Photo by Tamie Meck Returning state placer Jorge Quinonez works his way to an 8-2 win Friday over Fruita Monument’s Aidan Woomer. Quinonez is one of eight returning state qualifiers for Paonia. The defending state champion Eagles are 5-1 after the first week on the mat.Paonia head coach Andy Pipher didn't seem too concerned when the Eagles lost Friday night's dual against Fruita Monument. Fruita had seven wins, five by pin, to top Paonia, 37-28. It was the season opener, and just shows there's work to be done, said Pipher.
And his lineup was lacking defending state champion Jesse Reed (126), who will miss about two weeks due to a knee injury. "That definitely hurts," said Pipher on Friday. "It affects the whole team."
It was the first dual loss for the Eagles since 2011. Paonia finished at 25-0 last season. But Pipher knows that his team, which took the 2012 state 2A title, will be fine, despite graduating six state qualifiers. Paonia sent 14 wrestlers to state last year, and the eight remaining qualifiers return this season.
At Saturday's Maverick Duals, Paonia was 5-0, defeating Durango, 66-14; Central, 60-18; Moffat County, 66-12; Palisade, 45-30; and Grand Junction, 58-21. Fruita Monument was the only other team to go 5-0 Saturday.
Wrestling Friday on the junior varsity squad, Jack Bair (113), Matt Hayden (145), Nick Brewer (152) and Logan Schopp (170) all had first-round pins against Fruita.
Incoming freshmen include Brewer and Bo Pipher. Pipher, who placed third in state middle school competition, will wrestle at 120. He starts the season at 6-0 and opened his high school career with an 11-3 win over Fruita Monument's Ian Konrad.
Paonia has nine sophomores in the lineup, including Bair, Nolan Jones (106), and Logan Schopp, who wrestled for Hotchkiss his freshman season.
Josh Altman starts the season at 113 pounds. Altman, a freshman state qualifier who placed sixth last season, defeated Fruita freshman Jared Seely Friday, and was undefeated Saturday. Zach Milner will wrestle at 152. Gunnar Chesnik (138), who was 20-9 as a freshman JV wrestler, defeated Fruita junior Gordon York Friday, 7-2, and was 4-1 Saturday.
Joel Simianer, a state qualifier his freshman year, will fill the 220 class. Simianer defeated Fruita Monument's Colt Chatfield Friday, 6-4, and won by pin fall Saturday against Palisade (1:42) and Moffat County (0:14).
Will Austin is one of three returning junior state qualifiers. Austin moves up to 170, and Ty Coats starts the season at 145. Both were state qualifiers their sophomore year.
Heavyweight Tony Darling, who placed third his sophomore year, enters the season ranked second and remains undefeated after pinning Fruita Monument's Sloan Haiden Friday and going 5-0 at the Maverick Duals. Isaac Ferguson returns for his third season.
Senior TK Kendall (182), who wrestled his freshman and sophomore years, returns to the mat after playing basketball last season. Matt Hayden (145) and Dylan Stroud (132) enter their fourth year on the team. Jorge Quinonez who placed fifth last season at 152, moves up to 160.
Quinonez lost Friday to eighth-ranked Aidan Woomer, then went 5-0 Saturday.
Morgan Rieder, a three-year state qualifier who placed second last season, is also off to a strong start, pinning Fruita's Clayton Muller Friday and going 5-0 at Fruita.
Paonia will spend much of the season on the road. They wrestle at Olathe this Friday at 6, and will compete at the Delta tournament on Saturday. Paonia will defend last season's win at the Warrior Classic at Central High School on Dec. 14 and 15. On Jan. 25, they host the annual mixed duals, and on Jan. 26 will host the annual Screaming Eagle Tournament.
"We've still got some work to do," said Pipher on Friday. "But we'll get there. At the end of the season, we'll be there."