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The Elizabeth team scored 127 points to finish fifth and several Cardinals advanced to state at the Class 3A Region 3 wrestling tournament held Feb. 9 and 10 at Englewood High School.
The regional field included 12 teams and about 125 wrestlers. It is an important date on the wrestling schedule because the wrestlers who place in the top four in each of the 14 weight divisions earn berths at the state tournament, which will be held Feb. 15-17 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Before the tournament, Cardinals coach Robert Chaves said Elizabeth is a fairly young team with only one senior on the varsity roster.
“We are pretty young, but the way the kids worked and improved has really impressed our coaching staff and we are a very competitive team," he said.
A large crowd of fans representing all 12 teams took their seats in the Englewood Field House, so throughout the tournament the wall echoed with the cheers of supporters and the advice coaches shouted to the wrestlers on the mat.
When all the matches were completed and the team scores were tallied, Moffat County won the team title with 251 points and Elizabeth finished fifth with 123 points, just behind Steamboat Springs' 127 points.
Four Cardinal wrestlers finished in the top four in their weight division and qualified to wrestle at state.
Two Elizabeth athletes, Kris Kramer at 113 pounds and Abe Leonard at 170 pounds, took runner-up honors in their weight divisions. Brewer Winkle was third at 135 pounds and Will Erzen finished fourth at 120 pounds. Each advances to state.
Leonard, a junior, said qualifying for state has been his goal since he wrestled at state last year but didn't place.
“The championship match tonight was tough and Klimper from Moffat County was probably the toughest opponent I have faced all season,” he said. “I didn't win the regional championship but it has been a good season for me. I am stronger and I moved to 170. I have more energy and I feel it is the right weight for me. Now, I look forward to doing my best to place at state.”
Leonard said he plays football and he feels wrestling helps him be a better football player.
“Wrestling helps me be a better tackler and helps with agility, quickness and how to use leverage,” he said. “I am thinking about playing rugby in the spring. My brother played rugby and urged me to play. But I may pass on rugby because I want to wrestle freestyle in the spring and summer.”
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