With higher turnout giving the Summit wrestling team more depth this winter, head coach Pete Baker has high hopes to achieve his ongoing goal of sending four athletes to the state meet.
"What I hear is, this is the best this room has looked in more than 15 years," said Baker, who has is entering his third year as head coach.
Since taking over the team, he has envisioned making Summit High School a contender - an intimidating wrestling school. It will take time to develop, he said, but he's encouraged by the turnout this year, which included seniors like Bryan Daniel inviting friends to join the team for their final year. Senior Tyler Blackford said he's taking steps to recruit as young as middle school, where he volunteered as a coach to help spread excitement for the spot.
Baker is looking forward to three main talents on the team: Blackford in the 170-pound weight class, Daniel in the 113-pound class and Nick Wittrock at 120 pounds. Wittrock, in particular, is one of Baker's proteges, competing at state last year as a sophomore, but leaving without a medal.
"He has the potential to go to state and place this year," Baker said. So does Blackford, who finished last year with an impressive record and nearly slid into the state competition.
Jon Ramirez, one of Baker's wrestlers who qualified for Colorado's upper echelon of competition graduated last year, but Baker is confident in his seniors and handful of underclassmen who are filling the varsity ranks.
Baker foresees maintaining numbers and academics as the season's biggest challenges.
Maintaining numbers is tough because, though wrestling is a team sport, "You win on your own and you lose on your own. We're a team, but you compete individually," the coach said.
Judging from his three stars' attitudes, though, he might not have as tough a time keeping wrestlers around as he thinks.
Blackford said he's looking forward to winning a meet, and though Summit is missing heavyweight wrestlers, a deep lightweight squad could be a boon to the team, particularly since there will be competition for who hits the mat in meets and tournaments.
> Team to beat: Eagle Valley
> Meet not to miss: Jan. 9 Tri-Meet with Middle Park and Clear Creek at Summit
> Wrestlers to watch: Nick Wittrock, Tyler Blackford, Brayan Daniel
> Head coach: Pete Baker
> Years coaching: 3
> Team goals: Send four wrestlers to compete at state level, Place as a team at a tournament, Win home meets