Perfect first round for Paonia
Eagles advance all 13 wrestlers to the quarterfinalsKonrad makes triumphant return to state tournament
DENVER — Paonia may be the defending Class 2A state champions, but the Eagles are wrestling like they have something to prove.
The No. 1-ranked Eagles won all 13 of their first-round matches and have a commanding lead after the first day of the Class 2A state tournament Thursday at the Pepsi Center. Paonia had eight pins in the first round.
“I feel like we’re the toughest team here (in 2A),” Paonia senior Jorge Quinonez said. “We’re showing it.”
Paonia has 44.5 points. Baca County is second with 29, Dove Creek third with 28 and Meeker 16th with 10.5.
“I thought we could get 13,” Paonia coach Andy Pipher said. “We knew a few of them would be tough, and they were. We won some tough ones.”
Dylan Stroud had the closest scare, going into overtime before defeating Michael Martinez of Del Norte 3-1.
Stroud was called for a stalling point that forced overtime, but he scored a takedown in overtime for the victory.
“We all talked about it,” Quinonez said of winning the first round. “We try to get the pin. If you can’t win the first one, you can come around the back and win. Those are just as important.”
Quinonez advanced to the quarterfinals with a 10-0 major decision over Kiowa’s Jesse Evans.
“It’s important (to win the first round),” he said. “After that, you get rid of the nerves and go hard.”
Quinonez didn’t worry about placing second in the regional tourney last weekend.
“That wasn’t the last tournament,” he said. “Here’s where you leave it, what you’ve got left.”
Meeker freshman T.J. Shelton, who defeated Quinonez for the region title last weekend, won his first-round match, defeating Holly’s Sy Donaldson 16-0.
“It was a little nerve-racking coming out,” said Shelton, who won a state middle school title last year. “I didn’t know what to expect. I came out here to have fun, do whatever I could do and perform to the best of my abilities.”
Four of Meeker’s eight state qualifiers advanced to the quarterfinals.
Paonia’s first-time state qualifiers didn’t seem to get caught up in the large arena with 10 mats.
“To me, they looked about the same as they have all year,” Pipher said. “After that first dual against Fruita, they decided they wanted to win. They didn’t like losing. They’ve won everything since. I’m glad we didn’t peak the first week out.”
Although Paonia has a firm lead, Pipher isn’t about to take a second consecutive team title for granted.
“Tomorrow gets a little tougher,” he said. “You’ve got to go beat some tough kids. The second day is huge. It’s the one you’ve got to fight through. Then Saturday, you look for medals.”