MEEKER | “We have a good mix of two experienced wrestlers and three new ones who will learn the routine,” Meeker head wrestling coach J.C. Watt said of the five wrestlers he qualified for the 2018 Colorado State Wrestling Championships, also know as the “Big Show,” as it features the best wrestlers, from all classifications and from all corners of the state, all wrestling in the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver, Colo.
“And they all have a shot at placing,” Coach Watt said of senior Jacob Pelloni (120), juniors Tannen Kennedy (138) and James Amick (160), along with sophomores Jake Shelton (152) and Ridge Williams (195).
Pelloni and Kennedy will both be making their third appearance in the “Big Show,” and both return with fourth place medals from last year.
“Jacob is ready,” Coach Watt said of the lone senior to qualify. “This is his last high school wrestling tournament, he’s wrestling well and I think he is ready for it.”
Pelloni recorded three pins on his way to the championship match last Saturday in Delta at the Region 1 tournament, where the Cowboys finished fourth as a team, behind champion Cedaredge, runner-up Paonia and Hotchkiss in the field of 15 teams.
Pelloni wrestled an exciting championship match but lost 8-2 to Sergio Campo of Hotchkiss.
Kennedy pinned his first two opponents before winning 9-6 in the semifinals, to advance and defeat Paonia’s Sackett Chesnik 6-1 to win his first regional title.
“Tannen is a hard worker and he has been working hard all year,” Coach Watt said of the On the Mat Ranking’s No. 1 ranked 2A, 138-pounder. “He’s wrestling well.”
Coach Watt said Williams is also wrestling well, winning the consolation championship by pinning his opponent and qualifying for the state tournament for the first time.
“Ridge wrestled great,” Coach Watt said. “He beat three tough kids to qualify, he’s bracketed well at the state tournament and he should be able to find his way to the podium.”
Steven Rust, Meeker’s only heavyweight state champion, along with four-time state qualifier and two-time heavyweight state placer Tyler Ilgen, have been helping Williams prepare to wrestle bigger kids.
Shelton and Amick both finished fourth in the regional tournament and Coach Watt believes they have a good chance of placing, since they made it through the state’s toughest region, with four of the top nine ranked teams.
“We wrestle in the toughest region in 2A and if you can make it through, there is a good chance you can place,” Coach Watt said. “We’ve had guys place fourth in the region and fourth at state. Jake has been getting better all year, while James has some home run moves and is capable of beating anyone.”
Coach Watt was disappointed more Cowboys did not qualify, especially senior Garrett Frantz but he appreciated everyone’s effort.
“Garrett worked hard and tried hard, he just had a bad weekend,” Coach Watt said of his 132-pound senior, who was upset in the first round, then suffered a heart-breaking loss to Rangely’s only qualifier Tytus Coombs before coming back like a true champion to pin his final high school opponent for fifth place.
Meeker junior Zach McCann pinned one of his opponents at 126 and freshman Colby Clatterbaugh won a match at 182. Dax Sheridan and Kesston Hobbs represented the Cowboys well at 145 and 170, respectively.
“They all wrestled well, they all wrestled hard and they never gave up,” Coach Watt said.
The “Big Show” starts today at 3 p.m., in the Pepsi Center, in our state’s capitol city.
Anything can happen at the state tournament.