After year off, Paonia’s Kendall qualifies for state in return to mat
Wrestling is in Tyler Kendall’s blood.
His dad wrestled for Paonia and was a state qualifier, so it was only normal for Tyler to grow up in the sport, but that changed last year.
Kendall decided to play basketball at Paonia High School. It wasn’t the kind of decision to take lightly for a boy that grew up wrestling.
“I knew last year’s (wrestling) team would be pretty tough, so I didn’t know I’d make it,” Kendall said. “I’ve always loved basketball, so I thought I’d give it a shot.”
Kendall made the varsity basketball team.
“What I like most about it, he didn’t care what others said,” his mother, Jennifer, said. “He probably got a lot of slack about it.”
Kendall said he had fun, but he decided to return to wrestling this season.
“Their team is way tough this year and has good athletes,” Kendall said. “I didn’t know if I would start. As a senior, I wanted to start, so I came back to wrestling knowing I’d have a spot.”
His wrestling teammates welcomed him back, but not without a little ribbing.
“He catches a little (flak),” Paonia coach Andy Pipher said. “He plays basketball one year, so he catches the short end of the stick. They tell him, ‘Pretty good for a basketball player.’ “
Kendall is one of four seniors on the varsity team this season. The others are Dylan Stroud (132 pounds), Jorge Quinonez (145) and Morgan Reider (182).
“We were glad to see him (back in wrestling),” Stroud said. “We needed him for the upper weights.”
Kendall started the season at 182 pounds, but Reider decided to move down a weight class and challenge him for his spot a month ago, and Reider beat him. Kendall moved up to 195, but he still weighs in light enough he could wrestle at 182.
“I liked 82s more, but I kept an open mind,” Kendall said. “It’s still a varsity spot. I’m still going to wrestle my hardest.”
There is a flip side to it.
Kendall joins 220-pounder Joel Simianer and heavyweight Tony Darling for breakfast on Friday mornings, sometimes Thursdays. They can eat all they want.
Even though Kendall can give up more than 30 pounds in some cases, he still won a regional title and is ranked third in Class 2A at 195 pounds.
“He could sneak in there (state finals),” Pipher said. “He’s laying in the weeds. Anything can happen.
“He started wrestling well right off (this season). It’s a funny thing: You almost wonder if he’s better because he took a year off. He’s better than when he left as a sophomore, and he’s more mature.”
Kendall is one of 13 Paonia wrestlers who qualified for state. The Eagles are the defending state champions and ranked No. 1 by On the Mat.
Reider is a four-time state qualifier. He placed sixth as a sophomore and second last year.
Olathe’s Trenton Piatt and Austin Shank follow a long line of wrestlers in their family.
“Shank’s probably goes back a little further,” Olathe coach Tee Jay Rose said. “His grandmother is a Gray.”
Austin’s mom married Trenton’s oldest brother, Travis.
Trenton (40-0) has two older brothers who were state champions. Austin’s older brother, Zach, was a three-time state champion.
“It’s great to be in a program with tradition like we have in Olathe,” Rose said. “Same family members coming through all the time. Coach (Ryan) Corn says it all the time. They know how to work. They work hard.”
Both are returning state placers looking to win their first state title. They will be joined by teammate and four-time state qualifier Ben Pridy.
Grand Valley’s Cody Pfau qualified for state for the third time and is attempting to become the first girl to place at state wrestling in any class.