Steamboat stands atop Soroco wrestling tourney |

Steamboat stands atop Soroco wrestling tourney

Steamboat's Dane Koepfer celebrates a victory in the finals at Saturday's wrestling tournament in Soroco. Steamboat won the 10-team meet, with three individual championships.

— A year ago, it was news that a Routt County high school wrestling program had revived a dormant tournament when Soroco hosted a small event with mostly local teams.

This year, after the tournament expanded to include several powerful squads from across the region, it's news that a Routt County high school won that tournament.

The Steamboat Springs wrestling program, rebuilt nearly from scratch during the past five years, thundered Saturday to a team victory at the Soroco tournament.

"We had good wrestling last year, and this year, we had even better wrestling," Soroco coach and tournament director Jay Whaley said. "It was good, and it was great to have a Routt County team win. That was great for Steamboat."

Steamboat won championships with Connor O'Brien at 178 pounds, Dane Koepfer at 145 pounds and Nathan Parks at 126 pounds.

It got second-place showings from Cole Sittig at heavyweight, Brandon Yeager at 195 and Guerin Lewis at 152 pounds.

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"We wrestled pretty well in the championship round," Steamboat coach Shane Yeager said. "We did pretty well, but we still need to finish. The kids are being more aggressive, but they need to start finishing."

Few in the tournament managed the kind of dominance Parks did. He won all three of his matches via pin, and he did so in remarkably short order. He got pins in 29 seconds, 49 seconds and 1 minute, 13 seconds.

"Nathan is pretty complete," Yeager said.

Koepfer and O'Brien each earned the first wins of their careers.

Steamboat finished with 123 points, ahead of Monarch with 116, Meeker at 113 and Rangely with 95.

"I'm really happy with the season so far," said Cole Sittig, a junior who's been second in both of the team's tournaments. "Everyone else talks about state, but I'm taking it one match at a time."

Tigers, Rams land podium spots

Hayden and Soroco had plenty of high-place wrestlers, as well.

The Tigers were led by second-place finishes from Kent Miller at 132 pounds, Trent Gabel at 126 and freshman Jack Trapp at 106. Journey Vreeman at 152, Taylor Lewis at 160 and Tanner Guire at 113 finished third.

Trapp and Gabel, in particular, offered the team big surprises.

Gabel placed second, falling to the buzz saw that was Steamboat's Parks. He entered the meet as the team's junior varsity wrestler at the weight. He came in a hair heavier than he had expected, but made the most of his bump up in divisions.

"That's pretty much unheard of," said Hayden coach Chad Jones about of Gabel's JV to second-place leap. "It was effort. He never quit and stuck with his moves that worked."

Trapp pinned his way to the finals but was pinned there himself.

"It was all right," Trapp said. "I could have won that last match if I'd been a little smarter. I was getting my takedowns pretty good all day, and I was pretty good on top offensively. In the last match, I threw a move too hard, and he rolled through and got me."

Soroco, meanwhile, got podium performances from Nate Ragan, who was third at 220 pounds, and Colton Martindale, who was fourth at 120.

Ragan wrestled in sixth grade, but the freshman didn't take to the mats again until this season. He still managed to go 3-2 on Saturday. He won his final match in the round-robin bracket with a pin, bounding up and shaking his fists before exchanging high-fives with the Soroco coaching staff.

"It wasn't really anything about that match," Ragan said. "I just get excited."

Soroco Invitational team results

1 Steamboat Springs 123

2 Monarch 116

3 Meeker 113

4 Rangely 95

5 Hayden 93

6 Saratoga 83

7 Battle Mountain 75

8 Lake County 44

9 Soroco 29

10 West Grand 28

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email