Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia 170-pound junior Will Austin works toward a pin over Clay Smith of Berthoud in the semifinal round of the Montrose Invitational. Austin was one of five Eagle wrestlers to win a title at Montrose. Paonia placed 13 of 14 on its way to win its second team title at the Montrose meet.Will Austin was two matches away from a championship at Saturday's Montrose Invitational. He'd started the season in a bit of a slump, and was preparing to face Clay Smith of Berthoud, a wrestler he'd never faced before.
So Austin did what his dad had coached him to do since elementary school: "I was just trying to relax and do my best, really. Just not focus too much on what he was doing, really. Just wrestle my game."
Austin caught Smith in a low-leg cradle for the pin at 3 minutes, 12 seconds. He went on to pin Zane Stewart of Palisade in 2:47 for the championship.
Austin, a junior and the son of volunteer assistant coach and Paonia state champion Tim Austin, was one of five Paonia wrestlers to claim an Indian Invitational championship. Paonia earned 257 points and placed wrestlers in 13 weight classes to claim its second consecutive team win. Paonia had already wrapped up the win heading into the finals. Josh Altman (106), Tyler Kendall (195), Joel Simianer (220) and Tony Darling also went undefeated for the tournament.
Palisade High School earned 180.5 points to place second. The host Montrose Indians placed third in the nine-team tournament.
Head coach Andy Pipher is quick to note that all of the wins mean little. "February is the goal," said Pipher at a mid-week practice.
Jorge Quinonez got one step closer to that goal. The 152-pound senior walked off the mat with a grin after losing, 1-0, to Tray Sickels of Nucla to place fourth. At the Warrior Classic, the No. 2-ranked Quinonez lost in the championship round to the top-ranked Sickels by a score of 2-0.
That shows improvement, said Quinonez. "I got that much closer."
Defending state champion Jesse Reed was back on the mat after recovering from a knee injury. Reed suffered a tear to his medial collateral ligament (MCL) in the final football game of the season when a teammate missed a tackle and sideswiped his leg. The injury didn't require surgery. "Ninety percent of MCL injuries heal on their own," said Reed, who wore a padded knee brace Saturday. "I don't want anything to pop again. Just being cautious."
Reed met No. 1-ranked Trenton Piatt of Olathe in the championship round. Piatt maintained his perfect record against Reed with a 6-1 win. "It's always been close," said Reed, whose history with Piatt began in the seventh grade. "He's always managed to beat me."
Bo Pipher, who wrestled at 126 after losing to Reed in a wrestle-off, placed second with a 4-3 loss to Justin Ray of Palisade. And Morgan Rieder, who moved down to the 189 class, was pinned in 44 seconds by fifth-ranked Trenton Gustafson of Montezuma-Cortez to place second.
Garrett Park (113) suffered a third-round pin by Kohlby Wells of Grand Junction. Park wrestled back, pinning Palisade's Chance Charlesworth to advance to the third-place round, where he lost to Emmanuel Barba of Olathe. Gunner Chesnik (138) lost by a 7-1 decision to Matt Sandoval of Montrose to place fourth. Trevor Garcia of Palisade avenged an early-season loss to defeat Ty Coats for third place. And Zach Milner (152) placed fourth after losing in a 4-2 decision to Joe Sandoval of Montrose.
Last Friday, the Eagles upped their dual record to 6-1 after defeating Grand Junction High School, 60-14.
Paonia hosts Hotchkiss on Thursday beginning at 6 p.m., then travels to Cedaredge Friday to dual the Bruins. The Eagles host the annual Mixed Duals and Screaming Eagle tournament Jan. 25-26.