Cowboys take second in Paonia

Meeker senior Cody Nielsen was one of five Cowboy varsity wrestlers to win against Moffat County but the Bulldogs won the dual 39-32. Nielsen pinned his Bulldog opponent, as did classmates Chase Rule, Caleb Bradford and Sheridan Harvey. Sophomore Tannen Kennedy won 19-2, senior heavyweight Tyler Ilgen won by forfeit and classmate Kasey Rosendahl pinned his JV opponent. Meeker will wrestle the Palisade Bulldogs Friday. Bobby Gutierrez photo

MEEKER | The defending state champion Meeker Cowboy wrestling team, currently ranked No. 2 behind Rocky Ford by On the Mat Rankings, may move down a notch after losing a dual to the Hotchkiss Bulldogs, who were ranked No. 3 last week, then finishing second to the Bulldogs in the Screamin’ Eagle tournament in Paonia last Saturday. Meeker wrestled the Moffat County Bulldogs Tuesday and will wrestle a dual in Palisade Friday for the weekend’s only action.
“We wrestled flat Friday but wrestled a lot better on Saturday,” Meeker head coach J.C. Watt said of his team’s duals against Hotchkiss, which they lost 27-41 and Norwood Nucla (ranked No. 4), which Meeker won 53-24, wrestling in Hotchkiss the night before the tournament in Paonia, which featured most of the teams from the Cowboys’ region, including the host Eagles, who were ranked No. 5 last week.
The Cowboys split matches with Hotchkiss, winning six of 12 matches wrestled, including three by pin fall but Meeker gave up two forfeits and were pinned in three matches. Sheridan Harvey, Casey Turner and Chase Rule all pinned their Hotchkiss opponents, while Tannen Kennedy, Hunter Garcia and Tyler Ilgen all won.
“Hotchkiss is well coached, has a good wrestling program and a good team this year,” Coach Watt said.
Meeker lost three matches in a row against the Mustangs from Norwood/Nucla, including the first loss of the season for defending state champion Casey Turner. Turner, who spent the first half of the season recovering from a football injury, lost 3-11 to Armantrout, a wrestler he pinned earlier in the Tournament of Champions. The two would advance to the championship match of the 170-pound bracket at the Screamin’ Eagle, where Turner was re-injured and defaulted the match.
Five Cowboys advanced to the championship match of their respective weights in the Screamin’ Eagle tournament but only Harvey won the gold medal.
Harvey pinned both of his opponents the night before, then recorded two more pins while advancing into the championship match in the 138-pound bracket, where he would face the 2A state’s No. 1 ranked wrestler Chesnik from Paonia. Harvey would avenge a loss earlier in the season to Chesnik at the Warrior Classic, defeating him 2-0 in the championship match of the Screamin’ Eagle.
Jacob Pelloni (113) and Kennedy (126) also wrestled in the championship match, after each pinned three opponents in their respective weights and finished as runners-up, as did Turner and heavyweight Tyler Ilgen.
Chase Rule was the consolation champion in the 182-pound bracket, while teammates Caleb Bradford (195) and Garrett Frantz (132) both finished fifth. Frantz pinned four opponents and lost one but had to forfeit his final two matches because a wrestler cannot wrestle more than five matches in one day.
“Garrett is improving at the right time,” coach Watt said.
The Cowboys will wrestle in Palisade this Friday then host their annual tournament the following week in the final action of the regular season.
“We have a lot of work to do between now and the regional tournament but we have a good idea of where we are right now,” coach Watt said.