Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Panther makes history

Leader sportswriter

Cabot senior Tyler Kurz may be a young man of few words, but his high-school wrestling legacy could fill volumes.

Kurz became the first four-time state champion in the brief five-year history of Arkansas high-school wrestling when he defeated Edwin Santos of Rogers High School in the 7A/6A 182-pound division late Saturday in the state wrestling finals at the Jack Stephens Center on the campus of UALR in Little Rock.

Kurz made the leap from the 145-pound class, where he won his third state championship as a junior, to the 182 group, finishing with a season record of 18-1, with his only loss coming to Santos in an earlier meeting.

Kurz was one of three finalists for the Panther wrestling team, and one of seven medalists. Austin Dye was the other state-championship winner for Cabot in the 106-pound division as he took down Catholic’s Connor Perkins in overtime.

Kurz’s accomplishment of four consecutive state championships is unprecedented in Arkansas high-school wrestling, but after months of rigorous training that included a strict diet, he was not able to focus on the magnitude of his feat following his championship bout.

“Pretty much, I just went out there to attack,” Kurz said. “I got kind of worn down. I’m just glad I got it done. I can go home and eat now.”

Kurz was the immediate aggressor against Santos and scored four points on a pair of early takedowns, and was ahead 5-0 at the end of the first round. The second round proved uneventful for the most part as Kurz led 6-0, but the final round made up for it. Santos pulled to within 7-4 on two takedowns, but Kurz answered to win 10-6.

“It’s exhilarating,” Kurz said. “It’s a legacy everyone can chase after. First period, I just kind of stuck to what I knew he was going to do. Towards the end, I got a little tired, got off track. I just had to push through it.”

Dye’s final bout was even closer, as he and Perkins ended the third round tied 2-2. The extra round appeared to be just as close until Dye, a freshman, scored on a takedown with 25 seconds remaining to claim a state title in his fifth year of wrestling.

Senior Kyle Wheeler came close to clinching a state championship in the 152-pound division, as he led Nick Mulcahy of Rogers until the final seconds of regulation. Mulcahy tied it at 1-1 just as time expired, and pulled off another late move in overtime to win 3-2, relegating Wheeler to his second-consecutive runner-up finish.

As a team, Cabot finished fourth overall with 161 points. Bentonville won the overall title with 254 points with Catholic second and Rogers third.

Other medalists for Cabot included Hayden Mills, who finished sixth in the 113-pound division, Erik Cooley, who was fourth in the 132-pound division, Bryce Mitchell, who took fourth place in the 145-pound division and Seth Roberts, sixth in the 160-pound class.

“Tyler works hard every day, and it shows when he comes out here to wrestle,” Cabot wrestling coach Jason Rogers said. “He is proof that what you put into it is what you get out of it.

“We had seven kids medal, that’s the most we’ve ever had. It was a great day. We came into it short a heavyweight, and had a bunch of young kids wrestling as well. We came back with nine, and seven of them medaled, so that’s a pretty big deal.”