Vega, Stepniewski place for Glenwood in 4A state meet |

Vega, Stepniewski place for Glenwood in 4A state meet

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jeff Caspersen Post Independent

DENVER – Miguel Vega wants to be up on “the wall.”

With a fifth-place finish at the state wrestling tournament in Denver, the Glenwood Springs senior should make it up there.

“I see the pictures up on the wall of other wrestlers that have come this far,” said the senior 106-pounder. “My goal is to be up on that wall.”

Vega’s picture will probably go up alongside that of teammate Zak Stepniewski, the fiery 113-pounder from Wisconsin who polished off a fourth-place state finish on Saturday.

The wiry grapplers helped pave the way for the Class 4A Demons’ most successful state tournament in recent history.

Vega and Stepniewski both placed, and teammates Mike Mills (126 pounds) and Brian Ochoa (285) narrowly missed a top-six finish. All three wrestled until the tourney’s final day.

Stepniewski, a sophomore who moved to Glenwood Springs to live with his aunt and uncle this school year, charged through two Saturday consolation matches to make the bronze bout. He took care of Pueblo Central’s Brandon Aragon by pin in 2 minutes, 2 seconds and Pueblo South’s Marcus Martinez in an 8-4 decision.

Stepniewski faced Windsor’s Joel Salomon in the third-place match, losing by pin in 51 seconds.

“I did good,” said the sophomore, who’s made the most of his stay in Glenwood Springs. “But I could have done better.”

Stepniewski visited Glenwood for a vacation in the summer and, when presented with an offer to stay with his relatives for the school year, jumped at the chance to spend some time in Colorado. He has yet to decide if he’ll head back to Wisconsin next school year.

“Stepniewski, that’s a huge talent right there,” Vega said. “His first year from Wisconsin, placing at state, that’s huge.”

Vega’s path to fifth featured Saturday wins over Vista Ridge’s Brandon Poulos in the consolation bracket’s third round (decision, 6-2) and over Palmer Ridge’s Rylen Thalhammer in the fifth-place match (decision, 10-4).

Mills dropped a heartbreaker in his third-round consolation match, losing to Palisade’s Justin Ray in overtime, 7-5.

Though the senior’s season met a disappointing end, Mills has made quite the impact on Glenwood’s wrestling program. Just ask Glenwood head coach Guy Brickell.

“Mike Mills is everything,” said the Demons’ longtime frontman. “He’s the rock. He really is. He’s the rock of our program the last four years. … That was a great match. It could have gone the other way just as easy.”

Assistant coach Miles Cook holds Mills in a similarly high regard.

“He’s wrestled with me since the sixth grade,” Cook said. “He’s the only one to wrestle all the way through from the pee wee program.”

Cook remembers Mills getting pinned his very first wrestling match. He hasn’t been pinned since.

Ochoa, the other of Glenwood’s senior trio at state, also made a spirited push to place at state. He was knocked off by Conifer’s Don Fuller in the third round of consolation. Fuller won by pin 53 seconds into the match.

This year’s group of Glenwood state qualifiers brought back memories of the Demons’ glory years for Brickell, who said he’s contemplating stepping away after a long run atop the program. The former Western State College wrestler has taught and coached at Glenwood Springs High School since the early 1980s. The Demons’ program did disappear for a spell because of a lack of student interest, returning in 2004-05.

“It’s kind of like the way it was when I was coaching the first time,” Brickell said. “It brings back a lot of memories.”

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