Nucla’s Sickels rallies to win 2A title
DENVER — Nucla’s Tray Sickels won the Class 2A 140-pound state title Saturday night at the Pepsi Center when he pinned previously undefeated Buddy Watson of Wiggins in 2:47. Sickels, a sophomore, trailed Watson 7-2 in the second period.
Sickels now has a state title to go with his older brother, Ty’s, two championhsips.
Norwood’s Brent Harris won the 160-pound title with a 9-4 decision over Peyton’s Blake Bartlett.
Hayden’s Treyben Letlow capped a second consecutive undefeated season, pinning Tuff Gibson of Merino in 5:36 in the 215-pound final.
Paonia brought an impressive contingent of 12 wrestlers to the Class 2A state finals, yet only one of those athletes had previously earned a medal at the marquee event of high school wrestling.
That inexperience was rectified in a big way Saturday, and the Eagles will return to the Western Slope with armloads of jewelry.
Paonia capped an impressive run through the 2A consolation finals by collecting eight medals, earning four third-place finishes, three fifth-place finishes, and one sixth-place finish. The Eagles finished with 128 points, which was good enough for third place.
Burlington won the team title with 148 points. Fowler finished second with 131.
“Eight medals, that’s just awesome,” Paonia coach Andy Pipher said. “We have two seniors on the team and it’s a young group. I’m just so proud of them. It was a lot of fun.
“It’s a hard-working group. They just go in the (wrestling) room and work hard, run hard in the morning, and it’s a heck of a group. They give it all they’ve got all the time, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Senior heavyweight Zach Solaas put an exciting exclamation point on the Eagles’ big day, pinning Andrew Lightsey of Fleming at the 2:09 mark of the third-place bout. Solaas’ win gave the Eagles their eighth medal and their fourth third-place finish, joining Adrian Lopez (135), Cody Rapke (152) and K.C. Christian, who posted an overtime win in the third-place match at 160 pounds.
Lopez was the Eagles’ only previous placer, earning a fifth-place medal at 130 pounds when Paonia won the team title in 2009.
“You always (want) to finish with a bang, I guess,” Solaas said. “Our team kind of relies on each other to push each other farther. At Paonia, we don’t look at it as an individual sport. It’s more of a team. When you have 12, 13 other guys pushing you as hard as you can, you want to step up for them.”
The Eagles collected wins in fifth-place matches from Cody Clawson (125), Ty Coats (130) on an injury default and Dustin Braslin (140). Eagles sophomore Morgan Rieder placed sixth at 189 pounds.
“It takes a lot of character to do that in the consolation rounds,” Pipher said. “This is a round where you want to wrestle tough, because a lot of kids will lay down in this round. We told them, ‘Don’t be a layer-downer. Be a winner.’ That’s what they did. (Solaas) is one of our seniors and that was a great win for him. I’m so proud of him.”
Meeker sophomore J.R. Crawford was eliminated from medal contention when he was pinned by Ignacio’s Colton Wyatt in the third round of the consolation bracket. Meeker finished with four team points.