DENVER — Meeker's Casey Turner by no means took the easy route, but he's landed himself in the Class 2A state wrestling finals in the 170-pound division.
"I came here to win and I'm getting there," Turner said.
Turner has been nursing a shoulder injury that began in football season, suffering a dislocated shoulder a number of times. But he fought through the injury for a second place finish in Regional 1 and the two-seed before making his way to the finals by virtue of a pin of Merino's Jon Ramey in the semifinals.
"It's frustrating when you're trying to run a move and your shoulder comes out and you can't use it and it hurts like hell," Turner said. "But, you know, you get through that."
His opponent in the championship match is a familiar face: Trenton Armintrout.
Turner lost the regional match to Armintrout by forfeit, due to the same shoulder injury. He also lost to Armintrout in the 2017 Screaming Eagle tournament — this time by injury default.
"When you wrestle a guy a ton of times, he definitely figures out how to exploit you," Turner said. "That's a lot of my forfeits — it's just trying to keep it good and keep it healthy for the state tournament and I think I've done a good job and I'm ready to roll here."
Now, in the state tournament, Turner is ready to go. As Armintrout pinned his man, Turner looked on from an adjacent mat just before his match. Turner turned around from spectator to wrestler and had his own opponent pinned in 1:29.
"I've wrestled him before quite a bit, so I know he's good," Turner said. "I know it's going to come down to the finals, and I'm ready for it."
Turner sits at 17-3 heading into the finals.
In the 2016 state wrestling tournament, Turner won the 2A 152-pound class with a pin of Norwood/Nucla's Hayden Harris. Meeker won the team title over Rocky Ford 143 to 142.
A repeat is definitely on Turner's mind.
"That's definitely on the backs of everybody's mind, pushing everybody a little bit harder," Turner said.
This season, Turner won the Tournament of Champions and the Vern Rose Memorial, and was second at the Screaming Eagle. Turner took care to make sure he was healthy at the right time.
"Football I had a little injury and it was holding me up, so it won't technically get fixed until surgery," Turner said. "I was just trying not to make it worse."
Turner opened the tournament with a 58-second pin of McClave's Jaime Ibarra. He moved to the quarterfinals earlier Friday, where he pinned Rocky Ford's Diego Reyes in 2:40. Turner's third pin of the tournament came against Ramey in the semifinals.
Turner, a multisport athlete at Meeker, was selected first team all-state football as a linebacker/running back last fall.
The state championship matches will begin following the Parade of Champions at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.