Photo by Tamie Meck The Paonia Eagles earned 204.5 points to win the 35th annual Warrior Classic Wrestling Tournament, held Dec. 14-15, at Grand Junction Central High School. A total of 38 teams came from throughout the state, Utah, Wyoming and Arizona to compete in the prestigious, all-class tournament.Last year, Paonia placed second at the Warrior Classic. This year, they owned it.
"They just wrestled hard," said head coach Andy Pipher after his team accepted its trophy. "A little bit of luck. No major injuries. All those things are real important."
Following two days of wrestling, the Eagles had 190.5 points, with Rocky Mountain trailing with 172. In third place was Arvada West with 124.5 points. They qualified a record five wrestlers for the championship matches, and walked away with two Warrior championships.
Sophomore 113-pounder Josh Altman defeated wrestlers from Thunderbird, Ariz., and Denver East on Friday, then defeated eighth-ranked Davis Baxter of Pueblo South, 6-2, and Austin Shank of Olathe, 5-4, to advance to Saturday night's championship round.
"This is arguably one of the toughest tournaments around here," said Altman after defeating Shank. Altman lost by decision to Shank early in December. Saturday night, the top-ranked sophomore avenged another of his early losses, defeating Matt Lavengood of Durango for the championship.
At 195 pounds, Morgan Rieder made short work of Eagle Valley's Ty LaFramboise, pinning the No. 1-ranked 4A wrestler in 1 minute and 2 seconds for the championship.
Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia 113-pounder Josh Altman takes down Austin Shank of Olathe on day two of the Warrior Classic Wrestling Tournament. Altman was one of five Eagles to qualify for the championship round, and one of two that won an individual title.Heavyweight Tony Darling also placed second after losing to Cole Mair of Uintah, Utah. Mair, also known as "Huey," handed Darling his first loss of the season with a second-period pin.
"Good match for Tony," said Pipher of the third-ranked junior. "Lets him know he's not there yet, he's not where he needs to be... And that's why we do this."
At 120, No. 4-ranked freshman Bo Pipher upset Angel Chavez of Center to advance to the championship round, catching the second-ranked junior in a low-leg cradle for the pin. Pipher trailed 5-0 at the end of the first round after Chavez scored a near fall at the buzzer.
Olathe's Trenton Piatt had also worked his way through the bracket, defeating second-ranked Marcus Martinez of Pueblo South to advance to the finals. Pipher has two losses this season, and both were to Piatt. "Going to keep in close and try to take him down this time," said Pipher. But experience won out. Piatt scored his only points of the match in the second round to claim a 3-0 win over Pipher.
"Real proud of him," said Bo's dad. "Win or lose I know Bo's going to give me all he has, and give himself all he has, and that's all that matters to me. Win or lose he's going to leave it all out there."
Tyler Kendall posted one of the more impressive performances at the Warrior. Kendall, a two-year junior varsity wrestler who played basketball last season, worked his way past wrestlers from Battle Mountain, Rocky Mountain, Air Academy and Pueblo East to advance to the 182-pound championship round. Kendall went three rounds against 4A Pueblo East's Michael Benavidez, a ninth-ranked junior, pulling off a 4-2 win to advance to the finals. Kendall went three rounds against Josh Semmler of Roosevelt, losing by a 6-0 decision.
Photo by Tamie Meck Tony Darling tries unsuccessfully to take down Cole Mair of Uintah, Utah, in the finals of the 285 pound class. Darling lost to Mair, also known as “Huey,” to place second.Ty Coats had a hard road to the finals. After pinning his way through the first day of competition, Coats lost to 5A Danny Clark of Rocky Mountain by a 12-3 decision. Coats lost by decision to Moffat County, then pinned ninth-ranked Trevor Garcia of Palisade in 3:22 to place fifth.
Jorge Quinonez (160) also had to wrestle back to the finals. After wins over Delta and Douglas County, Quinonez lost to Spencer Urban of Roosevelt Saturday morning. Quinonez lost to Monte Vista, then lost to Aiden Woomer of Fruita Monument in a 2-1 decision to place sixth.
At 220, sophomore Joel Simianer also had to work his way to the finals, but scored some back points along the way. Simianer lost by pinfall to tournament champion Andy Armstrong of Eagle Valley. Simianer defeated wrestlers from Douglas County and Thunderbird, Ariz., then lost to Dan Macoubrie of Rocky Mountain, who placed third. Simianer lost to Daniel Gustafson of Durango, whom he defeated at Delta, in an 8-2 decision to place sixth.
"Long two days," said Pipher on Saturday night. "Referees did a great job. The refereeing was maybe as good as I've seen in my career."
But, said Pipher, whose team is the defending state 2A champion, "It's just a tournament." The tournaments that really matter happen in February.