Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Panther pair gets second at state

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot Panthers’ wrestling team finished 11th overall at the Arkansas High School State Wrestling Tournament on Saturday at the Jack Stephens Center on the campus of UALR, and two Panther wrestlers left the tournament as state runner-up in their respective weight classes.

As a team, Cabot totaled 107.5 points, which was one point behind Jonesboro, who finished 10th with 108.5 points, and 5.5 points higher than 12th-place Conway, who totaled 102.

Little Rock Catholic, who was the favorite going into the tournament, finished first overall in the class 6A/7A division with 255.5 points. Bentonville finished second with 229 points. Springdale Har-Ber was third with 208.5. Rogers Heritage was fourth with 168.5 points, and Greenwood took fifth in the team scores with 141.

“We were wrestling with a lot of young kids this year,” said Cabot wrestling coach Jason Rogers. “The competition in the 6A/7A has gotten way better over the last four-to-five years. I had some kids win some matches I wasn’t expecting them to win, and I had some kids that were a little bit of a disappointment. But overall, it was about where I thought we’d be.”

Individually, Cabot was unable to bring home a state champion, but the Panthers did have two make it all the way to the championship round.

Sophomore Austin Dye, who was the 106-pound state champion last year as a freshman, advanced to the 113-pound championship round after beating Fayetteville’s Jay Branch (21-4) by an 11-1 major decision.

Dye took on Har-Ber’s Kimble Jennings (36-12) in the championship round, where he lost a close 1-0 decision. It was only Dye’s second loss of the season and he finished 2014 with a record of 26-2.

“The Jennings kid from Har-Ber is a good wrestler,” Rogers said. “We were right there at the end. I thought we were going to get a two-point reversal, but we couldn’t get it in time.”

Erik Cooley, a junior, was the other Panther wrestler that left Saturday’s tournament with a runner-up medal. Cooley advanced to the championship round of the 138-pound division by winning a 7-4 decision over Har-Ber’s Coltin Morgan (42-18) in the semifinals.

Cooley took on Taylor Compton (41-1) of Greenwood in the championship match, where he lost a 10-2 decision. It was Cooley’s lone loss of the year, and he finished the 2014 season with a stellar 26-1 record.

“We knew it was going to be tough going into it,” Rogers said of Cooley’s championship match. “Cooley really wrestled hard. The Compton kid had pinned two kids already in the tournament, so we knew he was able to score points. He (Cooley) stayed alive in the third period and did everything we asked of him. It was tough matches for both of them (Cooley and Dye).”

Freshman Cameron Pitch-ford and junior Michael Morgan were the only other Panther wrestlers that made it to the medal round. Pitchford finished fifth in the 106-pound weight class by winning a tight 4-3 decision over Jordan Peterson (31-12) of Mountain Home. The win improved Pitchford’s 2014 record to 21-7. 

Morgan advanced to the medal round in the 145-pound division by pinning Greenwood’s Luke Palmer (20-19) at the 2:48 mark of the consolation semifinals. In the fifth-place match, Har-Ber’s Nathan Washburn won a close 1-0 decision over Morgan, which gave Morgan a sixth-place finish. Morgan ended the 2014 season with a 21-9 record.

Hayden Mills, a junior, and sophomore Gage Long didn’t advance to the medal round of the state tournament, but both had winning records this season for the Panthers. Mills ended the season with a 17-6 record, and Long finished the year 14-8.