Friday, February 05, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot makes dual state

Leader sportswriter

Despite injuries, the Cabot High School wrestling team put together a strong showing at Tuesday night’s meet in Cabot, as the Panthers beat Little Rock Central by one point in the team standings, 37-36, to qualify for today’s dual state tournament meet in Van Buren.

The dual state tournament isn’t the same event as the Arkansas Activities Association sanctioned state tournament that’s held Feb. 19-20 at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock, but in Class 7A, the dual state tournament is one that features the top four teams from the Central and West conferences and is a good warm-up for the AAA sanctioned state tournament.

With Tuesday’s one-point win over the Tigers, Cabot took over sole possession of the fourth spot from the Central Conference and the right to make the trip to Van Buren this morning.

“Last year they started doing the dual state tournament,” said Cabot coach David Payne, “where they set up an eight-man bracket and you’re seeded as a team and you win or lose as a team just like a standard dual would be. They take the top four teams from the Central Conference and the top four teams from the West Conference and they have a dual tournament.

“It’s not really AAA sanctioned, it’s wrestling association sanctioned. They present the awards and stuff for the dual state championships at the state tournament.”

Cabot fell into an 18-point hole after its first three matches against Central. Two of those losses were by pin and one was by forfeit because of injuries in the 113-pound weight class. However, the Panthers won their next five matches to take a 30-18 lead in the team standings.

Four of those wins were by pin. Cameron Pitchford was the first Panther to win by pin, in the 126-pound class. He won his match with 37 seconds left in the first round. Olivia Wheeler earned the next win via forfeit in the 132-pound class, and Dillan Friesner was the next Cabot wrestler to win by pin.

Friesner won his match with four seconds left in the first round over Central’s Blake Hill. Jason Osborn and Austin Dye won the next two matches for the Panthers.

Osborn, wrestling at 145 pounds, pinned his opponent with 32 seconds left in round one and Dye pinned Central’s Gabe Kerr 31 seconds into the first round in the 152-pound class.

Cabot lost four of the next six matches against Central, but CJ Long’s decision win and Harris Sutton’s majority decision win were enough to give the Panthers the one-point win over the Tigers in the team standings.

Searcy and Pulalski Aca-demy were also at Tuesday’s match.

The Panthers faced both of those teams, but lost against both in the team standings. However, the win against Central was the one that mattered as far as getting to today’s dual state tournament.

Searcy won their match over Cabot 48-34, and PA also totaled 48 team points against the Panthers while the hosts earned 36 team points in that dual.

Cabot earned five individual wins against Searcy. Pitchford won his 126-pound match by majority decision and Friesner won his 132-pound match by pin with just 50 seconds left in the third and final round.

Dye won his 145-pound match by pin with just one second left in round one. Nate Bonilla and Sutton also won their matches against Searcy by pin. Bonilla, wrestling at 182 pounds, pinned his opponent with 40 seconds remaining in the first round and Sutton pinned his opponent with just 14 seconds left in round three.

Chris Jones also picked up a win in the 285-pound class, winning by forfeit. Against PA, the Panthers did earn three wins by forfeit, but the Bruins got two wins by forfeit. The other three wins Cabot earned against PA came by pin.

Dye won his match with five seconds left in round one. He wrestled that match in the 145-pound class. Long, wrestling in the 170-pound class, pinned his opponent with six seconds left in round two, and Sutton pinned PA’s Luke Jones with 48 tics left in the first round of the 220-pound match.

Though they came up short in the team points against Searcy and PA, Tuesday’s meet was a good one for the hosts, considering they beat Central to get to today’s dual state tourney despite the nagging injuries the team is dealing with.

“You know, we hung in there with them,” Payne said. “Luckily it worked out for us against Central. It got us where we need to be to get into dual state. We’ve got to go up there and hopefully we’ll be a little healthier by this weekend, and maybe go surprise some people.”

Today’s dual state tournament matches in Van Buren begin at 9 a.m. and weigh-in is at 7 a.m., with the finals taking place this afternoon. The 7A-Central Conference Tournament will be next Saturday at Panther Arena and will begin at 8 a.m.