Eagles everywhere

Paonia sending entire team to state after dominating Class 2A wrestling regional

Paonia’s Adrian Lopez works to escape the grasp of Hayden’s Nick Williams on Saturday during the 138-pound final at the Class 2A Region 1 tournament at Central High School. Lopez won 12-6, one of six Eagles champs.

Some wrestlers dubbed it the Western Slope all-stars versus Paonia.

All 14 Eagles wrestlers made the semifinals, 12 reached the finals and six became individual regional champions Saturday at Central High School.

Paonia beat the best of the Western Slope teams with 282.5 points, followed by Dove Creek (158) and Hayden (134.5).

In doing so, Paonia sent all 14 wrestlers to the state wrestling championships — Feb. 16-18 at the Pepsi Center — for the first time in coach Andy Pipher’s 16 years, a span that’s included state titles in 2006 and ‘09.

Regional champions for Paonia were Josh Altman (106 pounds), Jesse Reed (113), Ty Coats (132), Adrian Lopez (138), Kyler Bear (160) and Tony Darling (285).

“We got through with some chinks in our armor,” Pipher said. “But we can only put patches in the armor now. They’re going with the armor they’ve got. If that patch doesn’t hold, they’ll have to put some camouflage on it and gut it out.”

Chinks that undermined some Paonia wrestlers’ ability to wrestle near-perfect finals matches wound up in what Coats called “flop matches” ­— near-pins back and forth, one wrestler dropping another to his back, the process repeating until someone was stuck or time ended the match.

Coats, the original Eagle this season to sport a mullet (he said a referee told him during a recent dual his hair was too long, so he permed his mullet to shorten it a bit) was thrown into a headlock by Dove Creek’s Tyler Ebberts at the end of the second period of the 132-pound final.

Then Ebberts squeezed Coats in a cradle at the end of the third. Each time Coats wenched out of the near-pins with the same strategy.

“I just said, ‘Please, God, don’t let me get pinned,’ ” Coats said. “I’ve only been pinned once this year. I was scared.”

Coats won an 11-8 decision.

Bear, another Eagle who this week sported a mullet, found himself in another flop match during the 160-pound final. In the third period, Dolores’s Wyatt Wallace took down Bear to tie the match at 8-8 and, with a headlock, threatened to put Bear in a lock he could not escape.

“I just fought hard and prayed to God to get off my back,” Bear said.

As Bear stood up from escaping the near-fall, he received a present.

“His head got stuck under my arm,” Bear said.

Bear squeezed the head, took down the body and, with a headlock, pinned Wallace in 5:37.

Darling also won his 285-pound final via a pin in 3:22.

Altman (106 pounds) and Reed (112), meanwhile, won decisions by two points in their finals.

Lopez, whose hair was not long enough to form a mullet, and so joined the Paonia hair-grooming party by dying his brown locks black, defeated Hayden’s Nick Williams, 12-6 in the 138-pound final.

And so Paonia took on the best of a dozen schools and sent a dozen to the finals.

“You’ve got to think,” Pipher said. “Going against 12 other schools, that’s maybe 1,500 kids total. So it was our 160 versus 1,500.”

The mullets prevailed, if only for one day.

“I hate the mullets,” Pipher said. “And they know it. I’ll punish them for it on Monday.”


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