Cowboys begin quest to defend state wrestling title

Meeker senior Sheridan Harvey wears headphones, while his classmate, heavyweight Tyler Ilgen challenges Jacob Pelloni (back to camera), last Saturday as they wait to wrestle Grand Valley in the Meeker Duals. The Cowboys, including Harvey and Ilgen, Meeker’s only defending regional champions, will wrestle in the state-qualifying regional tournament this weekend at Colorado Mesa University. The Cowboys will enter a full 14-man roster for the first time in several years and they return eight, state qualifiers, including Pelloni, Tannen Kennedy, Hunter Garcia, Casey Turner, Chase Rule and Caleb Bradford. Bobby Gutierrez photo

MEEKER | “It’s go time,” Meeker High School wrestling coach J.C. Watt said Monday after his team hosted the Meeker Duals. The Cowboys won four dual matches in preparation of qualifying as many wrestlers in this weekend’s regional tournament to help them defend their 2A state wrestling title in the Pepsi Center the following week.
Meeker defeated Grand Valley (53-28), Basalt (66-12), Coal Ridge (54-27) and Soroco (51-24) in dual matches last Saturday, the final matches of the regular season.
“We wrestled aggressively, trying to fine-tune our stuff and get ready for regionals,” coach Watt said of the Meeker Duals and the regional tournament, where the top four wrestlers in each weight qualify for the 2017 Colorado State Wrestling Championships held in the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver.
The Cowboys will fill all 14 weights and have been ranked second behind Rocky Ford by On the Mat Rankings for most of the season. Meeker will enter the Region 1 tournament, arguably the toughest region in the state, which features five of the top 10 teams in 2A on Friday at Colorado Mesa University, with the first round starting at 1 p.m. The field in Meeker’s regional tournament will include No. 3 Hotchkiss, the defending Region 1 team champion; No. 4 Norwood/Nucla; No. 5 Paonia and No. 8 Ignacio.
“We’re taking a 14-man team for the first time in a long time,” coach Watt said, empathizing the word “man.” “I think it is cool we have a full roster.”
The Cowboys qualified 10 wrestlers last year for the “Big Show” and return eight on this year’s team, including defending regional champions Sheridan Harvey and Tyler Ilgen; both are seniors. Harvey is the only Cowboy currently ranked No. 1 at 138, while Ilgen is ranked No. 3 at heavyweight.
Jacob Pelloni (113), Tannen Kennedy (126), Hunter Garcia (152), Casey Turner (170), Chase Rule (182) and Caleb Bradford (220) also qualified for the state tournament last year and all contributed to the team win by winning at least one match in the “Big Show.”
The Cowboys will also be looking for team points from teammates Phil Sheridan (106), Nick Massey (120), Garrett Frantz (132), Ty Gibson (145), Cody Nielsen (170) and Ridge Williams at 195.
“Our goal is to qualify as many as we did last year but our region is really tough,” coach Watt said. “If you get through our regional tournament, there is a really good chance you are going to place at state.”