Saturday, December 15, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Rocket wrestlers dominate Panthers

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers had three of their wrestlers pick up wins in the team’s first wrestling meet of the season Tuesday, but that was all, as the Panthers lost to Little Rock Catholic 56-18 in team points at Cabot High School.

Senior standout Tyler Kurz, a three-time state champion, won the 145-pound weight class in February last season. This season, Kurz is wrestling in the 182-pound division, and earned the most impressive win for the Panthers on Tuesday, as he pinned his opponent 33 seconds into the match.

Kurz has won the state crown in three different weight classes, and according to Cabot coach Jason Rogers, Kurz has worked hard in the offseason to get stronger and improve at his craft.

“He’s worked really hard in the weight room during the offseason,” Rogers said. “He’s put a lot of effort into this and it’s showing.”

Kurz recently signed to wrestle at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. Erik Cooley and Tyler Gilbertson were the other two Panther wrestlers to earn individual wins. Cooley, who wrestled in the 138-pound class, pinned his opponent in the second period. Gilbertson, who was wrestling in his first-ever match, pinned his opponent at the 1:50 mark of the second period to give the Panthers a win in the 285-pound class.

Tuesday’s match was Catholic’s 14th of the season. The experienced Rockets have participated in a couple of tournaments along the way, and for the Panthers, a good chunk of their varsity participants were wrestling in a sanctioned match for the first time.

“We’ll get better,” Rogers said. “We’ve got 17 more meets to attend this year. So we’ll get better before it’s all said and done. We’ve only been practicing for a couple of weeks now. With football season and everything, it’s a little bit harder to get going. I know our season started November 11th. So a month into the season, we’re finally getting our first match in.”

Catholic racked up 11 individual wins in the meet, which resulted in its 56 team points. The other Panther wrestlers that participated in Tuesday’s meet include: Ben Powell, Kyle Wheeler, Brandon Barrentine, Seth Roberts, Michael Mor-gan, Austin Johnson, Patrick Partin, Hayden Mills, Austin Dye, Austin Jones and Gage Long. Wheeler finished last season as the state runner-up of the 152-pound division.

“We’ve had probably two and a half weeks of practice with everybody out there, including our football kids,” Rogers said. “We’ve got a long ways to go. I thought effort-wise, we wrestled really well. But on the technical standpoint of it, we have a lot to learn.”

Rogers expects to see steady improvement as the season progresses, and has high hopes for his seniors in particular.

“We have a good group of seniors this year,” Rogers said. “A bunch of them are returning starters. For many of them, this is their fourth year starting for us. So they’re setting a good example in the practice room. They’ve just got to keep working hard.”

Cabot’s next meet is today in a four-team tournament at Cabot Junior High North. The other three teams participating are Beebe, Conway and Central.