Former MCHS wrestler in match of his life

When Adams State College junior Kourtney Lake stepped to the scales at the NCAA Division II wrestling national championships in March, the signs were there.

The former high school state champion from Moffat County weighed in for the 141-pound weight class at 130 pounds.

Daily Press staff Members of the Adam's State College wrestling team and the Student Athlete Advisory Committee have launched a fund-raising campaign coined the "Wrestling With Cancer Fund." Several of those events are planned for the next few weeks. The groups have set up a table in the ASC Student Union Building and are selling tickets for a spaghetti dinner on Monday and "Lance Armstrong" type bracelets in ASC's colors:green and white. The all-you-can-eat benefit dinner will be from 5 to 8 p.m. in the SUB banquet rooms on the south end of the building, on the corner of First Street and Stadium Drive. Tickets for the buffet style, come-and-go event are $5. The tickets and bracelets can be purchased at the table in the student union from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. They also are available in the ASC Athletics Office in Plachy Hall. A table also will be set up at City Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today. Lake's wife, Melissa, and Dr. Martin Sowards will be speaking at the spaghetti dinner and will update the crowd about Lake's condition and the details of the disease that has inflicted him. The wrestling team and SAAC members also have placed donation jars at various businesses throughout the community. Steve and Mel Archuleta, owners of Kitchen Works in downtown Alamosa, also have made a generous donation as they will be donating $1 of each meal sold through today to the fund. Rebekah Kennedy of The Peak Band also announced that her group is organizing a street concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The benefit concert will be held on San Juan Avenue south of Main Street and will feature The Peak Band and two other unconfirmed bands from the area. Call Kennedy at (719) 587-7976 for more information about that event. Finally, Center High School wrestling coach Brian Ullery announced that he is holding a fund-raising tournament May 20 and 21 at CHS. The tournament will begin with greco-roman competition on Friday evening and will feature freestyle action on Saturday. The entry fee is $20, and a $3 admission charge will be charged for fans. Weigh-ins and registration for the greco portion of the tournament will be from 4 to 6 p.m. May 20, with the competition starting at 7 p.m. Freestyle weigh-in and registration will be from 6 to 8 a.m. May 21, with the action starting at 10 a.m. Registrations also can be faxed to Ullery by 4 p.m. May 20 at (719) 754-2856. Call Ullery at (719) 589-6466 for more information. Donations also are being accepted throughout the campaign. Donors can make checks payable to Adams State College with the Wrestling With Cancer Fund on the memo line. One hundred percent of the funds that are raised will be used to pay for Lake's medical bills and will not be given directly to him or his family, as per NCAA bylaws.

Those who didn't know Lake may have wondered why he was wrestling 11 pounds under his class and just six pounds above the next weight class.

But for those close to Lake, they knew.

"He wanted to keep wrestling to nationals," Lake's wife, Melissa, said. "The doctors didn't see a problem with it, so he continued."

In January, Lake was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. It's a cancer that, at this time, has no cure.

After the wrestling season was over, Lake and his wife moved to Farmington, N.M., to live with Lake's mother and stepfather, Reagan and Rolland Barney.

Lake is currently undergoing experimental treatments for his disease.

"The cancer has spread beyond the tumor, so doctors are being very aggressive with treatment," Melissa said. "The medicine Kourtney is taking was cleared to be used just recently."

Melissa, who married Kourtney in September of 2004, said that Kourtney's physical strength is little.

"We wait on him hand and foot," she said. "He doesn't like a lot of people around him, so all we can really do is get him water."

The newlyweds are without health insurance. They have received financial help from their immediate family (Kourtney's father is Korry Lake), but the bills have started to accumulate.

The town of Alamosa and ASC have organized multiple fund-raisers to help the Lakes.

"Chris Day (the ASC assistant athletics director) and (assistant coach) Travis Koppenhafer have been great," Melissa said. "The people in Alamosa have been amazing."

Other than financial help, Melissa said that spiritual support is important to her husband.

"If people know Kourtney, they know how spiritual he is," she said. "He asks for prayers."

Gordon Grandbouche, owner of Craig Grain, employed Kourtney throughout high school. He found out about his former employee's condition this week.

"It's tragic," he said. "Kourtney was more than a worker for me (in Craig), he was a friend."

Grandbouche and the Moffat County wrestling coach have discussed holding a fund-raiser in Craig.

"I'd sure like to help him if we can," Grandbouche said.

Gutierrez described Lake as disciplined wrestler who never gave his opponent a break.

"He was a runner-up as a junior, and he wasn't going to finish second again," Gutierrez said. "He was like a mosquito in a tent. He just kept coming at you."

After Lake graduated from Moffat County High School in 1999 his family moved from Craig.

"Not a lot of the current wrestlers know him well because of his family moving," Gutierrez said. "But the wrestling community knows what kind of person Kourtney is."

Lake attended ASC for a year before leaving for a church mission in Russia for two years. He returned to Alamosa and ASC wrestling for the 2002-03 season. He won more than 90 matches as a Grizzly and earned All-American honors as a sophomore.

"His freshman year (ASC coach) Jason (Ramstetter) made the comment that he didn't have the best skills, but he just kept coming and never gave up," Gutierrez said. "He could find his way out of things that normal kids couldn't."

One only hopes that some way, somehow it can be the same case in Lake's wrestling match with an opponent more challenging than any wrestler he's faced.

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