Soaring at state: Paonia Eagles leading 2A tourney in Denver
DENVER — Josh Altman and Jesse Reed handled their nerves like champions.
The Paonia High School freshmen got the Eagles off to a good start Thursday, pinning their opponents in the first round of the Class 2A state wrestling tournament at the Pepsi Center.
“It was fun,” Altman said. “I was pretty nervous. My blood was flowing out there. I just wanted to get a win.”
Altman and Reed admitted feeling the nerves and pressure of wrestling in their first state tournament, but were able to put that aside.
“They are both tough kids, both regional champs,” Paonia coach Andy Pipher said. “Nothing they do surprises me. I expected them to win with pins in the first round. I’ve been working with those kids for 10 years.”
Ten Paonia wrestlers won first-round matches to put the Eagles in first place with 38.5 points. Rocky Ford is second with 26.
“We know we’re tough, but we can’t just lay down and not try because the other kids are going to came after us,” Altman said. “We need to wrestle tough.”
Cody Clawson (126), Dustin Braslin (145), Kyler Bear (160), KC Christian (170), Morgan Rieder (182) and Tony Darling (285) pinned their first-round opponents.
Adrian Lopez (138) won by technical fall and Myles Cumpston (220) won a major decision.
Meeker’s Justin Hardy advanced to the quarterfinals. The 170-pound senior pinned Custer County’s Brandt Shields in 2:36.
Altman, wrestling at 106 pounds, pinned Holly sophomore Cole Burns in 44 seconds.
“I didn’t know much about him personally, but being the state tournament I know everyone here will be pretty tough,” Altman said. “I’m nervous for every match, but I try to go out there with nothing to lose and do my best.
“Before the match, you get all jacked up and worried about everything. As soon as you go out there on the mat and the whistle blows, you start wrestling the way you know how.”
Reed (113) followed suit, pinning Byers sophomore Thomas Roth in 55 seconds.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Reed said. “I went in thinking ‘Get physical, be yourself and everything will be fine.’
“It’s huge getting the team started in the right direction. It starts with the lower weights and Josh, then it keeps going through the upper weights.”
Paonia 132-pound sophomore Ty Coats and 152-pound junior Jorge Quinonez each lost one-point decisions.
Coats lost a 4-3 decision. Quinonez lost 1-0 but nearly scored a takedown in the final seconds.
“We lost one at 152 that killed us,” Pipher said. “We knew it would be a dogfight. We should’ve gotten the call for a takedown at the end and we didn’t. Jorge’s another one I think will fight back tough and get in the medals.
“If you lost, you’ve got to step back up and win it in the back door. A lot of kids will quit in the backdoor. Don’t be one of them. You’ve got to fight back and find a way. That’s where this tournament is won or lost, in the back door.”