Photo by Rich Meck Paonia’s Jesse Reed looks for an opening at the start of the state 2A championship round against Stetson Loader of Baca County. Reed, a sophomore, defeated Loader to claim his second state title for the Eagles.The oldest sport known to man, wrestling, has come of age. Or at least the way scores are kept has.
Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia heavyweight Tony Darling competes in the opening round of the state 2A wrestling tournament. Darling won his way to the championship match where he fell to senior Keaton Sameshima of Highland and ended the season at 35-2.Results for this year's state wrestling tournament were tracked on a system that gave real-time team scores and upcoming matches on the Pepsi Center's Jumbotron.
It made it easy to track the 2A Paonia Eagles as they outscored every other team to win last week's Colorado High School Activities Association State 2A wrestling championship.
Paonia earned 205.5 points, 57.5 points ahead of second place Highland — and ahead of every other team at the tournament, regardless of class. It was Paonia's second consecutive team title, and its fourth team win since 2006. At the start of Saturday's third-round consolation matches, Paonia, which qualified 13th for state, had a 25.5-point lead over Highland, with 12 wrestlers remaining in contention and eight guaranteed placers.
Photo by Tamie Meck Paonia freshman Bo Pipher pins Tyler Hottinger of Akron at the 2013 state 2A wrestling tournament. Pipher won his first two matches by pin in a combined time of one minute and 10 seconds. He placed second."It's like an emotional roller coaster out there," said head coach Andy Pipher on Saturday morning — the final day of the three-day tournament. "You win one, you lose one, you win one, you win one. You're up, you're down."
Paonia sent three — Jesse Reed (120), Bo Pipher (126) and Tony Darling (285) — into Saturday night's finals. Reed, who was seeded second, upset undefeated junior Stetson Loader of Rocky Ford by a score of 7-5 to win the 120-pound class. In 2012, Reed upset Loader in the semifinals to win the 113 title. In a match that almost went into overtime, Reed defeated Aris Shino of Merino in the semifinals. "I just looked up at the clock and knew I needed to push if I was going to make the finals," said Reed, who scored three back points late in the third round to win the match, 5-2.
Reed had early-season doubts about winning a second title after injuring his knee in football. He didn't compete Photo by Rich Meck Paonia’s 220-pounder Joel Simianer has his arm raised after winning his consolation round at the 2A state tourney.until January, but his doubts "all went away once I got to regionals. My conditioning was all right."
Bo Pipher took 55 seconds to pin his first opponent, and 15 seconds to win in the quarterfinals. Pipher upset No. 2 seed Ramon Tarin of Wray in the semifinals by technical fall.
Pipher, a freshman, was seeded third but wasn't surprised when he won over Tarin.
"I expected to make the finals," said Pipher, the son of coach Andy Pipher. "If I wrestled my best I knew I could."
Bo has never missed a state tournament, and has attended numerous big peewee tournaments. In eighth grade, he placed third in state at 118 pounds.
Pipher lost by a 5-2 decision to No. 1 seed Adam Baca, an undefeated junior from Rocky Ford, to place second. He ended the season with a 38-4 record.
Darling, a junior, placed second. In his semifinal match against Reed Christensen of Akron, Christensen exploded in the final seconds of the opening round, putting Darling on the mat at the buzzer. The ref awarded him takedown and back points, and Pipher protested. The back points were removed and Darling trailed, 2-0. The match went into the tiebreaker round, with Darling winning 5-1.
Paonia is a young team. Of the 13 state qualifiers, only three are seniors.
At 195, Tyler Kendall was down 7-4 in the quarterfinals and scored back points to tie up the score with 33 seconds remaining. With four seconds to go, Kendall pinned opponent Nate Finnell of Rocky Ford. Kendall, a senior, finished with a fourth-place medal.
Morgan Reider was seeded eighth at 182. He finished his career with an upset win over No. 2 seed Ryan Domson of Hayden to place fifth. Reider, who placed second in 2012, ended the season with a 34-5 record.
Jorge Quinonez was seeded fifth and finished the tournament with a 4-2 record to place fourth. He ended the season with a 32-13 record.
Paonia's wrestling program is arguably the best in the state, which means that even the seniors have a hard time making the team. After three hard years on the junior varsity squad, Dylan Stroud qualified for his first state tournament. Wrestling at 132, Stroud opened with a 3-1 sudden victory win, then lost in quarterfinals to Seth Harrington, the No. 2 seed from Sedgwick County with a 26-1 record.
Despite being up by more than 30 points Saturday morning, five rounds and more ups and downs were still ahead. Pipher wasn't ready to claim the team victory.
"Highland has kids in the back door. Baca County has kids in the back door. We're going to have to wrestle."
One of the downs occurred when sophomore Josh Altman faced undefeated Austin Coy of Swink in Friday's semifinals. Altman, who was seeded third, was called for stalling in round one. "That was probably ok," said Pipher. "We were backing up a little bit and Josh knew it. In the third period, Altman was again called for stalling, giving Coy a 0-1 lead. They knew Coy was good with his legs. Altman was on top trying to break him down when the call was made. The referee "had the colors mixed up, who was who, the whole match," said Pipher, who called the referee to the head table to question the call. "He said, 'Coach, you're on top. That's a parallel ride. And that's how it was left."
Altman wrestled to third place. "That was a heart-breaker," said Pipher. "A bad deal for Josh."
Junior 170 William Austin finished with a 4-1 record. Austin fell to No. 1 seed Tyler Sharpe of Baca County in the semifinals. He upset No. 2 MC Griffin of Stratton and pinned senior Derrick Richard of North Park in 1:28 to place third.
Sophomore Gunnar Chesnik was seeded fourth and lost in quarterfinals to the No. 5 seed from Rocky Ford. Chesnik won two matches by decision before falling in the fifth-place round to Dove Creek.
Three-time state qualifier Ty Coats upset No. 4 senior Jeremy Burke of Fowler to advance to the semifinals, where he lost to the No. 2 seed from Highland. Coats won a grueling match by a 7-5 decision over Levi Hottinger of Akron to advance to the third-place round, where he again met Burke. This time Burke was the winner, defeating Coats by a narrow 3-2 decision.
Two-time qualifying sophomore 220 Joel Simianer lost to the No. 1 seed in the semifinals and finished fourth. Simianer, who weighs under 195 pounds, said he plans to stay in the 220 weight class next season and try to gain some bulk in the meantime. "I like 220," said Simianer while waiting to receive his medal.
Sophomore 152 Zach Milner opened with a win over Baca County, then lost two in consolation.
Ups and downs. Wins and losses. Heartbreakers and victories.
"The kids that got beat, they left it all out there on the mat," said Pipher. "They had nothing left in them when they walked off there. That's what you want. Win or lose, they gave it all they had."