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RBC — “It was the first time I got to walk out of the tunnel,” Rangely head wrestling coach Jeff LeBleu said of the parade of champions, a ceremony where coaches and/or fathers walk out of the four tunnels and onto the floor of Pepsi Center with wrestlers before the state championship matches. “It was awesome.”
LeBleu wasn’t the only coach/father from Rangely to participate in the parade of champions. Rangely qualified seven wrestlers for the 2008 Colorado State Wrestling Championships, held last weekend in Denver. Three advanced into the finals.
Rangely sophomore Devon Rose, who finished fourth last year in the state tournament, led the 2A finalists, walking beside his father Dusti Rose. LeBleu walked with Rose’s classmate Travis Witherell and assistant coach Andy Shaffer walked with Panther senior Nick Halcomb.
Meeker qualified four wrestlers. Senior Josh Prescott was the only Cowboy to advance to the finals and walked out of the tunnel with his stepfather Steven Maybury.
None of the finalists from Rio Blanco County won a state title last Saturday in front of the record-setting crowd but their coaches were satisfied with their performance.
“I’m pleased with the way the kids wrestled,” LeBleu said of all his state qualifiers, which also included Ryan Petty, Ryan Cramer, Chance Holcomb and Keane Raley. Cramer, Holcomb and Raley all won at least one match but did not place.
Rose lost to David Garcia of Rocky Ford in the finals, while Witherell and Halcomb lost to regional opponents; Witherell to Colten Huskey, who became a two-time state champion from Dove Creek and Halcomb to Devon Browne of Paonia.
“It was a team effort from day one to the end,” LeBleu said of his team.
“Everyone contributed,” Meeker’s head wrestling coach Willy Theos said of the points his four state qualifiers scored by winning at least one match at the state tournament.
Seniors Prescott and Nick Smith, along with juniors Jared Doll and Clint Sampson represented the Cowboys in the 2008 Colorado State Championships and although they all won at least one match, Prescott was the only Cowboy to earn a medal.
Prescott ended his high school wrestling career as a Colorado state runner-up. The Meeker senior qualified four times for the big show, which features wrestlers from all five classifications (1A and 2A are combined) and made it to the finals for the first time, after finishing fourth last year.
“It’s a tough place to wrestle and we made a couple of mistakes, which you can’t do,” Theos said of Prescott’s championship match against league foe Justin Smith of Paonia. “Josh wrestled hard and did his best and I can’t ask for more.”
Nick Smith, who had to win a wrestle back in the regional tournament to get into the state tournament, won his first match but lost his next two, while Doll and Sampson lost their first match and won two in a row before being defeated one match before the medal round.
“I’m proud of them all,” Theos said.