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MEEKER I Anything can happen at a state tournament and a lot did during the 2015 Colorado State Wrestling Championships in the Pepsi Center last weekend in Denver.
“You learn more from a loss, but you don’t want to get into a habit of losing.” ~Coach Bill Turner
The Meeker Cowboys qualified nine wrestlers, all won at least one match, six earned medals, including an individual champion, the team finished second in the state and it was the final “Big Show” for former wrestling coach Bill Turner, who passed away Sunday from complications of a fall suffered while in Denver.
“I was glad coach Turner got to watch the team and his grandsons (Sheridan Harvey and Casey Turner) wrestle at state,” Meeker head wrestling coach J.C. Watt said. “The strengths of our wrestling program over the years; strong community support; and guys who have been through the program, coming back to help how they can, started with Bill Turner. The Meeker wrestling program owes a lot to coach Turner and his family.”
In true coach Turner/Meeker fashion, the Cowboys were prepared to put on a competitive show and got into an exciting race for the team title, surprisingly not with three-time defending state champion Paonia but with Turner-era nemesis Rocky Ford, who had not won a team title since 1990 and eventually won the team title this year.
“Try to do your best individually and the team scores will take care of themselves,” Meeker head coach J.C. Watt said he told his team, which consisted of state qualifiers Sheridan Harvey (113), Tristin Pelloni (120), Kylloe Goedert (126), Anthony Watt (145), Casey Turner (152), Chase Rule (160), T.J. Shelton (170), Devon Pontine (182) and Tyler Ilgen (285). These Cowboys did try to do their best and they created a memorable three-day race for the 2A team title in the 2015 Colorado State Wrestling Championships.
“The best team we had all season, we took to the regional and state tournaments; they all peaked at the right time,” coach Watt said.
Although sometimes it may seem so, a team title is not won by any one win or any one loss. A team title is won by an accumulation of individual wins and losses and it is also true, for most, it is more exciting when the title is decided at the very end, which is what happened this year.
Harvey, Pelloni, Watt, Turner, Shelton and Pontine all won in the first round and Meeker ended the first day in fourth place, behind Paonia, Rocky Ford and Centauri. On Friday, it was Watt pinning the defending state champion from Swink, which excited the Cowboys and got them into the team race. Harvey, Pelloni, Turner and Shelton also advanced to the semifinals, while Goedert, Rule and Ilgen all won consolation matches and Meeker moved into third place behind leader Rocky Ford and Paonia.
Harvey and Pelloni lost in the semifinals. Watt, Turner and Shelton all advanced to the championship match in their respective weight brackets.
On Saturday, after the consolation rounds, which eliminated Goedert, Rule and Ilgen but advanced Harvey into the 5th-6th place match and Pelloni and Pontine into the consolation championship match, which both of them won.
Pontine defeated two wrestlers he had wrestled before and never beaten, on his way to a bronze medal. Harvey also finished his second state tournament with a pin, earning him a fifth-place medal. The wins moved the Cowboys into second place, out of reach of Paonia and within striking distance of Rocky Ford. Both the Cowboys and the Meloneers had three wrestlers in the finals.
Rocky Ford won the 106-pound championship but lost to the state’s 18th four-time state champion, Jesse Reed of Paonia. Watt and Turner both met their match in the finals, but Shelton’s win put the Cowboys ahead by one point, after winning his third consecutive state title and Rocky Ford having one wrestler left to wrestle.
“T.J. is at another level than most of the kids he wrestles,” coach Watt said. “He became Meeker’s fourth three-time state champ (Keenan Turner, Brandan Stewart and Joe LeBlanc are the others) and he has a chance to be Meeker’s first-ever four-timer and the state’s 19th.
Shelton won one match by technical fall (15-0) and pinned his other three opponents, including a 50-second pin over Jose Cisenros of Centennial in the championship match.
“He just dominated everyone,” coach Watt said.
The Cowboys didn’t get to hold the lead for long as Rocky Ford’s 220-pounder Nate Finnell won in the finals and giving his team win the team title.
“Rocky Ford wrestled well all three days and won it,” Watt said of the team title, adding that he was thankful for his senior leadership and is excited about the kids returning next year.
“Tristin wrestled well but got caught in the semifinals by a kid I think he was better than, but he came back and finished strong, beating a tough kid twice from Centauri,” he said. “Anthony picked a good time to have his best tournament and Kylloe is the hardest worker I’ve ever had in my six years of coaching. His hard work and dedication will carry him through life.”
“We return six state qualifiers, four of them state placers and we have a few regional placers that did not qualify, also returning,” Watt said, looking forward to next year’s race for a team title and Shelton’s quest to become Meeker’s first-ever, four-time state wrestling champion.