Middle Park wrestlers ready to rumble | SkyHiNews.com

Middle Park wrestlers ready to rumble

by Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

The wrestlers of Middle Park are a tough bunch who never shy away from a challenge, and they plan to prove it by opening their season this weekend with back-to-back tournaments.

This Friday, the Panther grapplers will be wrestling Rangely and Olathe in a dual meet in the Middle Park High gym starting at 6 p.m. Lake County will also be competing, but only against those two other teams.

Friday’s home meet is just a warm-up for the annual Middle Park Invitational that takes place Saturday. The Panthers will be hosting 22 other teams. The action starts at 9 a.m. and will continue throughout the day.

“The Middle Park Invitational is considered to be one of the biggest and toughest opening meets of the season in this state,” said coach Gary Bailey. “It’s always a great start to our season.”

The Panthers are beginning their 2007-08 season with a smaller roster than in previous years. They will be able to put 14 wrestlers on the mats this weekend.

“We have smaller numbers, but as far as quality, it is excellent,” Bailey said.

“Although we do have a couple of brand-new wrestlers, every one of our guys is truly dedicated to this sport and are hard workers. We expect great things from them this season.”

A reason for this optimism is that two of the wrestlers on this year’s 14-member team are returning state qualifiers ” Joe Visconti and Shelby Garrett. During the 2007 state championships, Visconti won a sixth-place medal.

Those two are among the seven Middle Park High matmen who are returning to the team this season. Also strengthening this year’s team are four freshmen members who wrestled with East Grand Middle School’s team.

Along with Visconti and Garrett, the roster for Panthers’ 2007-08 team includes: Brandon Strang, Christian Curiel, Patrick Hutchins, Josiah Parker, Jared Cooper, Jake Finch, Nathan Birdseye, Mitch Steffen, Rod Garrett, Mitch Strang, Tim Saterfiel and Bart Hartley.

“We have an experienced squad this year and we should do fairly decent,” Bailey said. “We might have a hard time in the results for dual meets because of the weight classes we might not be able to fill, but we should do well in the larger meets because of the quality of our wrestlers.”

Looking ahead to the state meet, Bailey believes the Panthers will also be well represented there.

“We could have as many as eight wrestlers, and potentially more, contending for a state qualification,” he said. “I’m saying that with the realization that we still have a long road ahead of us, but I can see that happening.”

Bailey, who has been a coach of the Middle Park team for the past six years and coached middle school wrestling for another eight years, is teaming up with assistant coach Cody Arnold to help the team’s wrestlers reach their potential this season.

“Cody and I have years of wrestling and coaching experience,” he said. “We’ll be using the same formula for success which has been a tradition with the Middle Park High wrestling team, and that’s hard work and dedication. I think this team will do well because we have the right athletes with the right attitude that will make things happen this year.”

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