Small town makes a big impression at state tourney

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Things are looking up for the Barone Middle School wrestling program with more kids out for the team this year than in the past, which helped produce a successful season. The season concluded with 11 wrestlers competing in the Middle School State tournament held last weekend in Denver and bringing home a third place team trophy. T.J. Shelton won a state title, Devon Pontine finished second, Dillon Frantz was a consolation champion and Sheridan Harvey placed fifth. Wrestling on the young Cowboys team this season were (Front row) Josh Cochran, Brett McGruder, Tell Blanke, Conner Pfister, Jake Nielsen, Cole Purcell, Tyler Ilgen, Nick Burri, Sheridan Harvey, Casey Turner, Sam Nieslanik and Sam Lange. Back row; Caleb Bradford, Hunter Garcia, Dillon Frantz, Devon Pontine, Cody Purcell, Cody Nielsen, Ty Dunham, Jake Smith, T.J. Shelton, Robby Jensen, Noah Overton, Tommy Chitwood, Jacob Henderson and Tyler Pollock. Not pictured; Garrett Frantz, Jacob Pelloni, Chase Rule and coaches Lee Overton and J.C. Watt.
The middle school state wrestling championships (in affiliation with the Rocky Mountain Nationals) was held last Friday and Saturday in Denver. The event featured athletes from all over the state and from schools of all sizes.
Each weight class began with a 64-person bracket made up of qualifiers from the previous weekend’s regional tournaments. There are six regions in the state with no limitations on the number of wrestlers one team could bring. The tournament was divided into two sections for team scoring, club teams and middle school teams. All athletes competed against each other with team points only awarded for individual placings 1-6. Meeker had an outstanding regional tournament, placing second behind 4A Craig and qualifying several wrestlers for the state competition. With spring break in the middle of the two tournaments, Meeker competed with 11 wrestlers.
Jake Pelloni was the only sixth-grader competing from Meeker after an exciting regional win the week before. Sheridan Harvey placed fifth overall in the tournament, pinning four of his seven opponents and beating another to end 5-2 in the tournament. Cole Purcell, Robbie Jensen, Chase Rule, Jake Nielsen, Brett McGruder, and Caleb Bradfield all had extremely difficult brackets but did a great job competing in the tournament.
The Meeker team was led by three eighth graders. Dylan Frantz finished an impressive third place overall, winning all but one match in the tournament. Devon Pontine proved he was a force to reckon with, winning his way to the championship match. He wrestled with tremendous heart to finish second overall. TJ Shelton pinned his way into the championship match, then won a match that was arguably the best match of the tournament. He was up against a similarly ranked opponent and the two battled until the very end of the third period when TJ, down three, caught his opponent in a five point throw.
The entire Meeker team made a huge impression for a small school competing against the elite clubs and larger schools. When the tournament concluded and the scores were tallied, Meeker was third overall in the middle school division behind 4A Windsor by 16 points (4A high school champions in 2012), and 4A Fort Morgan by only two points (4A high school 10th place finishers). Meeker beat a large number of schools, nearly all bigger then the 2A team, including Craig, Valley (third in high school 3A tournament), Sheridan, Pomona, Sterling, La Junta, and John Mall among others.
Meeker coaches Lee Overton and J.C. Watt did an outstanding job of preparing their team for this event and were very pleased with the outcome.
“The kids did a good job, they were competing against kids from 2A to 5A,” Overton said. “I like being the small school and competing with the bigger schools.”
All parent and fan support was appreciated but a special acknowledgment goes to Shelton Welding for providing a team meal Friday before the wrestling and money for the hotel and food at regionals. Also helping support the team was TJ Shelton’s grandparents’ business, Cole Trucking with donations for rooms in Grand Junction. Doug Overton from Northwest Auto provided a team meal for the entire team before the regional competition began. The support and involvement in this team was phenomenal and the results speak for themselves. Congratulations to the coaches and athletes.