Culver takes title |

Culver takes title

Melinda Mawdsley

Robert Culver had zero expectations of winning a Western Slope League championship when he arrived in Oak Creek on Saturday morning.

The Hayden sophomore is in his first year of high school wrestling, but he believes in himself. In wrestling, that’s an important place to start.

On Saturday, Culver pinned all three opponents, including Soroco freshman Dennis Morgan, to win the 215-pound league title.

“I know there are kids stronger and more experienced than me,” Culver said. “But you have to go out and give it your best try. You can’t beat yourself on the mat.”

Culver was Routt County’s only champion, but teammate Randy Muhme placed third at heavyweight.

Soroco sophomore Joel Schlegal (103 pounds) and Morgan (215) were second, and seniors Matt Iacovetto (152) and Shaye Bruggink (160) and freshman Levi Gonzales (112) placed third for the Rams.

All five Soroco wrestlers placed Saturday, giving the Rams a top-half league finish, despite having the fewest number of wrestlers this year.

After pinning his first two opponents, Schlegal was disappointed with his 5-1 loss to Paonia’s Mark Bejarno in the finals.

“I didn’t do a lot in the last match to win,” Schlegal said. “I’ll probably get seeded third at regionals. You don’t want to get stuck in a bad seed at regionals.”

With the postseason quickly approaching, the intensity in practices and in duals and tournaments has increased, especially for those wrestlers eyeing a trip to the state tournament in February, Schlegal said.

Several Routt County wrestlers fit into that category, making Saturday’s matches important for regional seeding because those seedings are based on head-to-head records during the regular season.

Muhme figures to be among the top four seeds when regionals roll around Feb. 4 and 5 in Grand Junction. On Saturday, he got a look at two heavyweights who likely will be seeded ahead of him, including Meeker’s Steve Rust, currently ranked No. 1 in Class 2A.

“I didn’t get pinned,” Muhme said. “That was the strongest match against him I’ve ever had.”

But Muhme did lose to Paonia’s John Hinton by fall. Last year, Muhme pinned Hinton four times.

“I got away from basics,” Muhme said. “It’s all mental.”

Bruggink and Iacovetto pinned their first opponents but lost in the semifinals to drop into the consolation bracket. Both responded by pinning their opponents in the match to determine third and fourth place.

Bruggink pinned Rangely’s Robert Irwin early in the first period, and Iacovetto stuck Rangely’s Curtis Baker with seconds left in the match to claim third.

Gonzales, a freshman wrestling with more maturity than his age, responded well after losing a tough 9-8 match to Meeker’s Kyle Stout to open the tournament.

He pinned Grand Valley’s Kelby Dillon and Rangely’s Stephan Boteng to take third. In his match against Stout, Gonzales had to stop once to use his asthma inhaler and another time when his tooth went through his bottom lip, but he nearly overcame a 6-1 deficit to win.

Gonzales tied things at 8-8 in the closing 30 seconds of the match after getting a takedown and three back points, but Stout escaped with eight seconds left to escape, literally, with the win.

“I’m pleased with third,” Gonzales said. “It is the league tournament. (Coach) Travis Bruggink was trying to work with me last year to get me ready for high school. It’s a lot tougher.”

Hayden’s Aaron Haskins also picked up an early win against Grand Valley’s Dylan Lindauer but did not place. The following Tigers participated in the league tournament: Jeff Dunn (112), David Blair (130), Tyler Manzanares and Chris DeBowes (135), Ray Curtis (140), Sean Rolando (145), Isaac Haskins (152), Aaron Haskins and Andrew Birch (171).

Hayden’s next matches are at 6 p.m. Tuesday against Meeker in Hayden, and Soroco and Hayden travel to the Leadville Tournament on Saturday.

— To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail

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