Oak Creek Soroco High School junior Schuyler Carlson knows how he’s identified by others at wrestling meets, or by anyone familiar enough with him to know what sports he participates in, but not familiar enough to know his name.
“They say I’m the basketball player who wrestles,” he said Thursday.
It’s not hard to see why.
Wrestlers have a look. They’re usually short and stout and bristling with muscles.
Carlson, on the other hand, is tall, 6-feet, 4-inches tall. He’s the second tallest kid in the entire school, and he’s skinny, so much so that he’s one of few wrestlers who hasn’t dieted at all this winter. Instead, it’s all coaches can do to pack the pounds on his frame and to keep him near his 195-pound weight limit.
He actually was a basketball player last season, and a good one. He was fifth on the team in scoring, averaging 7.8 points per game as a sophomore. His 10.9 rebounds per game led the team, as did his 2.1 blocks.
It wasn’t ever quite right, however.
“I don’t know if my heart was ever truly in basketball,” he said. “I never really had the most passion for it.”
Last winter, he traveled to Denver to watch one of his best friends, Soroco sophomore Jace Logan, wrestle in the championship match at the Class 2A state wrestling tournament, and something stuck.
It looked like fun.
When the time came this season, he made the jump and was suiting up in one of his team’s largest singlets instead of lacing up his basketball shoes.
Carlson will be hoping to earn the right to continue his first high school wrestling season Friday and Saturday as he joins the rest of his Soroco teammates and the Hayden High School wrestling team at the regional wrestling tournament at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
The top wrestlers advance to state, and heading into regionals, Carlson has a shot.
Learning the ropes
The top four wrestlers in each weight class at regionals advance to state, and Carlson is right there. The region and its 195-pound bracket are stacked with talent, so much so that several top wrestlers who’ve been been at 195 have moved elsewhere.
He’s currently ranked ninth in the state at 195 pounds, but he’s fourth among wrestlers in his region, behind the No. 3, No. 4 (Hayden’s Christian Carson) and No. 7 2A wrestlers in the state.
Of course, that’s no guarantee.
Carlson’s season has been filled with steady improvement but given how he started the season, there was plenty of room for progress.
He actually did wrestle in middle school and junior high but had to re-learn some of the basics of the sport in high school. Early in the season, he often fell wrong, landing on a hip instead of his stomach when he did have to go down, which allowed for an easy pin.
“The first week, there was a kid from West Grand, he just came out and pinned me,” Carlson said.
He was actually able to use that match, against the Mustangs’ Travis Etler, as a measuring stick.
The two butted heads again, and Etler won 11-1. It was 6-3 on their third meeting and 5-3 on their fourth.
Etler ended up cutting weight and dropping to the 182-pound bracket, where he’s currently ranked third in the state, so they won’t see each other again.
“It was getting to the point where Sky about had it figured out, what he was doing wrong,” Soroco coach Jay Whaley said. “He started beating kids who were beating him, because he learned from mistakes.”
There's plenty still to work on. Carlson ran into Hayden’s Carson last week at a triangular in Oak Creek and lost 8-3. Carson dominated the match when the pair were on their feet and wrestled throughout with more, as Whaley put it, “savvy.”
Still, Carlson's getting better, turning those long arms and legs into leverage instead of getting wrapped up.
“The experience is really a key part,” Carlson said. “You can tell the kids who have been doing it longer than me. I don’t know all the moves yet, but it’s alright. All it really is is who has more intensity and emotion and who wants to win the match more.”
He’s hoping to bring that intensity to regionals and to push on to state, participating on the mats, where a year ago, he could only watch.
“It all comes down to hard work, and he’s not afraid to work,” Whaley said. “He’s going home, watching YouTube videos of wrestling and coming back and talking about wrestling. He’s just paying attention and working hard.”
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9