Hayden wrestling team hopes to honor Chad Jones with state titles
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Nick Planansky never considered becoming head coach of the Hayden High School wrestling team.
But when Hayden head coach and Planansky’s longtime friend Chad Jones passed away of tracheitis on Sept. 17, there was no question Planansky had to step up.
“I looked at as if it was going to be me and coach until we decided to call it,” Planansky said. “I got the call, came back to town and met with all the wrestlers. … At that point a couple of the parents asked me, and I said, ‘Yeah, I have to.’ We started something between the two of us, and I want to finish it out.”
A somber start to the season set the tone for what the Hayden wrestling team wants to do — wrestle for Jones. Planansky, though, has tried to keep the team’s mentality in check.
“We can do it for coach, but we can’t consider it a loss if we don’t achieve those goals,” Planansky said. “Coach would want us to do our best. All we can do is go out on the mat and wrestle hard.”
The matted room where the team practices also has served as a solace — a place where the athletes can work out their emotions. When Planansky held his opening meeting for the team, his athletes opened up with stories and emotions that they were feeling. It was necessary.
“Honestly, it’s been rough. He’s been our coach since we were little kids — 2, 3, 4 years old,” Hayden junior Hunter Planansky said. “We just keep him in the back of our head, keep doing it for him, keep moving forward. He’s been here for everyone, even kids who have wrestled in the past and didn’t wrestle before.”
Daylon Frentress, who wrestled through seventh grade, joined the wrestling team this year as a senior. He jokes that Jones had always teased him, asking if he could dribble with his left hand yet. Jones had been his wrestling and pee wee football coach as a kid. Since basketball wasn’t going the way Frentress wanted, he knew he could go back to wrestling.
“I always liked wrestling and had a hard decision in middle school when I had to decide between it and basketball,” Frentress said. “So now, I’m doing it, and I’m having a blast.”
The team found success at the Middle Park Tournament this weekend, taking second overall as a team. Three of the five wrestlers competing claimed first-place titles.
Sophomore Keenan Hayes, freshmen Dylan Zimmerman and Hunter Planansky all earned first, and Frentress finished in fourth place.
Zimmerman, a fourth-generation wrestler from Craig, took third in the middle school state championships last year, where all classes compete together in a 64-person bracket. He joins a class of elite wrestlers on the Tigers team, which includes state veterans Hayes, Peyton Planansky, Wyatt Murphy and Hunter Planansky. Hayes took fourth overall as a freshman at state.
Zimmerman feels confident after his first tournament, despite transferring to Hayden to wrestle under Jones. He feels like he’s in a place where he can succeed and where his dad Mark and brother Drake can also help coach him.
“This weekend was really good for me,” Zimmerman said. “In three matches in total, I wrestled for a total of two minutes and 26 seconds. It was a pretty quick turnaround for me. My biggest goals are to win regionals and win state this year.”
Hunter Planansky shares the same goals but adds he’d like to see the Tigers win state as a team. In last week’s tournament, Hayden placed second with five out of 14 possible weight classes, so he can only imagine what they could do with almost a full team in place.
“We talked before the season, saying we would dedicate the season to Jones,” Hunter Planansky said. “Just don’t quit. Keep pushing your hardest even if you’re not winning. I think we’re going to win it as a team.”
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