Strakbein, Shue pin way to the finals |

Strakbein, Shue pin way to the finals

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
SPO Wrestling EVI 01 TS 01-05-08

GYPSUM, Colorado ” When it comes to hosting a tournament, the home team usually schedules some light opponents and cruises to victory.

This wasn’t the case at the Eagle Valley Invite wrestling tournament Saturday.

The Devils, with five open weight classes, had no illusions of capturing the title in what was a tough field. But with four wrestlers placing, Eagle Valley performed up to snuff, and then some.

“I was very pleased with the day,” said Eagle Valley coach Ron Beard. “I think we did better than anybody could have expected.”

Leading the way for the Devils was senior captain Chad Strakbein at the 112 weight. After pinning his first three opponents, Strakbein lost in the finals, 4-3, on a last-second take down. Freshman Matt Kottenstette battled his way back to the third-place match where he overcame an 8-2 deficit by pinning his ranked opponent to take third. At 103, Colt Ewing won three straight matches following an early loss and tied for third, as he reached his five-bout maximum before the third-place match. Andrew Hill took fourth at 135.

“After a long, long (holiday) break, we had just three days this week. Our kids were ready to roll,” Beard said.

Battle Mountain had two wrestlers place, with Billy Shue taking second in the heavyweight division. Shue pinned his first two opponents, and lost, 7-4, in the finals. At 171, Sergio Sandoval took fourth.

“We have a lot to work on,” said Battle Mountain coach Jesse Long. “The break kind of killed us with conditioning. We wrestled sluggish all day. When they wrestle like that, it’s kind of hard to judge where we are at.”

Rifle, with wrestlers in the finals at almost every weight, took first ahead of Douglas County while Conifer was third.

Strakbein, who needed only 31 seconds to pin his first opponent, 3:03 for his second and 4:26 for his third, would have liked an extra few seconds in the finals against Cherry Creek’s Brad Cohn. After a deadlocked first period, Cohn took a 2-0 lead before Strakbein used two escapes to even the score. Strakbein started the third period on the bottom and quickly escaped to take a 3-2 lead, but with only 10 seconds remaining in the match, Cohn picked up two points on a take down. After the two went out of bounds with one second left, Strakbein nearly escaped on a restart, but couldn’t quite break free.

“It was too close,” Strakbein said. “I wanted to try real hard, but I just let it get too close.”

“I was happy for him to get into the finals, but it’s tough,” Beard said. “As a senior, you want to win your home tournament, but it goes down to the end. With 10 seconds left in the match, it could have gone either way. But he wrestled tough all day long.”

Kottenstette, meanwhile, almost ran out of time in the third-place match before turning up the heat on his Rifle opponent, Marcus Arroyo. Earlier in the day, Kottenstette beat Arroyo, 11-2, but found himself trailing 8-2 in the final period.

Following a stall call that put Kottenstette six points in the hole, he escaped from a hold, then immediately took down Arroyo and pinned him with a cradle with 35 seconds left.

“It was those stalling calls,” he said. “I kept getting them, so I knew I had to do something, and time was running out. I knew I had to shoot and our coaches have been teaching us to shoot right when you get an escape ” it’s a good setup. Earlier in the match, I didn’t trust myself to do it, but I finally went for it and it worked.”

After 215, there is only one weight class, which puts Shue in a precarious spot. At 230 pounds, Shue isn’t your typical heavyweight, but he’s still been able to compile a 12-3 record this year.

“We decided to put him at heavyweight because he’s a quick and strong wrestler,” Long said.

Shue had some trouble with his heavier opponent, Bob Switzer, in the finals.

“He was easily 270,” Shue said. “He had some good upper body strength.”

After taking a 1-0 lead into the third period, Shue started on top and couldn’t contain Switzer. From there, Switzer used a few takedowns to earn a 7-4 win.

“If I had more weight on him, I would have beaten him. That’s something I have to deal with.”

Both Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain had wrestlers who won matches but didn’t place. The Devils’ Joey Bazja (130) and Osbaldo Aragon (171) each pinned two opponents, while the Huskies’ Robert Martinez (103), Manuel Madril (119) and Josef Salazar (135) each won two matches.

“It was a tough tournament today. Not big numbers, but there were quality wrestlers,” Beard said. “We beat some kids we shouldn’t have beaten in a couple matches. That was cool.”

Long thinks his team could have done a bit better.

“We were fighting off our back way too much,” he said. “You can’t win matches when you are fighting off your back. We have a lot to work on, like conditioning.”

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

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