Fruita's Seely dominates opponents to win Warrior Classic crown
Jacob Seely kept driving into Michael Benavidez like a snowplow Saturday night. He’d shoot, get a leg, power through him and deftly maneuver his body behind the Pueblo East senior as they crashed to the mat.
The official would signal two points for the takedown, then Seely would let him up, and they’d do the same thing again. After three of those, Seely kept the action in the middle of the mat and proceeded to roll Benavidez to his back several times as he racked up points until the rules said that was enough at the 3-minute, 44-second mark of their match.
The 18-3 technical fall gave Seely, a junior, his second championship at the Warrior Classic wrestling tournament, winning it at 195 pounds this year after claiming the title at 170 last year. He left no doubt who was the best 195-pounder at Central High School , and it also earned him the outstanding wrestler award for the upper weights.
Fountain-Fort Carson junior Downy Wood, the champion at 132, was the outstanding wrestler of the lower weights.
Seely was the lone District 51 wrestler to claim a championship at the two-day, 35-team tournament, and he was one of only three area wrestlers to claim titles. He was joined by Olathe senior Trenton Piatt (120) and Paonia junior Jesse Reed (126).
Seely did to Benavidez what he did to the other four opponents he faced in the two-day, 35-team tournament: He mauled them.
The black T-shirt he donned after his championship match conveyed in large white letters the message he wants to send in every match this year: “Show up. Dominate. Go home.”
That’s Iowa style, as in NCAA Division I wrestling power University of Iowa, and it’s the style Seely adopted this season after a summer camp in which he wrestled some University of Iowa wrestlers.
“Just don’t give them an inch,” Seely said of his approach now.
Asked if he wanted to make a statement with his performance at the Warrior Classic, Seely said yes, and it goes way beyond that after the disappointment he felt when he placed fifth at the Class 5A state meet last season. That showing motivated him to stop playing football so he could dedicate himself to wrestling.
“I’m always looking to make a statement,” he said of matches this year. “Every tournament is a stepping stone to the state tournament. I want to dominate everyone and I want to be a state champ.”
Reed knows what it’s like to be a state champ, two times, in fact, as he’s on pace to become a four-time Class 2A state champion.
What he didn’t know until Saturday night was what it’s like to be a Warrior Classic champion. He placed fourth as a freshman, then didn’t wrestle in the tournament last year because of a knee injury he sustained in football.
He recovered from that injury in time to begin wrestling in January, but the lack of practice early in the season prevented him from reaching peak form. He was good enough to repeat as a state champ, but he was never as confident and well-prepared as a sophomore as he is now.
“I feel like I definitely stepped up the last two days, going back to my old style,” said Reed, who defeated Uintah sophomore Kedric Coonis 11-5 in Saturday’s final. “I’m being more aggressive on my feet, going after kids.
“Last year I wasn’t aggressive. I tried to stay away from guys on my feet.”
Reed was the lone champion of the three Paonia wrestlers who advanced to the Warrior Classic finals, and the Eagles could have used one more title. For that matter, they needed one more win along the line somewhere to repeat as the Warrior team champ, but they ended up second, two points behind Rocky Mountain, the second-ranked team in 5A.
Paonia coach Andy Pipher would have preferred first place, but he said, “It was a great, great battle. Our kids fought hard. I’m proud of them.”
He also was glad the Eagles didn’t lose by one point to Rocky Mountain, because Paonia was docked one team point when Pipher was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct during his son Bo’s fifth-place match. Pipher said he deserved the penalty, but he did it to prevent his son from getting injured by a dangerous move, and he’d do it again for any of his wrestlers to keep them safe.
Paonia got second-place finishes from juniors Josh Altman (120) and Zach Milner (160).
Altman wasn’t able to win his second Warrior Classic title because he lost to someone else who was a returning champ from a year ago: Piatt.
The Pirates’ senior used takedowns in each of the first two periods to build a 4-0 lead over Altman, the Warrior champ at 113 last year. Altman cradled Piatt in the third period and rolled him to his back for a split second, but Piatt countered, escaped, then finished out the match with a takedown and two near-fall points for a 9-0 victory.
Familiarity with Altman helped, as Piatt said he pinned him in the third period of their match in Olathe’s opening dual meet this season.
“He gave me a good battle then,” Piatt said of the first match. “I guess knowing the opponent was the difference (Saturday). He’s a really good wrestler. You have to know what you’re doing with him.”
Milner used an escape in the third period to tie the score 2-2 and take his final against Arvada West’s Taylor Bergquist into overtime. Bergquist then scored a takedown 36 seconds into the extra session for a 4-2 win.
“Zach Milner had an awesome tournament,” Pipher said. “He put in the work, and it’s worked out for him.”