MEEKER I T.J. Shelton has won many wrestling tournaments in his career, including three Colorado state titles, but he had never won a Warrior Classic title until his senior season.
Shelton not only won his first individual title, he helped his team win the “Best Small School” trophy and he was named the Outstanding Wrestler in the upper weights.
“The award speaks to his demeanor and attitude, and that’s nice,” Meeker head coach J.C. Watt said of Shelton, who remains undefeated in his quest to become Meeker’s first-ever four-time state champion. “He wrestled well.”
Shelton defeated Kory Mills, a 4A state runner-up last year from Delta 3-1 in the championship match.
The rest of the Cowboys wrestled well too, as all but one (a first-year high school wrestler) won a match in the prestigious tournament and all but one of them had at least one pin.
Meeker senior Devon Pontine also advanced to the championship match, and he finished second in the 182-pound bracket. Casey Turner, a junior, also advanced to the semifinals before losing his first match. Turner went on to place fifth in the 152-pound bracket, winning his final match by pin fall.
The Cowboys filled 13 of 14 weights and they won a total of 36 matches, earning extra team points by pinning their opponents 24 times.
“A pin is the ultimate goal of a wrestling match, and it was good we had so many,” coach Watt said.
The wins and pins kept Meeker in the top five of the team race, in a field of 35, during the entire tournament, getting as high as second place early and being tied for third after the first day of competition.
Shelton, Pontine and Turner each pinned three of their opponents as did freshman Tannen Kennedy (120) and Sheridan Harvey (126). Kennedy and Harvey were one match away from the medal round, as were Chase Rule (160) and heavyweight Tyler Ilgen. Rule and Ilgen both had two pins each.
Jacob Pelloni (106), Garrett Frantz (132), Hunter Garcia (145) and Dillon Frantz (195) all won two matches before being eliminated. Junior Caleb Bradford pinned an opponent in the 220-pound bracket and first-year varsity wrestler Tanner Slaugh got two matches in the always competitive tournament.
“We had a lot of wins from a lot of kids,” coach Watt said. “I’m really proud of all of our kids, this was a good confidence builder for us.”
The Cowboys will enjoy Christmas vacation and return in a brand new year, to wrestle on a brand new mat. The Cowboys will roll out a new mat Jan. 7 for a dual before wrestling in the Tournament of Champions in Vernal, the following two days.
“We have a long way to go to get where we want to be,” coach Watt said. “We’ll start working on our conditioning in January and get ready for another tough tournament in Vernal.”