Steamboat wrestler finds a new level of confidence with success at state championships
Competing in the Colorado High School Activities Association State Wrestling Championship for the first time can be daunting. The crowd is bigger, the lights are brighter and the emotions are higher.
This reality struck Steamboat Springs junior Finn Rodgers upon walking onto the floor for the first time at Ball Arena for the state competition on Thursday night, Feb. 16.
It was Rodgers’ goal all season to make it to Denver, and after taking fourth at regionals in the 165-pound weight class, he made that dream come true. Steamboat head coach Brian Almer said Rodgers’ competitive nature and desire to win is what got him this far and he just has to put it all together on the biggest stage.
“From our coaching experience, we know that everyone bumps up their intensity here,” Almer said. “He’s continued to improve, never taken a step back, and bumping that competitiveness up a notch is where he’s at.”
Despite losing by way of fall in the first round, Rodgers showed no quit and had a drive within him to push even harder in the first wrestleback match. If he lost, he would be done.
He talked with Almer about calming his nerves and remaining confident, which Almer says is half the battle in state competition.
Tied 8-8 at the end of the third round, Rodgers was going into overtime against Colin Duckworth of Fort Morgan. Any point would win the match, and Rodgers made it happen, winning 10-8 in a sudden victory.
Rodgers said that even though there are 10 mats on the floor, when he stepped inside the circle, it felt like there was only one. It’s a feeling he has never felt before.
“Wrestling here at state is pretty wild,” Rodgers said. “You see all these people with their hair dyed — they’re going all out for state — it’s pretty cool. Showing up here with only two guys while entire teams are showing up is pretty wild.”
Only two Steamboat athletes qualified for state, Rodgers and junior Henry Dismuke. Dismuke lost in both the first round Thursday night and the first wrestleback Friday morning, ending his state run.
Meanwhile, Rodgers advanced to the second round of wrestlebacks, and with another win, he would return to the mat for another bout on Saturday, Feb. 18. Prior to the match, he said he didn’t want to look too far ahead and all of his focus is on his next match.
“To win every match would be awesome, but you have to focus on one at a time,” Rodgers said. “Wrestling as much as possible should be everyone’s goal, and it’s my goal as well.”
Rodgers went on to lose his next match 13-3, knocking him out of the state tournament, but armed with the knowledge that he can win on the state stage, he will likely return next year.
To reach Tom Skulski, call 970-871-4240, email tskulski@SteamboatPilot.com.
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