Paonia wrestlers keep strong tradition alive
The Paonia High School wrestling team is committed to excellence.
The Eagles won the Class 2A state championship in 2006 and 2009, and Saturday at the 2A Western Region tournament at Palisade High School, Paonia took another step toward a title.
Paonia won the 12-team tournament with 247 team points.
“We approach it as a team sport,” Paonia heavyweight Zach Solaas said. “We wrestle for each other and know that the expectation is to perform at a high level.”
Solaas is one of 12 Eagles wrestlers advancing to this weekend’s state wrestling tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
“We are peaking at just the right time,” Paonia coach Andy Pipher said. “They are wrestling well and I have a good feeling they’ll be ready.”
Solaas was one of 10 Paonia wrestlers to make the finals, and one of four to win a region title.
Solaas made quick work in the finals, pinning Rangely’s Patrick Brown in only 38 seconds.
Joining Solaas as a regional champion was 135-pounder Adrian Lopez. The junior was ranked No. 1 heading into the region tournament, and proved it by pinning all three of his opponents, including Dove Creek’s Dalton Randolph in the finals.
“Winning the region feels good,” Lopez said. “I was pretty confident because I’ve pushed myself hard in practice to be able to be there in the end.”
Lopez finished fifth in the state tournament as a freshman at 130 pounds, but didn’t qualify for last year’s tournament after fighting a nagging elbow injury all season.
Lopez said that part of being a Paonia wrestler is competing for a state title.
“Our expectation is we are going to win it,” Lopez said. “We aren’t going to settle for any lower than that, and it’s been our goal since the beginning of the season so we are going to push for it.”
Jorge Quinonez at 145 pounds and Morgan Rieder at 189 pounds also won their respective weight-classes.
Rieder, a sophomore, defeated Meeker’s J.R. Crawford 13-2 in the final.
“This is the first tournament I’ve won all year,” Rieder said. “I had to wrestle smart and not do anything stupid.”
Other Paonia wrestlers to qualify for the state tournament are Blake Duval (103), Cody Clawson (125), Ty Coats, (130), Dustin Braslin (140), Cody Rapke (152), KC Christian (160), Kyler Bear (171) and Miles Cumpston (215).
“We are going to keep doing what we’ve been doing, which is improve every day,” Pipher said. “If they do that everything will take care of itself.”
Other region champions included Hayden’s Treyben Letlow at 215 pounds, Dove Creek’s Nick Jones at 103 pounds, Nucla’s Keegan Arnold at 125 pounds and Rangely’s Cole Barlow at 160 pounds.
Olathe had 11 wrestlers place in the top four to lead all teams in the Region 1 tournament in Salida.
The Pirates had two individual champions, Zach Shank (125 pounds) and Kyle Piatt (171). Other qualifiers were Trenton Piatt (103), Jacob Solseth (112), Ben Pridy (119), Wyatt Yarnell (130), Brenton Martinez (140), Dustin Kelso (145), Myles Yarnell (160), Miguel Ramirez (215) and Casey Childs (285).
Rifle qualified eight wrestlers for the state tournament, including region champion Larry Schumueser (140).
Grand Valley and Hotchkiss had seven qualifiers each. Ryan Spor (135) and Kyle Douglass (285) won region titles for the Bulldogs. Emilio Ruelas (145) took first for Grand Valley.
Cedaredge qualified three wrestlers for state, but had no regional champions.
Coal Ridge had two qualifiers, including region champion Devon Godeski (130).