Cowboys finish in top 10 at state as a team; three return home with medals

MEEKER | Cowboy head wrestling coach J.C. Watt is all about improving the Meeker wrestling program and he believes his team did just that during the season which ended last weekend with the 2018 Colorado State Wrestling Championships, held in the Pepsi Center, where the Cowboys finished eighth as a team in the 2A division, with three medalists.

The Cowboys qualified five for the state tournament and returned with three placers, including two runners-up and a sixth place medal.

“All of our wrestlers won at least one match,” coach Watt said.

Meeker senior Jacob Pelloni qualified at 120 as a regional champ, junior Tannen Kennedy was a regional champ at 138, sophomore Jake Shelton at 152, junior James Amick at 160 and sophomore Ridge Williams at 195all qualified as well. Pelloni and Kennedy both advanced to the finals and both finished second, while Amick advanced to the championship semifinals and finished with a sixth place medal.

Pelloni pinned his first opponent from Wray in the first period and beat Dalton Wommack of Custer County 16-2 in the quarterfinals before a big 7-5 win in the semifinals to advance to the championship match against Trey Geyer of Cedaredge. Pelloni wrestled and lost to Geyer for a fourth time this season, with a 16-3 loss in the finals.

“Jacob wrestled good and beat a tough kid to get into the finals,” Coach Watt said. “It was a good season for Jacob and a good high school career, finishing with 100-plus wins, a three-time state qualifier and two-time placer. We are going to miss his sense of humor too.”

“Tannen also wrestled good and dominated up to the finals,” coach Watt said of Kennedy, who was also wrestling in his third state tournament as a junior. “He was wrestling well in the finals too but got too aggressive and got caught.”

Kennedy won 15-0 in the first round, 17-1 in the second and he pinned Justin Traxler of Akron in the semifinals, setting up his championship match against Cody Jacobsen of Burlington, who was a returning state runner-up.

Kennedy was given a point in the first period after an illegal slam and continued the match. Kennedy trailed 4-3 when he tried turning Jacobsen with a cradle but instead was caught on his back and pinned in the third period.

“Tannen will continue to work hard and get better,” coach Watt said. “He’s a junior and already has 100-plus wins.”

Amick entered the “Big Show” as a fourth-place regional finisher, which matched him up against a regional champion (Trent Elliott of Merino) in the first round. Amick caught Elliot on his back and pinned him in the first period. In the quarterfinal round, Amick trailed Adam Schultz of Crowley County 14-3, going into the third period, when Amick turned Schultz to his back and pinned him with less than a minute remaining. Amick lost to Aidan Dabal, a defending state champion from Norwood in the finals and finished with a sixth place medal.

“James kept working and ended up coming from behind to pin two kids,” Coach Watt said. “He continued to wrestle well and the state medal has given him a lot of confidence going forward.

Sophomores Shelton and Williams also gained confidence after earning their first trip to the state tournament, where they both had their arm raised in victory, Shelton’s once and twice for Williams.

“Jake wrestled well and real aggressive, which is a style that suits him well,” Coach Watt said. “He’s just a sophomore and now has state experience.”

Williams won two matches, including an overtime win in the first round, and he was one match away from placing in the consolation bracket.

“Ridge wrestled smart and he wrestled hard,” Coach Watt said. “He will continue to get better.”

Coach Watt said everyone on the team improved during the season and Williams was a great example of it.

“They all improved a ton,” Coach Watt said of his team. “Ridge scored one point in five duals in the first tournament of the season  then he goes on to win two matches in the state tournament and is one match from placing, that shows a bunch of improvement.”

Coach Watt was thankful to his assistant coaches Carl Padilla and Tyrell Turner and is excited about next year.

“We have formed a pretty good team,” Coach Watt said of his coaching staff. “We are used to each other and help out where needed. We hope to continue to improve and we will start next year with four kids with state experience and two placers.”