by Kim Bodemann & Coach Brian Strathum
WG Booster Club At the State Wrestling Tournament over the weekend, West Grand’s Travis Etler finished with a fourth place medal and Noah Schroder wrestled hard and both represented WG well. Both wrestlers qualified through the 2A Region one tournament which took the top four placers from each weight division. Round one began Thursday afternoon at the Pepsi Center. Unfortunately, round one didn’t go as well as hoped as Etler at 182 lbs. lost to his opponent 0-4. Schroeder in the 220 lb. class also lost his match 1-3. Schroeder had been pinned a few weeks ago by this same opponent and wrestled hard to not let that happen again.
“The nerves and pressure of the State Tournament gets to all the wrestlers no matter if this is their first trip or 4th trip. Night one sees lots of upsets,” said Coach Brian Strathman. Friday morning round two started and was much better as Etler pinned his opponent from Akron in 29 seconds. Etler came into the tournament with goals of being in the finals and then to be upset in the first round can be hard mentally to overcome. It was exciting to see Etler bounce back in dominating fashion.
“It takes a lot of mental fortitude to regroup after a devastating loss and realizing your dreams won’t come true,” said Strathman. Etler decided he would give everything he had to wrestle back to third place, which is a hard, long road to wrestle back from the bottom side of the bracket to go for third place. Strathman added, “When Travis pinned his opponent in 29 seconds, I knew we had him back mentally for the long road ahead.” Schroeder also won his next match, pinning the wrestler from Yuma in an exciting match.
As a first year wrestler, for Schroeder to qualify was an accomplishment, but for him to win a match at State was quite a feat. “Noah worked hard each week in practice and it was noticeable on the mat. I am excited to have him spend some time this summer getting ready for next season,” said Strathman.
Round three took place on Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, Schroder lost his match against a much bigger and a well-seasoned wrestler from Rocky Ford. This knocked Schroeder out of the tournament. His opponents went on to place third and fifth.
Etler continued his winning ways winning against an opponent from Fowler, going the distance, getting the 5-1 victory. He dominated again and was back to wrestling at his best. This win put him into Saturday with one more win needed to get into the medal round. The morning of day three, Etler won an exciting match against a Norwood opponent, wrestling well and wasting no effort as he knew he would be back on the mat in 45 minutes.
This win put Etler into the medal round and his next match would decide if he wrestled for third or fifth place. In just 45 minutes he would have to wrestle the number one ranked wrestler in the state who was upset on Friday night in the semifinals.
“Travis came out and wrestled his best match of the last four years. He came out and completely dominated his opponent,” commented Strathman.
He gave up two penalty points and never stopped wrestling. The match was tied late in the third when Etler turned his opponent for back points as time expired. The win put him into the third place match with Miller from Paonia. For the third place match Etler would meet Miller for the ninth time in two years. The two have become good friends on and off the mat, as they were telling jokes with each other prior to stepping on the mat. It was somewhat fitting for him to wrestle his last high school match against his friend.
They respect each other’s abilities and had been supporting each other after they both had lost on the top side, talking all weekend about meeting one final time. Etler lost his match and finished in fourth place. There are 56 weight classes and 896 wrestlers at State and Etler was the only wrestler to lose their first match and wrestle back for third place, which is the best you can do. This is a big mental and physical win, but also showed how much the tournament meant to him.
“Etler finished his WG career on a high note. He is a three time state qualifier and placed twice, fourth and sixth last year. He has been a leader helping turn the Mustang wrestling program around as it has grown from five or less to ten plus. His success is being noticed at the middle school level where for the first time there is over 20 wrestlers.
Losing Etler next year will be a big loss! However, the returning wrestlers are excited for the future. There will be a large group of current eighth graders who will be joining the program next year.
There is an exciting future for WG wrestling. The kids now need to put the hard work in, as well as push each other to work their hardest at all times. I believe it can be done, and I am excited for what lays ahead,” said Strathman.