Wednesday, December 26, 2007

SPORTS >>Cabot wrestling underway

Leader sportswriter

In a long line of athletic tradition, the Cabot Panther wrestling team got off the ground in their inaugural meet last week against Lutheran High School. The Panthers started their stint in the newly formed state high school program for Arkansas Activities Association-sanctioned wrestling with a 58-18 decision over the Lions.

Cabot wrestlers in four separate weight divisions recorded falls during the event. The fall, more commonly referred to as a pin, earns a team six points, as does a team forfeit in which a wrestler in a specific weight division fails to report for his or her match. Four points are earned when a wrestler wins by major decision.

In the 130 lb. division, it was Cody Ealy who took the win over his counterpart with a fall. Ealy, easily the most advanced of the Panther wrestlers after coming to Cabot with six years of wrestling experience from his native Wisconsin, has set a good example for less experienced wrestlers in the program, according to coach Brandon Jay.

“This is a completely new experience for all of us,” Jay said. “I have three gentlemen helping me out on a volunteer basis that know the sport pretty well, and we have Cody, who has a lot of wrestling experience under his belt. But for the rest of us, it’s a whole new world. I think some of these guys, even the football players, didn’t realize exactly how physical it can be.”

Tate House won by fall for Cabot in the 135-pound class, while Leonard Mitchell took a win by fall in the 150-pound Division. In a light-heavyweight matchup, it was Jake Davis taking a win by fall in the 205 class.

Although it is the first year for the program, it has already been a busy one for the Panthers. Ealy, with an eye on an individual state title, is in consideration to drop five pounds to enter the 125-pound class.

House’s early success can be attributed in part to the instruction of three-time NCAA wrestling champ Pat Smith from Oklahoma State.

The volunteer efforts of Jeff Kelhoff, Bill Lauland and Dustin Warner have also been huge for the Panthers in the building process. Jay says the three men’s knowledge of the sport, combined with his own experience of coaching high school athletics, has made the formation of the program a lot less stressful than anticipated.

“Growing up in Arkansas, I didn’t really learn a lot about organized wrestling,” Jay said. “These guys have helped me to put it all together. They have really been the key to our success early on. They had the knowledge, I was just able to put it into a format that worked for the kids.”

The Panthers will have their first test against proven winners when they meet the wrestlers from the Arkansas School for the Blind on Jan. 8. The School for the Blind has had sanctioned wrestling for a number of years, and has had great success with its program.