Youths invade Steamboat mats |

Youths invade Steamboat mats

Locals fare well at 180-wrestler home tourney

Joel Reichenberger
Steamboat Springs wrestler Brandon Yeager tries to catch a breath of air Sunday while fighting to avoid being pinned by Bruce Eaton, of the Bald Eagle Wrestling Club. Yeager was successful in staving off defeat, and he went on to win the match, 9-8.
Joel Reichenberger

— Sure, they were interrupted by the cries of the wounded, with a bloody nose or poked eye occasionally stealing the spotlight. Smiles dominated Sunday, however, shining through everywhere as the Yampa Valley Wrestling Club closed out its season with a massive home tournament at Steamboat Springs High School.

“We had a lot of champions, but there were also a lot of smiles today, and that’s the most important thing,” YVWC coach Shane Yeager said. “We were having a good time, and the kids all got good experience.”

Steamboat trotted out 30 competitors and fared well in the 180-competitor field. Young athletes traveled from Leadville, Summit County, Gypsum, Craig, Kremmling and Granby and did battle on six different mats.

For Tyler Johnson, it was the end of a season he never doubted he’d compete in. He said he didn’t even question it early in the summer when he was laid up in a Denver hospital bed, suffering from an unknown illness. It eventually led to the amputation of his feet and parts of several fingers, but that didn’t seem to slow him as he tore across the mat after his competition.

“It actually helps. It keeps them from shooting at my legs when I’m kneeling,” he said.

Johnson competed just like any other child, helped clean up and roll up mats afterward just like any other child, and took a joyride on one of the mat carts, smiling widely, just like any other child. Only his wrestling shoes, tied tight with the area usually meant for toes flipped up and fastened around his ankle, remained as evidence of his long summer.

He finished fifth in his class, winning two matches while dropping three.

“I was ready the first time wrestling started this season,” he said. “I knew the whole time I’d be able to wrestle. It’s not harder at all now. I haven’t had to change strategy or anything. The bow and arrow was my favorite move with feet, too, and I can still do that.”

Steamboat’s youths enjoyed success elsewhere, too.

It seemed to be the same old story for Dakota Thvedt. That’s not quite accurate he said, moments after wrapping up his third divisional championship of the fall season.

“Today was a little different. I won by a lot,” said Thvedt, who added that he relied on his favorite moves, the gazoni and the low leg.

For many, big victories came from small moves.

Brothers Theo and Ethan Hansen each picked up championships by relying on half nelsons at ankle picks.

“I did try to use a duck walk in my third match,” Theo explained.

Katelyn Hoffman battled all morning against bigger and older competition, but she finished fourth place, thanks to a quick pin of her opponent in her third match.

Gage Reynolds, meanwhile, said he was sad to see the season end, despite it being just his first taste of wrestling.

“I really like it because it’s a lot better to get out and wrestle than sit around and watch TV,” he said. “I’m a huge fan of wrestling now.”

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