Eagle Valley’s Strakbein, Book advance to state tourney
Vail, CO Colorado
CRAIG, Colorado ” After several do-or-die matches and plenty of nail-biting by wrestlers and coaches alike, two Eagle Valley kids are heading to the state tournament.
Senior captain Chad Strakbein and junior Trent Book led the Devils to a 10th-place finish at this weekend’s regional tournament in Craig.
Strakbein, who wrestles at the 112 weight, finished fourth to qualify for his second state tournament, while Book (152) won a wrestle-back and will be making his first appearance at the Pepsi Center in Denver when the tourney kicks off Thursday.
“I’m really excited,” Strakbein said. “Anything from here out, I’ll benefit off of and have fun with.”
“I was pretty nervous,” Book said. “I knew I could place; it was just a matter or doing it.”
Colt Ewing (103) was fifth, while teammates Matthew Kottenstette (125) and Joey Bazja (130) were sixth.
“Two is the least amount of kids we’ve taken to state, but five is the second-most placers we’ve had,” coach Ron Beard said. “That’s pretty decent. I’m not disappointed with where they are at. All we ask is wrestle your heart out and put yourself in a position where you can go to state.”
For most of the Devils, regionals was an uphill battle, as losses in the quarterfinals and semifinals put kids in a position where they had to win and get some help along the way.
“I knew we had a tough region, and there are tough weights through the whole region,” Strakbein said. “I was thinking I needed to do as much as I could to stay in the tournament.”
Strakbein started the tournament with a first-period pin Friday. In his second match, Strakbein lost to Delta’s Aaron Lujan, 8-5.
“I had to go into the next day facing a kid from Conifer I’d beaten twice before,” Strakbein said. “And I beat him.”
Next, Strakbein easily dismissed a wrestler from Glenwood, which set up a win-or-go-home match against Elizabeth’s Clayton Garza. An 8-5 win sent Strakbein to the third- and fourth-place match, where he faced Lujan again.
“He caught me for a five-point move in the first period, and I wrestled him to a three-to-three match the rest of the way,” Strakbein said.
Although he had placed fourth, Strakbein wasn’t guaranteed a spot at the state tournament just yet. If the fifth-place finisher has not wrestled the fourth-place finisher, the two must square off in a wrestle-back to see who will go to state.
“Right after my match, the fifth- and sixth-place match was still going on, so we hustled over there,” Strakbein said. “While we were watching, the kid from Elizabeth (whom Strakbein had beaten) scored points and rode out his opponent. Then, I knew I was going.”
Book’s trip through regionals was long, and nerve-racking ” more from his coaches than himself.
“We were on a roller-coaster ride with Trent,” Beard said.
After cruising through his first two matches with pins, Book lost his next two contests, putting his state-qualifying chances on the ropes and in the hands of other wrestlers.
In his next match, which was for fifth place, Book picked up another quick pin and then had to wait for the outcome of the third- and fourth-place match. A loss by Moffat County’s Jesse Breslin set up a showdown between Book and Breslin for the final state spot.
“I was excited to get a third chance,” he said. “I was pretty pumped up, but so was he. I just wouldn’t quit. I was kicking his butt. He barely got any points on me.”
With the win, Book scored a big victory for himself and for his father, Ronnie.
“He was really pushing me to get to state because he never went,” Book said. “When he wrestled (at Eagle Valley), only the top two (from each region) qualified. He has always been telling me, ‘Take me to state, Trent.'”
Last season, Book wrestled at 140 and made the rare two-class jump this season.
“It was a pretty big jump for me,” Book said. “In my first tournament this year, I took second. I started feeling good at the Northglenn tournament when I beat a kid who was third at state.”
After two wins Friday, Ewing advanced to the semifinals, where he faced the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the state, Conifer’s Tony Pena. Ewing lost to Pena and then lost his next match to Casey Thornton, of Palisade. Needing a win in his next match to stay alive, Ewing delivered against Montrose’s Drew Schumann to place fifth. Ewing then faced the fourth-place finisher, Rifle’s Larry Schmeusser, in a wrestle-back. In a super-tight match, Schmeusser came up on top,
“Colt is devastated,” Beard said. “He’s worked so hard and had lofty goals and works hard enough to achieve them. I’m not disappointed. Things could have gone differently.”
Kottenstette dropped matches to the second- and fourth-place finisher.
“We knew he would have had to beat one of three kids, … and he got in that position, but those three kids wrestled great,” Beard said.
Two of Bazja’s losses came to top-three finishers. Andrew Hill (135), Dwayne Noriega (160) and John Crawford (171) did not place.
Although he’s never been to the state tournament, Book has been to the Pepsi Center to watch the national tournament that takes place the weekend following the state championships.
“I’m used to the environment there,” Book said. “I won’t be too overwhelmed with the surroundings.”
Strakbein won a match last year and hopes to go deeper this time.
“I’m going to wrestle my hardest, win, lose or draw,” he said. “That’s all I’ve got.”
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