For Devils, this time counts |

For Devils, this time counts

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado

CRAIG, Colorado ” Thursday was the perfect time to get out any last-minute jitters for Eagle Valley wrestling.

And for better or worse, they took advantage of the opportunity.

In a pair of duels with Moffat County and Rifle in Craig, the Devils had a shaky start, but rebounded to pick up four individual wins and close out the regular season.

“We were a little sluggish in first go against Moffat,” said coach Ron Beard. “Then we turned it around 180 when we wrestled Rifle.”

The Devils dropped four of seven matches against Moffat County, with two decided by a combined three points. Against Rifle, the Devils won four of five matches, and did so decisively.

At the 103 class, Colt Ewing made quick work of both his opponents, recording pins in the first period.

“The Rifle kid (he beat, Larry Schmeusser) is ranked highly,” Beard said. “Those were two good wins. He’s on a roll. He’s wrestled the two top kids in the state five times this year.”

Senior captain Chad Strakbein (112) won his first match in the second period by fall, then won a major decision in the second match.

“He dominated them both,” Beard said.

After he lost, 3-2, in his first bout, Matt Kottenstette (125) came back to pin his Rifle opponent with 12 seconds remaining in the match.

“I yelled at him in practice (Saturday), saying, ‘You lost to the Moffat kid, and then you go pin the Rifle kid who was a much better wrestler,'” Beard said.

Trent Book (152) won his only match, while Andrew Hill lost his first match by two points, and won his second match, 10-5. John Crawford lost a pair of matches, while Chris Hing lost one.

When the Devils return to Craig Friday for regionals, they’ll see plenty of familiar faces from last Thursday, other top wrestlers they’ve square off against and a few yet-to-be-seen kids. The Devils compete in what is one of the most difficult regions in the state.

“If we get to state, we can probably place in every weight. If we get there,” Beard said. “That’s the issue.”

Friday, the wrestlers will likely get two matches in their 16-person bracket.

“If you look at your bracket, it’s a little overwhelming,” Beard said. “There are 16 kids and nine are studs. But you don’t need to beat all nine. You just need to beat two. There are some kids we can’t beat, and they’ll go on and place highly at state. All of our kids have 10 to 14 losses going into regionals, though, so suddenly, a kid from Palisade doesn’t seem that tough.”

The top four finishers in each weight advance to the state championships, which are held at the Pepsi Center in Denver from Feb. 21 to 23.

“All of our guys have a chance to go,” Beard said. “We can have (our top) six go to state, or end up going home.”

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or

Support Local Journalism