When you make it to the show, people take note
GYPSUM – It’s hard to miss good wrestlers.Eagle Valley had three kids turning eyes with their performances on the mat this season all the way into the state tournament.James Harvey, who placed third in state at the 135 weight, was named all-league, while teammates Brendan Best (who placed fourth at 189 at state) was all-league honorable mention along with state-qualifier Chad Strakbein at 103.Harvey, the freshman, lost in the semifinals but stormed back to take third at the 4A state tourney.”The sign of a true champion is someone who can fight through it,” Harvey said. “Placing third is amazing.”Entering the season, Harvey, who has been wrestling since he was 4, had high expectations.”Since I was a little boy, I’ve always wanted to be a four-time state champion,” Harvey said. “I’ll be absolutely happy with three. All this does is give me motivation for next year.”Harvey was at a huge disadvantage for most of the season, wrestling with not one, but two torn labrums.”It definitely hurt, but you have to be tough and work through it,” Harvey said.Eagle Valley coach Ron Beard thought Harvey wrestled with poise and maturity.”He came in making an impact from the very first week of the season,” Beard said.Even before the awards came out, Best had a pretty big high school wrestling resume. As a freshman, Best started the year at 152 and then moved up to 160, where he qualified for state.”I have to give a lot of credit to my brother (Chris),” Best said. “I wrestled up to his standards. He went to state my freshman year when he was a junior.”As a sophomore, Best qualified at 171, then again his junior year, taking second. This year, Best moved up to 189 – likely the toughest weight in the state.”It was definitely a big jump – I didn’t even weigh 189 most of the time. I was eating everything in sight just to keep at 189,” Best said. “I think it paid off in the long run, though. A lot of those guys are sucking in weight.”At the state tourney, Best lost in the quarterfinals to eventual state champion and nationally ranked wrestler Sonny Yohn, 4-3. Best then had to win a few more tough matches to take fourth.”I wrestled my heart out,” Best said.Beard was impressed with Best’s performance at state”You’re hoping to put yourself in a position to win every single match, and he did that,” Beard said. “He was a in position to wrestle with the best in the nation.”Best beat several state champions this season, including last year’s 5A and 2A champs, and gave Yohn his best match of the year in Colorado.”I was talking to Sonny after the awards, and he said, “You were my toughest match. I wish I would have met you in the finals,” Best said.Next year, Best will play football and wrestle at Western State.When the season started, Strakbein had to fight for the top team spot at 103.”There was tough competition every day in the room,” Strakbein said. “You knew you had to wrestle hard to get the spot. Before a Saturday tournament or Thursday dual, you had to win in your own room first. I think it made me a better wrestler. It got me more matches and more experience.”At districts, Strakbein came up with some big wins and earned a bid to the state tourney. Strakbein then won his opening-round match. “It felt really cool,” Strakbein said. “I wrestled at the Pepsi Center before, in 2005 for a tournament, … so that might have gotten some of the nerves out of me.”Beard saw Strakbein progress a ton throughout the season.”He turned it on at the end of the year,” Beard said.And the improvement hasn’t just been limited to this year for Strakbein, a junior. “When I was 90 pounds early in my high school career, I was getting outstrengthed. It was finally nice to have the muscle and have all the hard work pay off,” he said.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.