended up pinning the guy in the third period," Muhme said. "It took that much time. Will clearly had him beat with regards to conditioning. Will's opponent was a big, strong kid and came out hard and gave everything, but Will just wrestled real smart and when the kid was tired, Will caught him on a roll."

Sailor juniors Dave Gittleson (130 pounds) and Donald Dillon (140 pounds) placed fifth and sixth, respectively, in Salida.

It was the first time Dillon has placed at the varsity level.

"He did a real good job," Muhme said.

The young Sailors squad continues to struggle with confidence problems and Muhme said he hopes the wins will help eliminate doubts about ability.

Soroco, on the other hand, knows it is good, but coach Doug Gates said his team wrestled poorly in the past weeks.

Gates placed third and senior Brandon Ager placed fourth on Jan. 25 in Leadville. It was a huge tournament comprised of mostly 3A and 4A schools, but Gates said his kids still should have wrestled better.

"Some of our guys didn't wrestle as good as they have been," he said. "And I'm not sure why."

With regionals just over three weeks away, no Routt County wrestler can afford to take it easy. The path to the state championship isn't easy and it isn't guaranteed for a former qualifier.

"I've seen some of my kids pick it up to another level this week," Gates said. "And there are others that think they are cruising."

Several Hayden Tigers have started wrestling better in recent weeks. Bruchez missed the early portion of the season with a hand injury but has recovered nicely, winning in Salida and taking second in Leadville.

Senior Alan Stark also took first in Salida, while sophomore Jake Doolin placed third in Salida and second in Leadville.

State champions from higher classes eliminated Bruchez and Doolin in the finals, as well as Stark in the semifinals in Leadville.

"You can't gripe about that a whole heck of a lot," Svoboda said. "The thing is we thought we had chances to win and maybe they'll learn something from it."

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