Altman, Paonia win Palisade Invitational

Montezuma-Cortez’s Justin Ramos, left, lifts Palisade’s Alex Wilmore into the air on Saturday during his 9-2 victory in the 132-pound match at the Palisade Invitational Wrestling Tournament. Paonia scored 238.5 points to win the team title. The Bulldogs finished second with 181.5 points.

Paonia High School’s wrestlers know the move they want to use, and most of the opponents know it, too.

As a few in the crowd warned Valor Christian’s Austin Veen to “watch out for the cradle,” Paonia freshman Josh Altman was sinking into just that.

Altman’s 4-minute, 45-second pin in the 106-pound championship at the Palisade Invitational Wrestling Tournament set the tone Saturday for the Eagles’ team championship with 238.5 points.

Palisade came in second with 181.5, followed by Grand Valley’s 123.

How important is the cradle to Paonia?

“It’s a religion,” explained Paonia coach Andy Pipher. “I did it in high school and in college. They tell wrestlers they can’t pin kids in college with a cradle. It’s not true. It’s actually easier in college because they don’t know how to defend it.”

Another Eagles freshman, Jesse Reed, nearly had a cradle that led to a pin of Montezuma-Cortez’s Levi Gross about 20 seconds into the 113-pound championship.

“I looked up because I thought I had him pinned but the ref didn’t call it,” Reed said.

Reed said Gross did what he could to avoid the move that leaves a wrestler crushed like garbage, a knee and an arm pinned to his chest.

Often, the opponent knows the cradle is coming.

“It’s coming anyway,” Reed said. “You’re just grabbing it and going for it.”

Other first-place individual placers for Paonia were Dustin Braslin at 145 pounds, Kyler Bear at 160, Myles Cumpston at 220 and Tony Darling at 285.

“It’s always good to win a tournament,” Pipher said. “When you get one you have to take advantage of it because there’s years you won’t have it.”

Grand Valley’s David Witt was selected the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler in the upper weights.

Witt had two pins and a technical fall at 170 pounds.

“I guess I impressed someone,” Witt said of winning the award. “I was hoping the tournament would be tougher. I was a little disappointed because (Grand) Junction, Fruita Monument, Denver East and those guys used to come.”

Valor Christian’s Cody Weitzel was the lower-weights most outstanding wrestler after winning a 10-2 decision over Palisade’s Daniel Salazar at 132 pounds.

Ryan Daves of Cortez won a matchup of two of the state’s top-ranked wrestlers in the 126-pound final over Palisade’s Justin Ray with a 4-0 decision.

The Bulldogs had their victories, too. Palisade’s Matt Pitton won the 195-pound, round-robin title by going 3-0 with three pins, and Dalton Hannigan won the 120-pound final with a 12-0 decision over Grand Valley’s Miguel Valles.

“We’re definitely starting to kick it in now,” Hannigan said.

“Guys are pushing themselves a lot harder at this point (in the season).”

Lost contacts and nose plugs highlighted the 138-pound final. Coal Ridge’s Devon Godeski, who won a 5-3 decision over Palisade’s Trevor Garcia, sustained a bloodied nose late in the match.

But after Garcia lost a contact, Godeski refused to let coaches put nose plugs in.

Godeski did it himself because of a story he heard about a man who put the nose plug in folded.

“I heard about a guy who sniffed one into his nasal cavity and had to have surgery to get it out,” Godeski said. “I said, ‘I’ll get it. I’ll do it myself.’ If that happened to me I’d make myself sneeze to get it out. Or tickle myself with a feather. Whatever.”


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