Hayden The Hayden High School wrestling team isn’t satisfied with being the only Routt County squad to send four athletes to this weekend’s state championships in Denver.
Ask Kent Miller, the Tigers’ junior 145-pounder, who has been to the tournament at the Pepsi Center every year since he was a freshman.
He’s won a match or two in the past against the state’s elite, but this year, he’s out for a podium finish, he said.
Or talk to junior Taylor Lewis, who has envisioned being Colorado’s top wrestler at 182 pounds since he took up the sport nearly 12 years ago.
Lewis qualified for the tournament last year but admits the next-level competition got the better of him. State was an “eye-opening” experience, he said.
“I’m looking forward to getting my shot at winning a state championship,” Lewis said. “It’s been my dream since I was in kindergarten."
There’s also Hayden’s 220-pounder Hunter Rummel, who got a phone call Sunday announcing he had qualified for the big show after originally thinking he narrowly missed the cut when he placed fifth at the district tournament.
Rummel got the nod for his performances even before the district tournament began and will fill in the lone 2A vacancy left behind by Region 2.
“Mr. Rummel snuck in but not really snuck in,” Hayden coach Chad Jones said. “He was in the toughest region at 220s, and he showed that his record is capable of getting to state out of our region even though he was at fifth place.”
Then there’s Journey Vreeman, the only Hayden senior making the trip this year and the Tiger with perhaps the toughest draw in the first round of any of his teammates.
At 160 pounds, Vreeman didn’t qualify last year because of injury, but in the first round Thursday, he will take on Fleming junior Juan Fraire, who is nearly unblemished at 32-1.
But the soft-spoken senior doesn’t care. Vreeman’s focused on himself and avenging what he called a disappointing district performance. He laughs when saying that "winning" is what excites him most about state.
Although he’s not really joking at all.
“I’m excited for Journey Vreeman against that No. 1,” Jones said. “We might surprise some people. We are going to go out with the attitude of attacking and scoring. It’s the state tournament, but just another wrestling tournament for us.”
The four are busy at work this week, fine-tuning some technical matters, but most of all, they are getting focused mentally.
Very few in the Hayden group have any familiarity with their first-round opponents. Miller said the most he knows is he placed higher at a tournament earlier this year than his first-round draw, John Mall High School’s Adam Serrano-Bobian.
Jones said he likes the overall attitude of the group headed to state, though he expected to have more wrestlers qualify.
“We’re just trying to refine the small nuances of the technique,” Jones said. “Basically, it’s just trying to get them tuned in on wrestling their style. We don’t want that other kid controlling the tempo of the match.”
The Hayden wrestlers aren’t afraid to set high expectations for themselves.
Miller would like to see all four somehow get on their respective podiums. Vreeman just wants to win — obviously. Rummel is out to prove he belongs and maybe steal a win or two early. And Lewis can’t get his mind off a gold medal.
“My expectation for myself is gold,” Lewis said. “Shoot up top so if I miss, at least I will have tried.”
A preview of Steamboat Springs High School's three wrestlers who qualified for the state tournament will be published in Wednesday's Steamboat Today.
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll