Soroco wrestling squad set for first meet |

Soroco wrestling squad set for first meet

Joel Reichenberger
Soroco wrestling coach Jay Whaley watches as freshmen Tristan Palyo, top, and Robert Sales dual Thursday during practice. The squad - which returns just two experienced high school wrestlers this season - starts its season Saturday at a tournament at Middle Park High School.
Joel Reichenberger

The bet isn’t available anywhere in Las Vegas, but if it was, Soroco wrestling coach Jay Whaley would eagerly plop down money on his hunch.

“I’ll bet we’re the youngest team in the state,” he said on a cold and snowy Thursday morning, assessing his squad after a practice intense enough to make a chilly wrestling room burning hot.

Whaley said in that practice alone, he saw all he building blocks for a successful team. A series of fierce duels came near the end of the workout, then the six Rams set aside their deep gasps for air and powered through a series of conditioning drills.

Finally, after the last drill – a quick mat crawl back and forth across the room – had left even the most fit athletes panting, the entire group pounded out one more long sprinting drill, all surging at the end to cap off the morning.

“This is the hardest-working group of kids I’ve ever had,” said Whaley, a long-time assistant coach. “They don’t whine. They don’t moan. They do what you say and work hard. And that’s going to pay off.”

Of course, his only proof that there may eventually be a payoff is what he’s seen in the wrestling room. Of the seven Rams out this year, five are freshmen. Only two – sophomore brothers Ben and David Strait – return from last year’s team.

“It is definitely what you’d call a rebuilding-type year,” Whaley said.

But that’s fine, the coach explained. He took over the program late in the fall when the search for a long-term head coach came up empty. The school’s best returning wrestlers transferred out during the summer and Whaley was left with a big task.

“It’s better this way,” he said. “Being so young, they’ll know what to expect when they get older.

“This is just the beginning. They’re pretty green now and there are a lot of things we don’t know, don’t understand. But we’re learning and making progress.”

Just how much progress has been made could become evident very soon. Soroco travels Saturday for a tournament at Middle Park High School in Granby. It’ll be a tough meet – the Rams will have to battle both of the other Routt County high school teams, Steamboat Springs and Hayden.

“I’m a little nervous,” said freshman Tristan Palyo, who will get his first taste of high school wrestling after competing in middle school. “There’s more work in high school wrestling, but I think I’m ready. I think it will be a little tougher, but other than that, I don’t know what to expect.”

Whaley, meanwhile, said when it comes to wins and losses, especially early in the season, he doesn’t know what to expect, either.

That doesn’t mean he won’t be looking for certain things when his young team finally takes to the mat.

“It’s a big tournament, but we want them to be competitive,” he said. “We need to see the kids try their hardest, be competitive and do the things we taught.

“We’re pretty young, but if these kids stick it out and keep working like they have been, they will be pretty good in a couple of years.”

– To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail

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