Wrestlers have winning formula

In 1994 no one defeated the Bulldogs varsity wrestling team in dual matches. In 2000 the Bulldogs are undefeated in head-to-head competition.

In 1994 the Bulldogs won the Class 4A state wrestling title. In 2000 the Bulldogs are on track for a repeat performance.

The key to the championship trophy for both teams comes from hard work.

"One thing that is the same between the two teams is the work ethic," said Bulldogs coach Roman Gutierrez. "Both the teams never complained and they just did what was asked of them."

The 1994 Moffat County High School (MCHS) team claimed the title after finishing with an 11-0 dual record for the season. The 2000 team is 16-0 in duals, with no opponent coming close to a win.

"In 1994, we were a senior-dominated team," said Gutierrez. "It's tough to compare those two teams because there were different individuals on the teams. This year's team is a lot younger."

The average age of the 2000 team may be younger, but the top wrestler is a senior hell-bent on winning an individual title after placing third in 1999 and he wants his teammates to follow.

Kurtis Kostur is in his fourth year of wrestling at MCHS. He was 36-1 last year with his only loss in the semifinal match at state. This season he is 31-1 with his only loss against a state-qualifying Utah wrestler. He has wrestled at 140 pounds both years.

Kostur uses his experience to help younger wrestlers on the team push their talents to the limit.

"I just try to keep my mind on wrestling and off all the other stuff," said Kostur, who was named the most outstanding wrestler at tournaments in Rock Springs, Wyo., the Warrior Classic in Grand Junction, Colo., and Rifle, Colo. "I just kind of concentrate. Practice keeps you focused and I have been kind of doing these for awhile. I kind of know what it takes."

Kostur gets much of his drive to succeed from those around him.

"The team keeps me going," said Kostur. "I like to see all the other guys do well."

Senior Coalin Hume (25-5), who wrestles at 160 pounds, is right beside Kostur in pushing the underclassmen.

"All we can do for the younger guys is cheer them on," said Hume, who is seeking his first state tournament berth. "I help them make the right decisions on and off the mat. In the practice room we make them work hard so they are not messing around. The younger guys have a great work ethic and we haven't had to do too much this year."

"We just have outstanding senior leadership," said Gutierrez. "Everybody is behind each other and is always trying to help them out. Ninety-percent of the matches are just mentally knowing that they can win and people expecting them to win."

Younger team members follow the guidance of the seniors.

Sophomore Travis Linsacum (30-5), who competes at 125 pounds, doesn't mess around off the mat.

"We work hard in practice and don't go out and do stupid things on the weekend; that's all you need to do is stay on track," said Linsacum.

Linsacum is pretty confident heading into the regional meet slated for Feb. 11-12 in Grand Junction, Colo.

"Being a sophomore and heading into regionals knowing that I have beaten most of the kids in my region, I have a pretty good chance of going to state," said Linsacum. "I will just go over what my opponents have done and continue to work hard in practice."

Assistant varsity coach Ron Linsacum, whose twin sons Travis and Ryan are on the varsity team, believes once the team gets started it is hard to stop. The lead-off for the team starts with sophomore Mark Hastings at 112 pounds and sophomore Kyle Kostur at 119 pounds.

"Our team is like a freight train with Mark (Hastings) and Kyle (Kostur) leading off," said Linsacum. "The other wrestlers just follow. In this sport you have to be humble and have confidence. Anything could happen at any give time."

The 2000 team has been humbled.

On Dec. 11, at the Rock Springs tournament, the Bulldogs finished in third place. Green River, Wyo., a wrestling powerhouse in Wyoming, finished in first place, while Vernal, Utah, came in second place.

"The Rock Springs tournament was kind of a rude awaking for some of those younger kids," said Gutierrez. "I think that they knew that they were in a lot of the matches. Of course, we didn't win, but the kids still felt confidence in themselves."

The losing streak didn't last long as a week later the team claimed the 32-team field Warrior Classic in Grand Junction one of the top wrestling tournaments in Colorado.

"They showed that confidence at the Warrior Classic," said Gutierrez. "We had five sophomores that placed and so we are looking toward the future as well."

Hastings (32-3) is one of the reasons the future looks bright for the Bulldogs.

"You have to be focused or you will start falling back and losing matches," said Hastings. "Staying in shape and practicing hard keeps you focused.

"We will kind of rest now toward regional and state so we can be able to peak at the right time."

The Bulldogs put their undefeated dual mark on the line on the road at 6 p.m. today against the Steamboat Springs Sailors, an arch rival in the Western Slope Conference.

"There is going to be a little more stress this week with regional and the state tournament coming up," said Gutierrez. "They will be putting it on themselves to qualify for the state tournament.

"We are going to have it real loose for the next couple of weeks.

"We are going to practice for 30 minutes at a time just to get our legs back and hopefully we will be ready for regional and state tournament."

Whatever happens at the regional and state competitions, the young wrestlers on the team this year will be back.

And, coming up behind them, are more wrestlers.

Skip Kostur, father of Kurtis and Kyle, believes the success of MCHS wrestling comes from programs offered in Craig.

"A lot of the guys have been wrestling for a lot of years," said Skip Kostur. "Most of them started with Pee-wee wrestling when they were 8 or 9 years old.

"That kind of experience helps out a bunch," said Skip Kostur. "The team will be good for the next few years."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.