Hayden, Soroco, Steamboat bring newcomers, veterans to state wrestling
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County will be sending 11 athletes to the state wrestling tournament, which will be held Thursday, Feb. 21, to Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Soroco and Hayden high schools will compete as members of Class 2A and Steamboat Springs High School will be in Class 3A. Preliminary rounds for both classes are expected to start at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Thursday, Feb. 21
Preliminaries, 2 to 4:45 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 22
Quarterfinals, 9 to 11:45 a.m.
First-round consolation, immediately after each round
Second-round consolation, 5 to 6:15 p.m.
Semifinals, 6:45 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 23
Third-round consolation, 10 a.m.
Semifinal consolation, fifth- and third-place consolation immediately follows
Parade of Champions, 6:30 p.m.
As the buses load up with athletes, and families pile into cars to make the road trip to state, here is a guide of Routt County wrestlers to watch at the Pepsi Center.
Hayden will be the top team to watch. The Tigers are sending six competitors to state, and they boast two Class 2A Region 1 champions who could medal at state. As a team of six, they can also score points toward a team title.
The Tigers are without sophomores Keenan Hayes and Payton Planansky, both state qualifiers last year. The two are out due to injury following a tournament in Yoder, Utah.
“I knew it was a possibility to get that many through,” Tigers head coach Nick Planansky said. “Every year Coach [Chad] Jones and I would come up with a number. We knew we had the ability to send six, but probably realistically three or four would make it. When all of them qualified, we were ecstatic.”
Freshman Dylan Zimmerman, 113, has been a rising star on the Tigers team. A regional champion, he has amassed a 30-4 record this season and has pinned 21 of his opponents, the highest on the team. Zimmerman was one of two wrestlers this season to place at the Tournament of Champions on Jan. 11 and 12 in Utah, where he took fifth. The tournament featured 36 schools from Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.
“He’s a super tough kid,” Planansky said. “He’s been wrestling since he was little and medaled at the middle school state tournament. He’s a super durable kid and can go out and be physical.”
The second regional champion on the Tigers’ team is a returning state competitor. Junior Hunter Planansky, 182, has a 30-5 season record, pinning 18 of his opponents. He placed fourth at the Tournament of Champions, and his summer wrestling and time in the weight room has contributed a lot to his success this year.
“Hunter went [to state] last year … and he didn’t medal,” Nick Planansky said. “He spent the entire summer getting up every morning and lifting weights and working out with Coach Jones.”
Sophomore Kyler Campbell, 106, placed second overall at regionals in the 106-pound weight class, falling to Norwood freshman Jerrett Sinks in the championship by a 5-4 decision. Campbell has notched several top placings this year, including a first-place finish at the West Grand Invitational on Dec. 15.
Sophomore Wyatt Murphy’s first trip to state last year was by a twist of fate, but this year, he’s going on his own accord. Murphy, 132, placed fifth in the region last year, but the fourth-place finisher’s emergency appendectomy took him out of the state competition, and Murphy was next in line.
This year, Murphy returns to state after finishing third at regionals.
“He wrestled tough last year,” Nick Planansky said. “He took that kid’s spot and bad luck turned out good for us. This year he made it.”
Dylan Frentress, 126, is one of two senior wrestlers competing at state for the Tigers. Frentress traded his final season of basketball to join the wrestling team this year. After not wrestling since seventh grade, Frentress was quick to see success on the mat and add more technical skills to earn him a fourth-place at regionals to punch a ticket to state.
“He’s a worker — he puts it in the room, gives it everything he’s got on the mat,” Nick Planansky said. “He’s a super athlete and doesn’t back down.”
Hunter Hatcher, 220, wrestled in middle school and during his sophomore year at Hayden, and now, he’ll be making a state appearance as a senior. He earned the right to compete at the state tournament after finishing fourth at regionals.
The Rams collected a few upsets at regionals to earn more spots on the mat at the state tournament than expected. While the Rams return three-time, state runner-up senior Jace Logan, he’ll be joined by wrestlers who have never been on this stage before.
Logan, 170, is the athlete to watch for a state title this season. Logan holds a 37-1 record, with his only loss coming from Zack Johnson of Maple Mountain High School in Utah at the Tournament of Champions earlier this year. Johnson was No. 2 in Utah’s Class 5A.
Logan has received the Most Outstanding Wrestler award at three different tournaments this year and sits at No. 2 in the Class 2A rankings. He’s expected to face Wray senior Carlos Tarin for a rematch in this year’s finals. Tarin holds a 33-2 record, according to Trackwrestling.
“I think it’s his own mental preparation that will make the biggest difference this year,” Soroco head coach Jay Whaley said. “He’s done that. He’s worked on the mental aspect of things.”
Senior Jesse Amrein, 195, jumped up a weight class as part of a last-minute decision to optimize his chances of a spot at state. Weighing in at 180, Amrein upset the No. 5 and No. 1 ranked wrestlers in the state. He qualified for state as a runner-up at regionals.
“Jesse’s attitude is right,” Whaley said. “He’s given up 12 pounds to wrestle there. I expect him to bring home a medal.”
Sophomore Kody Logan, 145, entered regionals as No. 5 in his weight class but took home third-place to qualify for state. Logan holds a 14-10 record so far this season.
“He surprised everybody by placing third at the regional tournament,” Whaley said. “He would’ve been staying home, as the fifth-ranked kid in our region. He’s in a really tough weight class and beat some really good kids to place third. He really blossomed at regionals.”
Junior Tristan Singer, 220, is a story of perseverance, qualifying for state after taking fourth at regionals. Singer has flown under the radar this year with a couple of top finishes, including second at the West Grand Invitational.
“I’m proud of him,” Whaley said. “He’s won more matches this year than he has his entire life through pee wee and high school. He’s one of those great stories you have as a coach. He’s always there, never misses, and his hard work is paying off this year.”
The Sailors will send one wrestler to state this year under new head coach Jordan Bonifas.
Junior Tucker Havel, a veteran of previous state competitions, tore his meniscus earlier this season and was not healthy for regional competition. Junior Spencer Mader, another state favorite, fell to tough competition at regionals, leaving junior John Slowey left as the lone qualifier.
“We’re really young, and we actually wrestled really well,” Bonifas said. “Next year is going to be a completely different year. We laid a good foundation. We’re definitely going to be tough.”
Junior John Slowey, 195, has worked on being a better all-around wrestler, adding new moves to diversify his technical skills on the mat. He’s put together a collection of top finishes this year, including an undefeated run at the Rifle Duals and a third-place showing at Paonia. He qualified for state by finishing fourth at regionals.
“It’s not easy to make it back to state just because you went there once,” Bonifas said. “I’m proud of him.”
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