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Barela leads Devils into regionals

Ryan Slabaugh

The same applies to wrestling, known more for being an individual sport. But that first wrestler, the smallest guy on the team, starts out every meet with the intention of getting his teammates a lead they can hang onto.

At Eagle Valley, that guy goes by the name of Tommy Barela. The senior 103-pounder has lost only twice this season and enters the 3A Western Slope regional meet starting Friday with a 28-2 record. He’s only given up seven points all season, while collecting 138. Earlier this season, his coach, Jeff Lueders, watched him win in the finals at Palisade and got an idea.

“My coach reminded me, if I wrestle that way, I could win at state,” Barela said. “That’s when it dawned on me that I’m at that level.”

“He sets the tone,” Lueders said. “It’s a big help. In a dual meet, he gets everybody going. They start thinking about winning. He’s not a guy that leads with his voice. But he leads us with his attitude and work ethic.”

Barela was one of the seven Devils wrestlers who advanced to the state meet last year, and is anxious for redemption. All seven lost their first round and after the first day, Basalt, which only sent one wrestler, had a higher team score.

The idea of improvement has also been on the mind of junior Tim Reitz, who holds the second-best record on the team with a 28-5 mark. He’s outscored his opponents 116-19, and credits his success to the extra conditioning he’s included in his workouts since he was a sophomore.

“It’s been the same this year and more,” said Reitz, who would find himself running by himself last year. “We started doing team morning runs this year. Nobody’s been able to, from what I’ve seen, be in better shape.”

Coach Lueders agreed. He’s seen a few of his guys climb from behind in the third period to win a match. For example, when freshman Mason Ewing came back from a three-point deficit with 12 seconds to go earlier in the year, his team refocused its attention on training.

“Wrestling’s a tough sport,” Lueders said. “You can get caught in one position and that’s your whole season. We’ve had a good week of practice, and I still think we can send 10 to state. If we wrestle our best, we can send 12.”

Ewing’s one of a trio of freshman who are pushing the upperclassmen, even guys like Barela. Ewing (22-8), Chris Harvey (23-10), and Kylan Kottenstette (27-9) are all looking for state bids in their first tries.

“They have tons of talent,” Barela said. “If they keep working hard and doing the things they’ve been doing, this program may have some state championships in its future.”

First, though, comes the regionals Friday and Saturday at Montrose High School. Last season, the Devils wrestled most of their state-bound crew through the loser’s bracket. This time, they’re going for the easier way.

And setting the stage will be Barela.

“I like it,” he said. “In most sports, the big guys get the attention and go first. Wrestling might be the only sport where the little guys get to go out and do it.”

The matchups for the first round of regionals on Friday are as follows, with seeds in parenthesis: 103 pounds, Tommy Barela (1) vs. Bye; 112, Mason Eving (2) vs. Vinnie Arias (15); 119, Kylan Kottenstette (3) vs. Cody Wood (14); 125, Bo Archibeque (13) vs. Colby Geer (4); 130, Chris Best (7) vs. Bye; 135, Maricio Lagos (8) vs. Nick Benight (9); 140, Tim Reitz (2) vs. Bye; 145, Chris Harvey (3) vs. Bye; 152, Greg Hollis (5) vs. Bye; 160, Philip Rivera (6) vs. Bye; 171, Charles Faulhaber (2) vs. Bye; 189, Brian Saldana (8) vs. Nathan Macchione (1); 215, Jeff Bair (1) vs. Bye; 275, John Saldana (2) vs. Bye.

Ryan Slabaugh is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at rslabaugh@vaildaily.com.


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