Grinding it out
Regional title features several close matches for Paonia
Paonia’s Ty Coats thought he had everything under control after a second period in which he put Norwood’s Tim Armintrout on his back three times.
Two cradles and a chicken wing netted him eight near-fall points and an 8-2 lead going into the third period, and he was up 10-3 when his coaches urged him to try another tactic, a crunch to a tilt, to pin Armintrout. It almost worked. It also almost cost Coats a regional title.
“I just rolled him too far over, and he ended up on top of me, and I dang near got pinned,” Coats said.
Coats fought off his back, though, and held on for a 10-8 win, making him the Class 2A Region 1 champion at 152 pounds, one of six Eagles to claim regional titles and 10 to qualify for state Saturday at Grand Junction High School.
Meeker matched Paonia with 10 state qualifiers (the top four finishers in each weight class qualify), but the Cowboys claimed only two titles from six finalists, and the Eagles reigned once again as the regional team champ. Paonia totaled 248.5 points and Meeker finished second in the 13-team field with 191 points.
Coats was in position to join junior Josh Altman (30-4 at 120) and senior Tony Darling (28-2 at 285) with a relatively easy victory in the finals for the Eagles. Instead, he joined junior Jesse Reed (36-0 at 126), sophomore Bo Pipher (33-2 at 132) and junior Zach Milner (32-3 at 160) with hard-fought wins in title matches for Paonia.
Calling the regional a grind, Eagles coach Andy Pipher said it’s not how you win at this stage, just get the win any way you can. Punch your ticket to state and go from there.
In addition to its six regional champs, Paonia is sending juniors Logan Schopp (23-9 at 170) and Joel Simianer (24-13 at 220) and freshmen Colton Godwin (22-13 at 106) and Trevor Smith (20-16 at 195) to state. Schopp was a runner-up, Godwin and Simianer placed third, and Smith placed fourth.
“It’s about next week and what they do next week,” Pipher said. “Take one match at a time. Win one match and go on to the next one. They don’t give those state titles away. You have to earn them.”
Coats, who is ranked No. 1 at 152 by On the Mat, is glad his fourth trip to state is as the regional champ.
“I scared myself pretty bad at the end,” said Coats, who improved to 35-2. “I was on my back, and I’m like, ‘I haven’t been pinned all year. I’m ranked No. 1 in the state, and I’m going to get pinned at regional.’ “
Coats thought he had a pinfall win in the second period, “but they wouldn’t call it,” so he was hoping the referee would be just as stingy in rewarding a pin to Armintrout. Coats was on his back for about 15 seconds, then the final 30 seconds passed without further damage.
Altman had the shortest final for the Eagles, winning by pin in 31 seconds, and Darling (28-2) didn’t take much longer, pinning his opponent in 1:14.
Altman, a state semifinalist last year, said he doesn’t want to come off as sounding cocky, but he was confident he’d win his regional Saturday.
“I just wanted to get out there and be crisp,” he said. “Get out there and get what needs to be done, done, and look forward to state.”
Reed, a junior seeking his third state title, remained undefeated at 36-0 with a 4-0 win over Ignacio freshman Ethan Appenzeller (23-11).
After his match, he watched a video replay of the final to analyze why he didn’t win more easily. Reed said he watches most of his matches as soon as he can afterward.
“I want to learn as fast as I can,” he said. “I want to know what I can do better. ... It really helps me.”
Analyzing his win over Appenzeller, Reed said, “I looked a little drained. I was a little sloppy out there. ... I looked at the tape, and I already learned from my mistakes. I’d rather it happen this week than next week.”
Bo Pipher, a state runner-up last year, won a 6-2 decision over Dove Creek junior Chance Randolph (37-7) after leading 3-2 through two periods.
Andy Pipher said those two could meet again in the state finals, and several of the regional finals could be played out again with the state championship at stake next Saturday. Andy Pipher also thinks Coats and Armintrout (26-6) could see each other again, and Milner could face Meeker sophomore Devon Pontine (24-9) again.
Paonia easily could have had an 11th state qualifier, but senior William Austin, the region’s top seed at 182 pounds, lost his semifinal by injury default because of a concussion.
“It’s too bad,” Andy Pipher said. “You just don’t risk that concussion stuff.”
Meeker’s regional titles went to sophomore T.J. Shelton (28-2 at 170) and senior J.C. Henderson (28-6 at 138), who qualified for state for the fourth time.
Henderson won his final 5-3, but despite the tight match he said was loose and having fun. He placed at state for the first time last season, finishing fifth, and his goal this year is: “Winning, of course.”
As a returning state champion, Shelton, of course, has the same goal, and he said he’s peaking at the end of the season.
Last year’s state title doesn’t guarantee him one this year, he said, and he’s keeping that in mind as he seeks title No. 2.
“You have to go out and win it every year,” Shelton said. “Forget last year and remember this year. ... Try not to get a big head. Keep your head down and do what you know how to do.”
Also making the state cut for the Cowboys were freshman Sheridan Harvey (33-9, second at 106), junior Tristin Pelloni (26-6, second at 113), Calvin Shepherd (20-15, fourth at 120), junior Kylloe Goedert (18-14, fourth at 126), senior Aaron Cochran (17-9, fourth at 132), senior Willis Begaye (21-8, third at 152), Pontine (second at 160) and freshman Tyler Ilgen (20-13, third at 285).