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Eagle Valley ready for state wrestling tournament

Ian Smith
ismith@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Daily File PhotoEagle Valley's Colt Ewing, left, tries to score a takedown in a match earlier this season. Ewing and teammates Matt Kottenstette and Joey Bajza will compete at state for the Devils.
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GYPSUM, Colorado ” Eagle Valley’s Colt Ewing doesn’t plan on soaking in the atmosphere at the state wrestling tournament.

He’s been there, done that. Now, it’s time for Ewing to test his mettle against the best Colorado has to offer.

Every wrestler worth their salt will be doing the same. The fierce action starts tonight at 7 at the Pepsi Center in Denver with the ensuing rounds Friday and Saturday. Instead of viewing the experience as a reward for a season’s worth of hard work, Ewing isn’t satisfied. He wants more.

“I think there’s always pressure in the back of your head,” Ewing said. “My goal wasn’t just to get to there. I’m not done yet.”

Ewing is one of three Eagle Valley wrestlers making the trek to Denver. Teammates Joey Bajza and Matt Kottenstette are also hoping to make some noise inside the jam-packed arena.

The experience is a first for all three Devils. The Pepsi Center holds more than 18,000 fans, and there will be wrestling on 10 mats at once. It’s quite a scene, but Eagle Valley won’t be intimidated. Ewing said he’s been to the start tournament six or seven times, so he knows what it’s all about.

Plus a trip to Dave and Buster’s before the tournament starts should lighten the mood.

“I’m excited,” Ewing said. “I can’t wait. I wanted to be here and get after it.”

Ewing (31-10) gets his chance in the 112-pound weight bracket. The junior drew a tough first-round opponent in Wheat Ridge’s Nick Swanson. In his freshman season, Swanson compiled a 31-2 record on his way to state.

Eagle Valley coach Ron Beard isn’t worried about Ewing’s chances with the way he’s been wrestling lately.

“(Colt) battles week in and week out,” Beard said. “Colt’s going to give you six minutes. He isn’t happy wrestling close. He’s wrestling to win.”

Bajza is another example of a wrestler determined to do whatever it takes to keep wrestling. Only a few short weeks ago, he suffered a head injury in practice that required stitches and kept him off the mat. The senior recovered in time for regionals where he punched his ticket to state.

In the first round, Bajza will put his 23-9 record up against Greeley Central’s Jacob Atwood (30-10).

“Joey couldn’t have got a better draw for the first round,” Beard said. “The catch is, he’s got to win it. The top side of his bracket is tough. If Joey can get that win, we’re really sitting good.”

The youngest wrestler Eagle Valley is taking to state is Kottenstette. Only a sophomore, Kottenstette went 32-14 this season and placed in every single tournament.

“It should be pretty exciting,” Kottenstette said. “I just have to think of it as just as another tournament. It might be kind of tough because a lot of stuff is happening.”

His array of moves should give him confidence in his first-round matchup with Thompson Valley’s Dan Haren (22-13).

“(Matt) never acts or wrestles like a sophomore,” Beard said. “He’s such a competitor, regardless of age. He’s going to do good things at state.”

The first round starts tonight at 7 p.m. with the following rounds on Friday and Saturday.

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or ismith@vaildaily.com.


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