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Back to the mats

Small but dedicated group of Sailors out for the wrestling team this season

— The weight room head coach Jay Muhme knew when he was in high school is nothing like the one he saw Monday afternoon when he arrived for his first practice as the Sailors’ head coach.

A small group of dedicated wrestlers were waiting for the coach and ready to get started.

“The number of kids in our weight room is a little disheartening,” Muhme said. “It takes 14 to have a full team and right now we have about 10 wrestlers. It’s going to make it hard to win dual matches and to do well in tournaments. But that is the challenge we face.”

Muhme wrestled under Carl Ramunno from 1966 to 1972. During his high school years from 1968 to 1972, the weight room was packed to capacity and the squad collected a number of individual state titles.

Muhme said the back half of the weight room where the team meets now would not have been big enough room for the large number of kids who came out for the team. But times have changed and Muhme said the challenge for him as a coach will be getting more wrestlers back into the sport and building more support in the community.

“Back when I was in high school, there wasn’t enough room in the gym for all the people who wanted to watch the Steamboat wrestling team,” Muhme said. “I know those people are still out there in this community and if we can start winning they will come back.”

So on Monday, Muhme began the task of molding a new generation of athletes into winners. He admits the task is a challenging one, but Muhme is also dedicated to bringing a long-standing tradition back into the school.

“The key to our success will be getting these kids to start believing in themselves. If we can do that then they will start winning,” Muhme said.

The coach feels as if he has plenty of talent in the weight room, but the wrestlers will need to gain some experience on the mat before they can start winning.

Muhme does have a few veterans returning from last year’s team, including Justin O’Leary, Donald Dillon, Wes Adams and Will Zimmerer. Muhme is also hoping to pull back a couple of athletes who wrestled last year, including Zach Forcum and Johnny Stanko. But he hasn’t heard from them yet.

“I’m a little nervous,” O’Leary said. “We have a new coach and I’m not really sure what to expect.”

Zimmerer is also ready to get back on the mats. He also expects a solid season but added he wished there were a few more teammates in the wrestling room.

“The more guys we get to come out the more fun it will be,” Zimmerer said.

The good news for the team is that the Sailors will have a few more home matches this season and Muhme is looking forward to the meets as a way to build interest in the team.

The Sailors will open at home with the Steamboat Invitational Dec. 1, an event Muhme said would be bigger and better than last year.

Steamboat is expecting to have 16 teams in town for the tournament. Steamboat will also be at home twice in January this year.

Muhme’s hopes are that he can draw some bigger crowds to the local events and eventually build the Steamboat program back into a powerhouse on the mats and a draw at the door.

“I’ve got a great group of kids who are working really hard,” Muhme said. “It would be nice if we can get locals to come back to the gym and help support some of these guys.”

Steamboat will host Battle Mountain Jan. 10 and Rifle Jan. 17. The squad will be in Hayden Jan. 24.

The state meet is scheduled for Feb. 21-23 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.


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