After placing second last year, the Paonia Eagles will put another wrestling trophy on the shelf after winning the Screaming Eagle tournament Saturday.
In the 160-pound first-place match, which went into double overtime and a first-round tiebreaker, senior Grey Neal won his second straight Screaming Eagle title on a 6-5 decision over 23-5 sophomore Trent Elliott of Merino. In Class 2A, On the Mat ranks Neal first and Elliott fourth in the 160-pound division.
Of all of his crazy matches, said Neal, "This one definitely ranked top five. There may have been some more entertaining matches when I was a kid, but that was the most entertaining to date."
In the final seconds of regulation time, with Elliott in control, Neal trailed, 5-4, when he flipped backward and landed face to face with Elliott. While one official ruled the match over, the other ruled no control and awarded Neal a point. Following a discussion between Merino coaches and officials, Neal was awarded the escape, sending the match into overtime. Neal was in control and a reversal attempt by Elliott was called out of bounds. After two OT rounds, the match went into a tiebreaker. Neal chose bottom and got the escape and the win.
Senior Anthony Felice (195, 19-5) won his championship match, by fall (0:56) over 17-11 Meeker senior James Amick, and sophomore Levi Peterson won the heavyweight division by fall (2:28) over Christian Matus of Hotchkiss.
Senior Sackett Chesnik (138, 20-5) won silver on a 3-1 decision to No. 1-ranked senior Wesley VanMatre of John Mall.
Carlos Lozano (14-5) won bronze, and Austin Norris (220, 9-12) placed fourth.
Paonia head coach Nate Wiggins said he was impressed with the quality of this year's wrestlers. He also was impressed by his younger wrestlers. Sophomore Zeb Etter (145, 11-6), who placed third and scored 19 points, "really wrestled well today," said Wiggins.
Sophomore Reagan Todd (12-1) recently cut from 120 to 113, and placed fifth on a 15-0 technical fall over Keal Mattics of Olathe. "That was huge for him," said Wiggins. Freshman Dawson Morgan (132, 10-15) placed fifth on a win over Jacob Murphy of West Grand, and freshman Trenton Gaston (170, 3-11) won two matches to place sixth.
Freshman Lucas Erickson (106, 4-3) also placed sixth on a coin toss and scored 13 team points. It was Erickson's first tournament, "and he won three matches," said Wiggins. "Both matches he lost, he was right in there."
With all of the teams from the region competing at the tournament, Paonia got a glimpse of what's to come at the regional level, said Wiggins. The Eagles compete this weekend at Center, giving them some looks at other 2A teams. With some of the younger wrestlers competing early in the season against bigger schools and top-ranked wrestlers and starting the season with less than stellar win-loss records, getting some wins against other 2A wrestlers re-builds their confidence, said Wiggins. "Hopefully they'll be real confident going into regionals," and qualify for state.