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Photo by Tamie Meck Sackett Chesnik works toward a pin over Jade Cozart of Cheyenne Wells to finish third in the 138-pound division at the 2A State Wrestling Championships in Denver. Chesnik is a four-time state qualifier and top-four placer.
Photo by Tamie Meck Heavyweight Levi Peterson of Paonia and Derek Sanchez of Cedaredge vie for control in the quarterfinal round of the 2A state wrestling championships. Peterson won the match by fall and was state runner up; Sanchez placed fifth.

Paonia wrestlers win silver, bronze medals

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Paonia sent seven wrestlers to the 83rd annual Colorado High School Activities Association State Wrestling Championships and brought home two silver and two bronze medals.

Senior Anthony Felice and junior Levi Peterson wrestled for the state title. At 195 pounds, Felice was seeded first. In Saturday night's championship match he was tied at 4-4 against 40-3 Rocky Ford junior Jesse Tapia in the first-round sudden victory when Tapia scored a takedown for the win.

Peterson was already down, 7-1, against No. 1 seeded Centauri senior Bennie Chacon when he was pinned at 1:49.

In his third state meet, junior Grey Neal (160, 34-5) was seeded fifth and placed third.

In quarterfinals he lost by a 7-5 decision to fourth-seeded Centauri senior Zach Sadoval. Neal won three matches by fall, including a first-round fall (1:28) over the wrestler he placed second in the region to a week earlier, Norwood's No. 2 seeded senior, Austin Overholt.

In the battle for third place against 32-7 sophomore Trent Elliott of Merino, Neal chose bottom to start the third round and scored an escape with 48 seconds remaining, winning the match, 1-0.

Paonia wrestlers scored 93.5 points to place fourth out of 48 teams. While they didn't place, sophomore Reagan Todd (113, 28-17), and juniors Carlos Lozano (152, 28-12) and Austyn Norris (220, 18-20) all scored valuable team points.

Senior Sackett Chesnik (138, 35-7) finished his high school career on a win. A four-time state qualifier who never placed lower than fourth, Chesnik said he tends to overlook his accomplishments "because I've always wanted a state title. After I think about it, getting third twice, fourth, and second, it's pretty good."

Despite battling injuries his junior year, Chesnik wrestled to a 42-4 record and a state bronze medal. After that, he said after winning the regional title at Montrose, "I kind of lost my confidence."

This season, aside from a bout with the flu, he's healthy. He started the season at 152 pounds, but was struggling to get wins.

By the new year he was back at 138 and his confidence was returning. The turning point, he said, was in placing second at the Tournament of Champions in Vernal, Utah, on a 7-3 loss to a three-time Wyoming state champion.

Chesnik is the last of his family to wrestle for Paonia. Three other Chesniks are on Paonia's "Faded Glory" wall of champions, and brother Luke won a state 3A title for Paonia in 2000. "I was always sitting in the seats, right next to Dad, watching," he said.

Chesnik said he struggled a few times with why he wrestled, but he never considered quitting. Instead, "I would think about when I was little and how much I loved wrestling."

Chesnik goes out with a 173-33 career record. While he wished for another shot at the state title, he said he's okay with placing third. "No one wants their last high school match to be a loss," said Chesnik, "You've kind of got to bear with it. If you lose, it is what it is. You can't do it over."

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