Two days to glory for SHS wrestlers |

Two days to glory for SHS wrestlers

FARMER’S KORNER – For three Summit High School seniors, four years of wrestling come down to the next two days.

The Class 4A, Region 3 Tournament begins today in Craig, and Aaron Nelson, Jon Wheeler and Zac Conklin have one thing on their minds – the Pepsi Center.

The top four from each weight class at regionals earn the right to go to the Pepsi Center Feb. 20-22 for the state tournament. It’s been a goal of these seniors for four years.

“It’s my senior year, so it would really mean a lot to me if I could make it,” Conklin said. “It’s better than graduation for me.”

Conklin, who owns a 16-8 record this year, is Summit’s top seed – No. 4 in the 135-pound division. If the seeds bear out, he’ll be the first state qualifier from Summit High since 1998.

“If I don’t live up to my seed, I don’t go to state,” Conklin said. “So I have to wrestle my heart out.”

All three seniors plan to leave mind, heart and soul on the mat, because there very well may be no tomorrow. For Nelson, the team captain, this is his first and last chance at a state spot. He was injured for regionals his freshman, sophomore and junior year.

“I’m ready,” Nelson assured. “I think I want it more than anybody else there. I know I do. But I still have to wrestle smart and wrestle my match.”

Nelson, 15-12 this year, is seeded eighth in the 145-pound division, which means he’ll have to surprise some opponents to advance. Some of his harder matches will be in the early rounds.

“I don’t really worry about seeds too much,” he said. “In the end, you’re going to have to wrestle the best anyway. I’d kind of rather get the hard matches out of the way.”

Summit is familiar with most of its regional opponents. The Jan. 25 Rifle Invitational was basically a regional warm-up, with Region 3 schools like Moffat County, Rifle, Battle Mountain and Montrose filling the roster. The Tigers saw most of the other schools in their region during the season.

Wheeler, Summit’s 130-pounder, is using his early-season win over Conifer’s 130-pounder as a confidence builder. With a 16-8 record, Wheeler is seeded No. 7, while the Conifer wrestler is No. 2.

Some of his motivation comes from the fact that he was one win – six points – away from advancing out of regionals last season.

“The attitude is to go in there and just be aggressive and take it,” Wheeler said. “It’s always been one of my goals (to make state), and accomplishing one of my goals is very important to me. I’m just excited about it because I know I’m going to do well.”

The Tigers are trying to make it through today’s preliminaries with at least one win in the double-elimination format. If they reach the semifinals on Saturday, one win will get them into the state tournament.

“They’re all capable,” said Summit coach Scott Giles. “It’s just whether they perform.”

Jacob Smith, at 140 pounds, also has a chance for Summit. The junior has flashed some houdini-like escapes this season and a will to win that has earned him a No. 7 seed in his first year with the Tigers. Four other Summit wrestlers, all underclassmen, will be thrown into the ring for experience. Sophomore Charles Keeling has a chance for an upset or two.

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