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Eagles' matmen shaping up

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Photo by Eric Goold Paonia senior Bo Pipher is off to an undefeated start so far this season. Here, he sizes up Palisade's Gage Nettleblad before his win last Thursday night in Paonia.

The wrestlers at Paonia High School don't have much time to get ready for the season.

The Eagles, who saw their three-year streak of 2A state championships snapped last year, showed no signs of a tough transition from the football season as Paonia hosted a pair of duals during week two of the young season.

"It's hard to believe there's only four practices left before Christmas break," Eagles coach Andy Pipher said. "With football you kind of get a late start and then it's like, 'Where did it go?' It happens so fast."

Paonia hosted a pair of duals this past week on Thursday and Friday nights at the Paonia High School gym.

The first was against 4A Palisade, coached by Paonia graduate and state champion Tanner Ridgway.

"That was a lot of fun," Pipher said. "In high school he was a state champion for me and it's fun to see him coaching. He's just doing a great job with them."

Traditions renewed in the Eagles' first home dual of the season when both Pipher and Ridgway wore Pipher's trademark coaching uniform, a long-sleeved shirt and tie.

"At the CMU duals last week, (former Eagle) Korey Kennedy was coaching Grand Valley, and Tanner was there, too, and they both had shirts and ties on," Pipher said. "It's kind of fun to see those guys carry that on to their kids. I can't say enough good things about Tanner."

The Bulldogs' coach gave his mentor a tough match as Palisade sent out several quality wrestlers against the Eagles.

Paonia jumped ahead 18-0 as Gabe Ferguson (120) and freshman Sackett Chesnik (132) won their matches by pinfall and Caden Meilner won at 126, which was open for Palisade.

"I think Sackett had a great match and Ferguson did, too," Pipher said.

Palisade got its first points from Austin Bernal, who grappled Paonia sophomore Clay Campbell at 138 pounds.

Bernal took Campbell down once in each of the first two periods, then worked for a 7-0 win to make the match tally 18-4 for the Eagles.

Bo Pipher continued his perfect start to the season with his win by pin at 145. Pipher needed just 41 seconds to put Palisade's Gabe Nettleblad on his back.

Palisade answered with a victory from Chance Charlesworth at 152 pounds. Charlesworth pinned Paonia freshman Anthony Felice 59 seconds into the first period of their match.

Terrance Williams followed with another pin for the Bulldogs, this one at 160 when he beat Paonia senior Nick Brewer.

Bulldogs junior Isaac Maestas made it three pins in a row when he beat Tim Helmer at 170 to cut Paonia's lead to 24-22.

Jaden Miller responded with a victory at 182 to put Paonia ahead for good.

Miller pinned Palisade's Danny Tate with 44 seconds left in the first period of their dual.

"Jaden is starting to get back in that rhythm," Pipher said. "He's had a couple practices and now he's starting to turn it on a bit and that's good to see. So I was proud of him."

Trevor Smith (220) and Soul Connolly (106) both picked up wins for Paonia in weights left open by Palisade. The Bulldogs got those points back with pinfall victories.

Farris Billy pinned the Eagles' Cyrus Malek-Madani at 195 and Trevor Barrett corralled Paonia sophomore heavyweight Luis Chavez in a sumo-esque battle to win at 285.

The final match of the dual was at 113 pounds, where Paonia's Eli Etter pinned Palisade's Trevor Swanson 34 seconds into the second period of their dual.

Etter's contribution wrapped up Paonia's 48-34 victory.

"Eli had a great match there at 113," Piper said. "All of our guys got after it and they wrestled tough. It was a good win."

Delta Invitational

Paonia finished fourth at last Saturday's Panther Invitational at Delta High School.

The host Panthers won the tournament with 200 points and Hotchkiss was second with 188. Buena Vista was third at 181 and Paonia finished fourth at 163.5.

Four Eagles made it to the championship match and finished second in their weight classes: Ferguson (120), Campbell (138), Miller (182) and Smith (220).

Bo Pipher won at 145 when he pinned Toby Camp of Buena Vista, continuing his unbeaten start to the season. All of his wins have been by pinfall.

In a recent online poll, 2A defending champion Rocky Ford is No. 1, followed by Centauri, Meeker, Paonia and Hotchkiss at No. 5.

"I'm real happy with the beginning of the season, but it's not the beginning of the season that counts, it's the end," said Eagles coach Andy Pipher. "So it's gonna be a lot of fun."

Photo by Eric Goold Paonia freshman Sackett Chesnik arm locks Palisade’s Dillon Abeyta before pinning him in last Thursday’s dual in Paonia.
Photo by Eric Goold Paonia sophomore Luis Chavez grapples with Palisade heavyweight Trevor Barrett in their dual last Thursday at Paonia High School.
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