Harvey continues family tradition, wins state championship title

Molly Turner celebrated her birthday with her son Sheridan’s state championship. Bobby Gutierrez photo

MEEKER | On the wall above the doors entering the Meeker High School wrestling room from the main gymnasium hang the names of all of the Cowboys to win individual state wrestling titles and state place winners, as well as a plaque for each team placing in the top 10 at the state tournament. Banners hang on the same wall representing the state championship team titles won by the Cowboys, eight of them in wrestling.
Sheridan Harvey’s mom was a state champion, as was his dad, cousins, aunt and uncles, one of whom was Meeker’s first state wrestling champion almost 60 years ago. His granddad was Rio Blanco County’s first state champion. Although he helped his team win a team title last year and his name is already on the wall twice as a state placer, now a wooden plaque will be made to read: “Sheridan Harvey 1st 2017.” He’s continuing the family tradition after winning an individual state title at the 2017 Colorado State Wrestling Championships held last week in the Pepsi Center in our state’s capitol city.
Harvey became Meeker’s 61st state wrestling champion, the third most for any high school in Colorado, with Grand Junction High School having the most with 70.
Harvey’s championship roots in Rio Blanco County go back to the beginning in wrestling and run deep. Harvey’s mom, Molly Turner and her twin sister Hallie (Blunt) played on Meeker’s only girls’ basketball state championship team in 1995; his dad Brett Harvey was a state wrestling champion and helped Meeker win its first state team title in any sport in 1979. His cousins John and Gretta Simpson (John won a state wrestling title for Durango and a national title for the Colorado School of Mines, while Gretta won an individual state title in swimming), Tyrell (current assistant coach) won a title in 2003 and Casey Turner won an individual title last year. Kaylee Elliot-Turner won a state title for North Park in the discus in 2013. Harvey’s uncle Pat Sheridan was Meeker’s first state wrestling champion in 1959, his uncle Paul “Buckshot” Sheridan was a two-time state wrestling champion for Rifle in 1967-68. His uncle Kai Turner was on Meeker’s 1979 team. His uncle Keenan won three wrestling titles for the Cowboys (1982-84). His uncle Coley Turner won a state title in 1988. And his granddad Bill Turner was Rangely and Rio Blanco County’s first state wrestling champion in 1958 and the head coach of Meeker’s wrestling program from 1975-1988.
“It was good to see Sheridan carry on the family tradition,” said Meeker head coach J.C. Watt, a two-time state champion for the Cowboys in 1989 and 1990, the same year Meeker’s wrestling program won its second of eight team championships.
Harvey was asked if he felt the pressure of the family history and he replied: “It’s been in the back of my head since I first walked into the wrestling room as a freshman.” Harvey, who qualified for the state tournament all four years, placing fifth the previous two, said, “They had all been there and knew what it took to win, so it helped motivate me more than anything.”
Harvey and eight of his teammates qualified for the 2017 Colorado State Wrestling Championship and entered the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver as the defending 2A team champions and although they would place eight of the nine in the top four, Meeker was not able to keep up with Rocky Ford and the Cowboys finished second as a team this year.
“We knew going in we had a big task ahead of us with five of the top teams all in our region and Rocky Ford taking all 14,” Harvey said. “But we also knew we had nine really tough guys, who put a lot of work in and we were excited to get over there and wrestle.”
The Cowboys have continued to peak at the right time, placing in the top three at the state tournament the past four years, including a championship, two runner-up teams and a third place finish. Eight of Meeker’s nine qualifiers had won at least one match in last year’s state tournament and all nine of this year’s qualifiers, also won at least one match, contributing to the team score.
Meeker juniors Jacob Pelloni (113) and Garrett Frantz (132), along with sophomore Tannen Kennedy (126), and seniors Harvey (138), Hunter Garcia (152), Casey Turner (170), Chase Rule (182), Caleb Bradford (220) and Tyler Ilgen (285), all qualified for the “Big Show” and all but first-time qualifier Frantz earned a medal.
“Everybody wrestled well,” coach Watt said. “We started out winning everything and had the momentum going into Saturday morning when it started to slow down. The kids get tougher as the tournament goes on, all of our matches were close. It’s not that we wrestled bad, we just came up short Saturday, except Sheridan, he reached his goal, everybody else was 90 percent. In the team race, Rocky Ford just had too many kids, who wrestled well and as well as they wrestled, we were not going to beat them but we gave it a try.”
Frantz was the only Cowboy to lose in the first round but he came back to win a match by major decision in the consolation bracket before being eliminated in the third round.
Pelloni lost his first match in the quarterfinal round but came back to win an overtime match, guaranteeing him a place on the podium, where he stood in the fourth position Saturday night, in the 2A 113-pound bracket.
The Cowboys pushed seven wrestlers into the semifinals, guaranteeing them all a medal. Four seniors—Harvey, Turner, Rule and Ilgen—won and advanced to the championship match of their respective weights. All four had placed in the state tournament, including Harvey’s two fifth place finishes. Turner wrestled in the championship match all three years he qualified and won a title last year, while Rule placed fourth and Ilgen made the podium in the fifth position last year.
“Pushing seven into the semis and four into the finals, placing four others in the top four, shows the amount of hard work our kids have put in,” coach Watt said.
It was hard work that helped Pelloni, on the verge of elimination, come from behind to force overtime where he took his opponent down and advanced to the medal round to place fourth.
Kennedy lost his semifinal match to John Mall’s Jonathan Andreatta, who won his third state title Saturday night. Garcia also lost to the eventual champion, Hayden Harris of Norwood/Nucla and Bradford lost to the eventual champion Kaleb Gaede of Limon. Both Garcia and Bradford came back to win another match in the consolation bracket before losing in the consolation finals, as did Kennedy.
“Jacob wins a really exciting match to place after being down by four points,” coach Watt said. “It was nice to see the hard work for Caleb and Hunter pay off and they earn medals. It was the goal of the coaches to get medals for all of the seniors. Tannen keeps getting better and he is just a sophomore and Garrett won a match while wrestling his heart out.”
Coach Watt also commented on his seniors, who came up short.
“Casey had a crummy ending to a tough year, unable to participate or compete most of the season was hard for him,” coach Watt said.
Turner’s championship match was against Norwood/Nucla’s Trenton Armantrout, who was given one point for an illegal move, which was enough to win the match 1-0.
“Chase wrestled really well in his finals match (losing 7-5 to Keegan Bean of Lyon), he just didn’t come out on top,” coach Watt said. “And Tyler lost in overtime both times he wrestled (Trevor) Smith of Paonia.”
Harvey, who was also a two-time regional champ, defeated Paonia’s Sackett Chesnik 4-2 to add his name to the wall under state champions.
The shop class will have nine more plaques to make and hang on the wall.

Sheridan Harvey will have his name added to the wrestling wall again this year under the state champions plaque, becoming Meeker’s 61st, the third most of any Colorado school.
Bobby Gutierrez photo