Paonia wins second straight Class 2A team title
DENVER — Paonia High School had a target on its back from the start.
No one hit it.
The defending Class 2A state wrestling champion Eagles, who were ranked No. 1 all season, flew away with their fourth team title in school history. Paonia had the team title wrapped up before Saturday night’s finals at the Pepsi Center. The Eagles won team titles in 2006, 2009 and 2012.
“These kids had a lot of pressure on them,” Paonia coach Andy Pipher said. “They were expected to perform at the top level each week. They handled it. They expected to win.”
Paonia won the team title with 205.5 points. Highland was second with 148. Meeker placed eighth with 58.5.
Wiggins has the Colorado high school state record for team points in a state tournament with 232 set in 1999.
Eleven of the 13 Paonia state qualifiers placed, which is tied for the most by one team in a single tournament with Denver North (1945), Brighton (1993), Moffat County (1994) and Wiggins (1999).
Eight of the 11 Paonia placers return next season.
“The future for Paonia wrestling looks good,” Pipher said. “I’m here until I don’t want to do it anymore.”
Jesse Reed (27-2) led the way, winning his second state title, but not without a little confusion.
After the 120-pound sophomore defeated Baca County’s Stetson Loader 7-5, the referee mistakenly raised Loader’s hand.
“I was celebrating, then he grabs his hand,” Reed said. “I thought, ‘I lost? How did I lose?’ “
The official quickly caught his mistake, raised Reed’s hand and apologized to him.
Reed’s second title was more of a relief than it was a thrill when he won his first title last year.
“It was definitely harder (to defend a title),” Reed said. “I had a target on my back. It’s definitely harder to stay on top.”
The chance at being a four-time state champion is still possible.
“You’ve always got to take it one year at a time,” Reed said. “Next year is going to be tough. I plan on going up a weight class. There are a lot of tough kids, but you’ve got to take it one year at a time.
“I have thought about it, but I realize I’ve got to keep myself in check. You can’t get ahead of yourself.”
Meeker freshman T.J. Shelton could be following Reed’s steps.
Shelton (36-6) caught the state’s attention, upsetting a defending state champion on his way to the 160-pound title. He defeated Del Norte’s Austin McDonald 8-2 in the championship final.
“Words can’t explain what I feel,” Shelton said.
Shelton is excited at the thought of being a four-time state champion.
“I’m going to take it one year at a time,” Shelton said. “I’ll start working tomorrow … well, maybe not tomorrow, but you know what I mean.”
Bo Pipher had a shot, but couldn’t upset defending state champion Adam Baca (34-0) of Rocky Ford in the 126-pound final. Baca won a 5-2 decision.
“That was heartbreaking for Bo and for me,” Andy Pipher said. “Bo is going to Reno in two weeks (for a tournament). He’ll probably get 120 matches in before next season. That’s the way he is.”
Highland’s Keaton Sameshima pinned Paonia’s Tony Darling in 5 minutes, 31 seconds in the heavyweight final. It was Darling’s second loss of the season.
Paonia’s Josh Altman and Will Austin bounced back from semifinal losses to take third place.
Altman defeated Merino’s Marcelino Baptista 7-0 at 113 pounds. Austin pinned Derrick Richard of North Park in 1:28.
Ty Coats (145), Jorge Quinonez (160), Tyler Kendall (195) and Joel Simianer (220) placed fourth.
Senior Morgan Reider (38-7) took fifth place in his fourth state tournament appearance. He defeated Luke Holmquist of Fowler 7-0 at 182 pounds.
Reider placed sixth as a sophomore and was a state runner-up last year.
Gunner Chesnik placed sixth at 138 pounds.
Three Meeker wrestlers placed.
Tristin Pelloni (38-8) came back to place fifth after losing in the first round. He defeated Western Slope rival Case Baughman of Dove Creek 12-2 in the fifth-place match.
Pelloni’s teammate, J.C. Henderson (27-13), defeated Alex Tarin of Wray to take fifth place at 132 pounds.