Hayden wrestlers feed off football letdown
November 23, 2008
Steamboat Springs — Practice is nothing new for the four seniors on the Hayden wrestling squad. The group has been remarkably successful in its stint on the mats, and coach Ty Zabel said that has a lot to do with a consistently focused and competitive wrestling room.
Still, the seniors were in entirely new territory two weeks ago at the first practice of the new wrestling season.
“We’ve never been there for the first day before,” Mitchel Doolin said. “We’re always still playing football.”
A frustrating inability to win road games during the football season was highlighted yet again when wrestling practice started. Rather than preparing for a playoff opponent – with wrestling nearly the last thing on their minds – the Tigers were ready for the mats from day one for the first time in their high school careers.
Now, those seniors are set on piecing together their best wrestling season yet and finding a little relief – not just from disappointing losses in wrestling seasons gone by, but also from the maddening football campaign that had them on the mats much earlier than they would have liked.
“It was definitely different this year,” senior Coy Letlow said. “We can’t worry about what happened in football, though. We have to get ready for the wrestling season.”
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Jake MaGee and Mitchell Vedepo join Letlow and Doolin as seniors on the squad. The group is the backbone of this
“They’re excited,” Zabel said. “It was an unfortunate way for the football season to end, but I’m happy to have them in the room for the get-go this year. They’re all focused and ready now to get wrestling.”
For most of those seniors, nothing short of a deep run in the state tournament will satisfy.
MaGee and Vedepo will be attempting to qualify for the season-ending tournament after falling short a year ago. MaGee qualified as a sophomore.
Letlow and Doolin, meanwhile, will have their eyes set on state championships.
Doolin entered last year’s state tournament as the No. 1 seed at 145 pounds but finished fifth. Now bulked up to wrestle at 152 or 160, he said he’s ready for another try.
“I hope it’s mostly muscle,” he said, laughing Thursday after a hard practice. “Last year, losing in the (state) semifinals really hurt. I came in the week after that and kept working. I came in a couple weeks early this year, too – not really working hard, but going over moves and getting ready.
“I was hoping to win it last year. I definitely am hoping to win it this year.”
The circumstances are different for Letlow, who finished as the leading rusher on the football team.
“It feels different, because I know this will be my last year wrestling,” he said. “I won’t be going to college for it. It hurt leaving high school football without playing in the playoffs again, but I know I will keep playing football. This will be my last try at wrestling.”
He has quite the finale planned.
Letlow has qualified for state in each of his three previous tries, his most successful run culminating with a fifth-place finish last spring.
“I could have done a little better,” Letlow said, reflecting on his final match, a loss to the eventual state champion. “This year, I’m hoping to get the state title.”
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