Luke Pleasant has been involved in wrestling for nearly half of his 8-year-old life. In that time, he’s accumulated quite a collection of trophies.
But, there’s always room for more.
Pleasant was one of 45 members of the Bad Dogs youth wrestling team who participated in tournaments in Steamboat Springs and Craig over the weekend. The team won 29 first-place distinctions, 11 in Steamboat’s Saturday meet and 18 in Craig’s Fall Classic at Moffat County High School on Sunday.
The classic was the third tournament of the season for the Bad Dogs. The event drew in about 120 young wrestlers, including teams from Gypsum, Kremmling and Grand Junction, among others.
“We’ve had a great season so far,” Bad Dogs coach Shane Hadley said. “We’ve just had huge numbers, and we’re so proud of our kids because they’re all doing so good.”
Throughout Sunday’s action, many of the Bad Dogs were matched against each other. Hadley said the reason for this was to ensure that each pair of young grapplers were at the same skill level.
“We want them to have a good experience,” Hadley said. “Some of the best wrestling matches happen every day in our practices in the high school wrestling room.”
Hadley was at the edge of the mat Sunday cheering as his 7-year-old son, Sebastian, faced off against a member of Gypsum’s Bald Eagle team. The match was somewhat confusing because Sebastian was wearing a spare red and black singlet rather than the Bad Dogs’ usual blue and gray.
Shane said his son had gotten his usual uniform messy during Halloween activities.
“It’s pretty great how these kids were able to go from trick-or-treating Saturday night to this,” Shane said.
Pleasant was more than ready for his matches Sunday, coming off a win in the 8-and-under age bracket in Steamboat. Three opponents later, he had his second first-place finish of the weekend.
“It feels pretty good to win,” he said.
Pleasant has been wrestling with the Bad Dogs for three years.
“We’re pretty much the hardest-working team in the state,” he said.
Pleasant’s goal for the season is to win the Triple Crown — three national tournaments. Last year, he placed first at the Las Vegas Invitational.
“I like wrestling because it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “The practices are hard, but it’s pretty much about having fun.”
Win or lose, Pleasant and his teammates congratulate their opponents and shake hands with the other team’s coaches after each match, the coach said.
“We want to keep these kids leaders in the community,” Shane said.
Shane said the Bad Dogs are also expected to keep their grades up.
“We check around at the schools, and we’ll bench them if they’re not performing,” he said.
For Bad Dog parent Mardi Anson, the team’s standards are welcome. Anson is the mother of two team members, 6-year-old Garrett and 9-year-old Grady.
Anson said she was unsure about letting her boys participate in the program.
“As an outsider, I was very against it, but I love it as an insider,” she said. “It’s hard watching your kids and worrying they might get hurt, but it’s been a good experience. It lets them get exercise and they all cheer for each other.”
The Bad Dogs will split up for two meets Nov. 6. Part of the team will go to Kremmling, while others will go to the nationally-ranked Monster Mash tournament at the Denver Coliseum.
Shane said Monster Mash is “a big one” for the team.
“They have some very good wrestlers there,” he said. “We tell the kids that there’s no holding back. Go full bore.”