Meeker’s Shelton adds second straight title to his collection
DENVER — T.J. Shelton is humble and shows tremendous respect for the sport and his opponents.
But he’s a ruthless wrestler who shows no mercy when the whistle blows.
Last year Shelton (35-2) didn’t look like a freshman when he won his first state title. On Saturday, he didn’t look like a sophomore when he won his second.
After dominating his 170-pound title match, pinning Lyons sophomore Jon Hickman in four minutes, 41 seconds, Shelton’s celebration was subdued.
Another day at the office.
“It feels the same as last year and I wanted it just as much this year,” he said.
Shelton upped his lead to 12-2 before drilling Hickman onto the mat and on his back for the pin.
A special combination of speed, quickness and sheer power, Shelton has his sights set on securing a slice of Colorado wrestling history. The soft-spoken sophomore smiles when asked if he thinks about the possibility of winning four straight.
“Yes, sir, that’s all I think about. My father, my whole family, everybody reminds me, that’s all I think about during wrestling season,” he said.
During the match, Shelton was a combination of bull and tiger and 100 percent Meeker Cowboy.
After he had his arm raised in victory, Shelton embraced his coaches, then walked over and shook hands with Grand Junction’s Bernie Goss, who earlier in the tournament was honored for his 50 years of wrestling service.
“He’s been congratulating me and has been a big supporter of mine. I really appreciate him. I thought I would go over and congratulate him (on his honor),” he said.
Stating the obvious, Meeker coach Willy Theos said Shelton is a rare talent.
“I’m happy for T.J., he really earned that,” he said. “He’s a real special kid. He never takes anything for granted, he’s very humble, very appreciative of bias teammates. He always tries to do the right thing.”
Theos said the focus on winning four straight is still a ways away but it’s still the goal.
“It’s been mentioned, it’s crossed minds, but it really is a match and a season at a time,” he said.
The respect Shelton has for the sport was evident before and after his victory. Hugging and shaking hands with opponents he beat earlier in the tournament or the season, there’s a mutual respect.
Paonia’s Logan Schopp, who gave a big congratulatory hug to Shelton after the medal ceremony, was one of several wrestlers to honor Shelton.
“That was great, we have great camaraderie, so that’s really special,” Shelton said.
Meeker has had a long tradition of wrestling success and this year the Cowboys had three in the finals, but only Shelton came away with a title.
At 160 pounds, Devon Pontine (30-10) lost a 3-2 double overtime match to Zach Milner (39-3).
“Paonia had a great game plan, they wanted to keep it close and found a way to win it there at the end,” he said.
Tristin Pelloni (29-7) also had a close loss at 113. Norwood’s Talon Harris (41-2) earned a 4-1 win to take the title.
“I gave it everything I had but I came up a little short. It’s still heartbreaking but I’m looking forward to next year,” Pelloni said.