Small team won’t faze Soroco wrestling this season
December 5, 2014
Steamboat Springs — A shortage of numbers isn’t anything new to Soroco High School wrestling coach Jay Whaley, so when only three athletes turned out for the Rams this season, the 11 empty spaces in the other weight classes weren’t necessarily alarming.
After all, Whaley has done a ton with nearly as much — or less, depending on how you look at it.
About half a decade ago, Whaley had only five on the Rams’ varsity roster.
The end result? Three state semifinalists, including a pair in the state championship finals.
"It’ll be fine," Whaley said matter-of-factly. "We don’t need a lot of numbers to be successful."
Whaley isn’t the type to duck the situation, nor will he spend much time on the downside of fielding such a small squad — the smallest he has ever had in his time as Rams coach.
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Instead, he focuses on the good that comes from it, like the one-on-one time he’s going to get to spend with his three underclassmen in Shad Covalt, Lane Martindale and Dalton Ray.
Covalt and Martindale have the most experience as a pair of sixth-place finishers at last winter’s Class 2A Region 1 tournament. Dalton Ray is a freshman newcomer at either 132 pounds or 138 pounds.
Although now-Soroco-graduates Nate Ragan and Cody Constine set a bit of a small-squad precedent with their performances at the Class 2A state championships in February, Whaley said the early season mission this winter is simple: get better as wrestlers, and the accolades will fall into the places they fit.
"I just want them to all personally grow and come out better than what they did last year," Whaley said. "I think we’ll achieve that. I’ve seen growth out of all of them. They should. They get lots of attention."
Martindale wrestled at 106 pounds last year but has jumped up three weight classes to 126 this year. He finished the 2013-14 season with an even 21-21 record following the regional tournament. Covalt, a junior, wrestled at 113 pounds at last year’s regionals and recorded a 6-14 record, and Whaley is listing him at 106 pounds to start this season.
Martindale is expected to shoulder some leadership weight, Whaley added, and he expects all three to make state championship bracket runs, despite their roster size. They’ll have to do so in an already deep regional pool that got even bigger with some additions of drop-down Class 3A schools this year.
"I think it’s a year of growth and for them to really prove themselves a little bit," Whaley said. "They are three good guys."
It’s a situation that none of the three have really been in. With no seniors, the trio might just be the face of Soroco wrestling for a few more years as middle schoolers trickle into the program that’s still producing state-level talent despite thin numbers.
"They’re all special kids in their own right," Whaley said. "Wrestling is their thing. Their success and growth will make them better people. They’ll all have to step up."
The Rams open the season Saturday at the Middle Park Invitational in Granby, where they will be alongside and against Hayden and Steamboat Springs. Matches begin at 9 a.m.
They’ll host the Soroco Invitational On Dec. 13 in Oak Creek.