The Colorado High School State Wrestling Tournament finished up over the weekend. Once again Paonia was well represented at the top.
Although as a team they placed third, missing the chance for a four-peat, three of their wrestlers won the state championship for their weight class. The tournament was held at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
“The best night is definitely finals night,” says Zach Milner. “They reduce the mats from 10 to 4, so they’re only 4 matches going on at a time. My matches both years ended up where I was in the last match going on. It’s just an incredible feeling, being watched by thousands of people. Definitely something else. You don’t get that feeling everyday.”
“No matter what venue you’re at,” says Jesse Reed, “you jut got to wrestle. Like you always do. Wrestle the best like you do the worst, and you shouldn’t change just because of the venue, but it’s a great feeling for sure.”
Jesse won the championship for the fourth time, meaning he took the championship every single year he was in high school. He finished this year, and last year, undefeated.
Zach and Bo Pipher each walked away with their second state championship title, Bo undefeated. They both think that having these titles will affect how they define themselves.
“I think so,” says Bo Pipher, “without wrestling I don’t know where I’d go to school, but with wrestling I want to go somewhere I can get better, and wrestle the rest of my life.”
“It’s not so much the title,” said Zach, “it’s more the work ethic that wrestling teaches you. I know a lot of these kids come in and run in the mornings, lift weights during the afternoon, and then we have a really hard practice at night. Coaches call it the grind. You kinda get that, but it’s more applying that to the rest of you’re life. I know that I’ll be able to take that with me."
Paonia’s head coach, Andy Pipher, is proud of the boys, and credits their hard work and will.
“You can climb as high as you want in wrestling,” says Pipher. “The coach is not going to hold you back. [During tryouts,] you go in there, it’s one-on-one. If you beat the other kid head to head, you’re the varsity competitor. You get out there in a match, whether it’s a state tournament, regional tournament, or a duel: it’s one-on-one. There’s no one else to blame it on. You’re by yourself.”
“It’s also a team sport,” he says, “We’ve won five state championships as a team since I’ve been in Paonia. But the individual part of it builds a lot of character. The ones that step up are people your really take notice of. When they go out on that mat, and they can overcome the nerves and all those things, it’s a pretty incredible thing to watch these boys mature into that. Some of them can’t do that, they never overcome that fear, but the ones that do are pretty amazing”
Zach and Jesse are both seniors. Jesse is in contact with college recruiters and Zach is looking to wrestle for the US Coast Guard.
Talon Harris from the Norwood/Nucla Wrestling team also won the state championship. Their team took fifth in state.