The Paonia Eagles claimed championships in seven of 14 weights and outscored 15 other teams by more than 60 points to win the 25th annual Screaming Eagles Invitational wrestling tournament Saturday at Paonia High School. The tournament drew 16 teams and more than 170 wrestlers.
Junior 120-pounder Josh Altman was seeded first and pinned his way through the bracket, advancing to the finals with a pin over Aaron Morgan, a 3-2 wrestler from Nucla.
Then it got tough. Altman came head to head with Aris Shino, a 24-0 senior who placed third at state last season. With 30 seconds remaining in round three and the match tied, Altman managed an escape for a 2-1 win.
His performance earned him his first tournament Outstanding Wrestler award.
"Yeah, it's humbling," said Altman when asked. "It's a really good thing to get, but at the same time I can't get all wound up. There are a lot bigger things that I'm worried about right now."
Altman knows what it's like to lose a close match. In last year's state semifinals he lost, 1-0, after being wrongly called for stalling. He went on to place third. He said he thinks about it "every now and then. Sometimes I think about it and it kind of leaves a sick feeling in my gut, but at the same time, you have to beat the referees. Can't depend on them."
This year Altman is one of seven Paonia wrestlers ranked first by On the Mat. Jesse Reed (126), Bo Pipher (132), Ty Coats (145), and Tony Darling (285) all won their respective weight classes Saturday.
Altman (23-4) said he's improving — something he credits to his teammates. "I've got probably the two best workout partners in that room in the state," said Altman of Reed (27-0) and Pipher (25-2). "It doesn't get much better than working out with guys like we have, and I'm just trying to use that to the best of my abilities."
Last week Reed said his main focus wasn't on the tournament, but Friday night's dual against 21-7 senior DeAngelo Martinez of Center, who in an earlier match "gave Bo a hard time," but lost.
Reed is one of three top-ranked Eagles wrestlers who ran cross country last fall to keep in shape. Zach Milner (170), who placed second, and Pipher also ran cross country. Reed was a starting running back his sophomore year, and opted to run after injuring a knee the final game of the season. Despite starting the wrestling season more than a month late, he won his second state title last February.
Watching the Eagles win the state football title from the sidelines last fall was hard, admitted Reed, "but I had to do what was right for me." Reed credits his workout partners, including first-year varsity wrestler Isaac Ferguson, for his success. "If I didn't have them working hard with me every day then I probably wouldn't be doing as good as I am."
While he remains undefeated, in December, Reed almost dropped the championship match at Delta against junior David Brown (28-9). "I felt I had a lot more and it shouldn't have been that close," said Reed. He re-focused and was able to pin Brown at last week's 52-6 dual win over Delta. He also pinned Martinez Friday in Paonia's 69-12 win over Center, and again Saturday to win the championship match.
Logan Schopp (170) and Trevor Smith (195) placed second. Smith, a freshman, won a grueling 4-2 tiebreaker against No. 1 seed Anthony Emory of Nucla to advance to the finals. Junior Nick Brewer (145) was 3-2 for the day to place fourth, and Joel Simianer (220) was 2-2 to place fifth.
With two weeks remaining before regional tournaments, Paonia is 11-1 in duals after defeating Norwood Friday, 63-12, and remains first in Class 2A team rankings. Four other ranked 2A teams competed in the tournament, including No. 2 Meeker, which scored 190.5 points to place third, No. 10 Merino (fifth, 149.5 points) , and No. 9 Center (seventh, 127.5 points). Cedaredge, a Class 3A team that will drop to 2A next year, placed second.
Paonia will dual No. 3 Rocky Ford and No. 8 Swink Friday. They compete at the Center tournament Saturday.
"Not much time," said Altman, "but a lot of wrestling left."blog comments powered by Disqus