Paonia turns tables
Eagles avenge last season's loss to Fruita
The lone blemish on the Paonia High School wrestling team’s state-title campaign last season came in its opening dual at the hands of Fruita Monument.
The Class 5A Wildcats defeated the Eagles 37-27, and that was the last time Paonia lost a dual or a tournament en route to the Class 2A state championship.
That was on the mind of the Eagles when the two teams tangled again Wednesday, and they used a strong start and finish to claim a 44-24 victory in a nonleague dual at Fruita Monument.
“I think it definitely got us pumped up because that was our only loss last season,” said Paonia junior Jesse Reed, a two-time individual state champion.
Reed was just happy to be a part of the action this year after missing last year’s dual against Fruita because of a football injury.
Reed defeated Wildcat senior Ian Konrad 8-2, but Konrad was determined to avoid a pin.
“He was good on bottom,” Reed said. “I couldn’t turn him. That’s when I usually get my points is on top, turning people and getting pins. He had a good base. I couldn’t turn him.”
Paonia coach Andy Pipher thought Fruita fielded a better-conditioned team than his last season and again Wednesday. Many of the Eagles were members of Paonia’s Class 1A state championship football team, and that extended season cut into the start of wrestling.
“We have a lot of guys with just six days of practice,” Pipher said.
Although that lack of practice was evident in some matches, it didn’t give the Wildcats enough of an edge to upend the Eagles this time.
The meet started at 160 pounds, and Zach Milner (160) and William Austin (170) scored pins to stake Paonia to a 12-0 lead. Fruita claimed the next three matches to take a 15-12 lead as Ty Taylor won 4-1 at 182, and Chase Clayton (195) and Jacob Seely (220) pinned their opponents. Clayton and Seely switched weights, but Pipher countered with a switch at 195 that kept the matchups the same as originally scheduled.
Clayton’s win was impressive in that it came against Joel Simianer, who placed fourth at state in 2A last year, but Simianer was one of the football players who has had little practice time.
Paonia reclaimed the lead with a pin by heavyweight Tony Darling, and Colton Godwin made it 21-15 with a decision at 106.
Fruita Monument tied the team score at 21-21, though, when Dartagnan McLean won by pin at 113.
That set the stage for several returning state place-winners to close out the match for the Eagles. Paonia got wins from Josh Altman (120), Reed, Bo Pipher (wrestling up a weight at 138), Gunnar Chesnik (145) and Ty Coats (152).
Chesnik and Coats scored pins, and Bo Pipher won by technical fall, 16-0.
“We got outwrestled,” Fruita coach Dan Van Hoose said. “There were times we needed to wrestle a little harder and didn’t. There were times we needed to get off our backs and didn’t.”
Van Hoose added the Wildcats lost to an excellent team, and he was happy with some of his wrestlers even though they lost.
Fruita was without Isaac Rodriguez, the Class 5A state runner-up at 145 pounds last season, because of a football injury.
Andy Pipher said the matches played out as expected, and the team win was a good one over a quality opponent — Fruita Monument is ranked No. 8 in On the Mat’s preseason rankings for Class 5A. Paonia is ranked No. 1 in 2A.
Wednesday’s dual also served as good preparation for Paonia’s home dual next Thursday against 5A’s top-ranked team, Arvada West.
His wrestlers will have another week of practice and conditioning under their belts when they face Arvada West, and Pipher said, “I think we can go with them.”