Is this the year Hayden’s Zimmerman wins it all? |

Is this the year Hayden’s Zimmerman wins it all?

Standout wrestler remains focused headed into state tournament

Hayden’s Dylan Zimmerman stares down quarterfinal opponent Zach Tittle at the 2021 CHSAA State Wrestling Championships. The pair are likely to meet again in the finals of the 2022 championships this weekend.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Every year of his high school career, Hayden’s Dylan Zimmerman has had a strong shot at winning a state wrestling title. Every year, he’s fallen just short.

The eventual champion has beaten Zimmerman in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The winner has emerged as the hero or main character, if you will, while Zimmerman played the role of the tough opponent who makes the champion’s victory more rewarding and their story more compelling.

This year, Zimmerman is ready to be the main character.

That doesn’t mean fate will carry Zimmerman to a title for the sake of a good story. The senior has a difficult task ahead of him. Zimmerman hasn’t even had a taste of the march of champions of the title match. He came close as a freshman in the 113-pound bracket, taking third. His sophomore year he didn’t place, and last year he finished fourth.

“It’s been very close for a long time and he’s right on the border of getting to where he wants to be,” said Hayden coach Matt Linsacum. “I think this is his year, I do. But it’s not going to be easy. It’s never easy. There’s not going to be a state finals match in any division in any way that’s going to be easy.”

Zimmerman doesn’t have finals match experience, but he’s no stranger to tough battles.

His father Mark was diagnosed with throat cancer in January 2017, and in 2019, it spread. Dylan put too much pressure on himself to wrestle for his dad, which backfired. Over the last year or so, Mark’s health has improved drastically and he’s had multiple clear scans.

With his biggest inspiration, cheerleader and mentor back to full health, Zimmerman had a renewed focus in 2020. He didn’t play football and focused on wrestling more than ever.

Last year in a field half the size of a typical state tournament, Zimmerman ran into Zach Tittle in the 138-pound bracket first round, which was also a quarterfinal. Tittle, a junior from Highland High School, defeated Zimmerman with a takedown in the final four seconds of the match.

Hayden junior Dylan Zimmerman walks away as the official declares his opponent the winner during a quarterfinal match at the 2021 CHSAA State Wrestling Championships.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Previously, Zimmerman was undefeated. He thought it was his year to win a title, but it was in fact Tittle’s.

This year, Zimmerman moved up to the 145-pound bracket, but so did Tittle.

The pair have met once this year and Tittle got the better of Zimmerman, winning 7-4 in a semifinal match at the Warrior Classic Tournament. That was just one of two losses for Zimmerman this year, who otherwise, usually rips through brackets with ease.

The broad-shouldered, dark-haired, tattooed competitor has developed a reputation across the Western Slope. On Feb. 3, Zimmerman pinned his three opponents in the Routt County Triangular, including Soroco junior Gavyn Salberg and West Grand freshman Varian Villalobos. They knew exactly what was in store for them when stepping on the mat.

Hayden senior Dylan Zimmerman is going into the state tournament ranked No. 2 at 145 pounds.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“You have to go in with a you-just-don’t-care mentality because you know you’re probably going to get pinned or (lose by technical fall), but you can’t care too much because it’s just another match,” said Villalobos.

Salberg said he tries not to be intimidated, but you have to have respect for Zimmerman’s talent and efforts.

“The Zimmermans, they’re an incredible wrestling family,” Salberg said. “He has incredible role models. Hayden has always been a wonderful wrestling team, and I’ve seen Zimmerman from middle school and a couple times last year. He’s just a phenomenal wrestler.”

Zimmerman knows he has to beat others to get there, but he expects and hopes to see Tittle in the final at Ball Arena on Saturday, Feb. 19.

“I think it’s going to end up on our feet, whoever can get the most takedowns or get the last takeown,” he said. “In practice, I’ve been pretty much 90% going everything on my feet to be able to defend shots easier, be able to get to legs easier. I think that’s where I’ll be able to beat him, is on my feet.”

Zimmerman admitted that he’s feeling stressed for the first time in his career, likely because this is his final and best shot at bringing home a first-place trophy.

“Usually my parents, they’re the ones losing sleep and not me,” he said. “Well, I’ve found myself the past week or so not being able to sleep because all I can think about is that match, what I’m going to do in that match and how to win in that match.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.