Eli Etter felt a bit of pressure going into the last home match of his high school wrestling career. Paonia led Delta in the final dual of the regular season by a mere two points, and Etter's was the last match of the dual. He didn't want to lose.
Etter, who wrestles at 126 pounds, stepped on the mat and pinned Delta junior Ayden Tucker in 1 minute, 19 seconds, giving Paonia a 39-31 win.
"I felt pretty good. It was pretty exciting," said Etter. He'd never wrestled his opponent, Delta junior Ayden Tucker and wasn't sure what he'd do.
Etter said the win, which followed Delta's 42-27 win over Paonia in 2016, was a lot of fun.
"Great win," said Paonia head coach Andy Pipher. "Senior, wins his last home dual, puts us ahead on the points for the win."
Pipher said the team was a little lethargic but fought hard for the win. Paonia scored 24 points on pins and picked up six points on a forfeit win for Cyrus Malek-Madani at 220.
"I thought we wrestled real tough," said Panthers coach Clayton Curtis. He knew the dual would be close. "I was proud of our kids. They went out, they fought, they didn't roll over easy." Sometimes when a wrestler faces a tough opponent it's easy to roll over and just give up the pin and take the easy road, he said. "But they didn't and I was real proud of them."
Delta then picked up forfeit points at 285 pounds (Logan Church) and 106 (Dah Wah). At 113, Panther senior Logan Mayberry won by a 7-1 decision over Joe Martinez to take a 31-27 lead.
At 120, Paonia senior Gabe Ferguson ended the shortest match of the dual after pinning Panther Dah Wah in 24 seconds.
Paonia freshman Grey Neal opened the dual at 132 pounds with a 12-9 decision over Kylar Massano. At 138, Eagle Sackett Chesnik won, 9-6, over Brendon Starr.
At 145, Delta's Kole Roberts posted the first Panther win with a 16-3 major decision over Clay Campbell. At 152, Chance Dillingham claimed the first pin for Delta in the third round against Carlos Lozano. Junior Drake Horn followed with a first-round pin over Eagle Jesse Burns to win the 160 match.
"We had the momentum" going into Aiden Barrios' match against Paonia's Anthony Felice at 170, said Curtis. Felice pinned Barrios in the first round, which was a bit of a surprise. "Barrios got caught on his back with his arms across his face and couldn't get away from Felice's grip," said Curtis. "We thought we'd wrestle a little bit better there."
At 182, Paonia's Jaden Miller had to work for his 5-2 decision over Livan Santander, who was able to escape from a couple of Miller's holds. "I was real proud of Livan," said Curtis. "He wrestled real tough."
In the 195 match, Panther Sam Komives held on against senior Trevor Smith until well into the third round before falling at 5:09. "He stays out of that Sanders Cradle and it's a close match." Komives was trailing, 4-0, and scored a reversal in the third before Smith, ranked in the top three in the state at 285 pounds, got his shoulders to the mat.