It’s do or die for Steamboat, Hayden and Soroco wrestlers at regionals
Regional wrestling tourneys a chance for local athletes to get to state
Steamboat Springs — It’s make-or-break time across the Colorado high school wrestling landscape.
Do well enough this weekend at regionals, and you punch your ticket to Denver’s Pepsi Center for the annual state wrestling championships, an event some argue is Colorado’s premier spectacle — no matter the sport.
Give an inch here or there, and your season might wrap up in the blink of an eye. Only the top-four regional finishers at any weight in any classification are state bound.
Last year, as a freshman Sailor, 106-pound Colton Pasternak admittedly set the bar a bit low — a reasonably expected low. This year, after a stellar season in his weight class, he’s hoping to make leaps on that year-old target during Friday’s Class 3A Region 4 tournament at Montrose High School.
“Last year, I had my goal of just breaking even, and I barely squeaked by with that,” Pasternak said before Wednesday’s practice. “The next step was set the goal higher. This year, my goal is to get to state. Last year, I didn’t even place at regionals. I think it helps.”
On paper, the regional tournament won’t be quite the grind for state-championship berths as it has been in years past. The Sailors were a Class 4A school last winter and earlier, stuck in a log jam at regionals and state with 70 other schools, some more than twice the size of Steamboat Springs High School.
The Colorado High School Activities Association noticed the glaring gap between 4A and 3A schools and reset the enrollment guidelines. Last season, there were 71 schools considered 4A and only 38 in 3A. This year, it’s nearly dead even, with 55 in 3A and 52 in 4A.
But just because the Sailors dropped down a class does not mean they are alone. Other former 4A teams went with them, including the likes of powerhouse programs such as Delta.
“You can’t really go in with that mindset thinking because we were 4A last year means we’ll do a lot better in 3A,” Pasternak said.
In Steamboat’s region Friday are a pair of state-ranked squads in Delta (No. 4) and Olathe (No. 6), according to On The Mat.
The Sailors, although young, do have some contenders who have regional and state experience.
Pasternak is one of them at 106 pounds. So is Dakota Thvedt, a state-qualifying 113-pounder a year ago who is hitting 120s this year. Matthew Hansen (145 pounds) narrowly missed the state cut last year at regionals, and 126-pounder Colton Crawford was in the mix at the qualifier, too.
“The season is a grind, but I think now you just have to ramp it up a bit in your mind and say this is showtime,” Pasternak said. “This is the playoffs. This is the final countdown to reach those goals. It’s the last place you can do it.”
Competition run from Friday through Saturday.
Hayden and Soroco to battle through demanding 2A region
When it comes to Class 2A wrestling, it’s hard to imagine a tougher draw than what Hayden and Soroco will face Friday and Saturday at Colorado Mesa University.
Five of the top-10 teams in Colorado 2A reside in the Region 1 tournament, including the top-three programs in Paonia, Norwood/Nucla and Meeker.
But, especially for the Tigers, a little stiff competition come regional time never slowed them down. Hayden has three state championship qualifiers back from a year ago, including Taylor Lewis, who placed at 182 pounds at the Pepsi Center in 2013-14.
Lewis is back at 182 for his senior year and has already run the gamut of his regional opponents. Most recently, Lewis took third at Paonia’s Screaming Eagle Invitational. His 120-pound teammate Judd Magee grabbed fourth at the same stacked 2A tourney, and Tate Montieth (138 pounds) was sixth.
Others Tigers, like 2013-14 state qualifiers Hunter Rummel (220 pounds) and Kent Miller (152 pounds), could factor in to what might be a big day for the program. Christian Carson, a 195-pounder, was one match away from punching his ticket to state last year, as well.
For Soroco, 132-pounder Lane Martindale barely missed the state cut last year at 106 pounds. In his new bracket, he’ll face off against some top-ranked foes, like Paonia’s Bo Pipher (39-0).
Rams freshman Dalton Ray also will be fighting for a podium spot at 138 pounds.
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