Tuesday, February 21, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> Panther wins second title

Leader sports editor

Tim Wooten of Rogers Heritage showed dramatic improvement from a year ago, but not enough to come close to knocking off the defending state wrestling champion in the 220-pound division. Cabot senior Harris Sutton completed a perfect season as the defending champ, and after his 13-4 major decision victory over Wooten on Saturday, is still the reigning champ in that category.

Sutton won the title last year and finished with a record of 28-3. This year he finished 45-0 after dominating all but one of his matches in last weekend’s state tournament at UALR’s Jack Stephens Center.

Wooten finished fourth last year with an overall record of 30-22. He entered the championship bout with Sutton this year 54-6. Like Sutton, he won his first three matches by fall, and like Sutton, won a narrow decision in the semifinals. But he was no match for the Cabot champ.

Sutton brushed off his first three opponents in less than two minutes each. He beat Catholic’s Brandon Dobbins in just 1:26. Next, it took just 20 seconds longer for him to fell Jonesboro’s Bruce Heard. In the third round of action, Sutton faced Kendall Doctorello of Benton, and ended him in just 40 seconds.

Springdale’s Cree Gonzalis went the distance with Sutton, but the defending champion won 5-3, setting up the championship bout with Wooten.

Sutton was the only member of Cabot’s otherwise youthful team to make it to the finals and finish in the top six, but that wasn’t the case for Beebe.

The Badgers finished sixth overall in the Class 1A-5A competition, and though they didn’t win any individual championships, placed seventh in the final round.

Karter Warner, who finished ifth in the 145-pound division last year, came up short of a state championship when he lost in the semifinals, but won the third-place match.

Warner was the two seed entering the tournament, but he and No. 1 seed Daniel Symons of Greenbrier were upset in the semifinals. Warner then beat Symons for the first time in his career, 9-2, for third place.

“His expectation this weekend was to win it all,” said Beebe coach Jerry Price. “Sometimes it just falls a little short. But he has exceeded expectations all year as far as I’m concerned. He has matured a lot as a wrestler and a person.”

Price detailed the frustrating way in which he lost 3-2 to Kris Grile of Berryville in the semifinals.

“He caught a bad break in the semis,” Price said of Grile’s unwillingness to engage after he got an early lead, “He was down a couple of points and suddenly he got a runner. He got a kid that didn’t want to wrestle, just backing and running. I wish maybe they would’ve called a stall warning earlier. They finally called him for it towards the very end, but by then it was too late.”

Jaden Webb entered as the three seed in the 113-pound division, also finished third after defeating Chance Mahan of Hot Springs Lakeside 9-3.

Five other Badgers won fifth-place matches, including 120-pounder Dylan Winspear, 126-pounder Zach Dixon, 132-pounder Payton Free, 138-pounder Justin Jackson and Noah Merced of the 160-pound weight class.

All that was despite a round of influenza that raced through the team before and during the tournament.

“We got hit pretty hard with the flu,” Price said. “We lost one Thursday morning. We lost a heavyweight Friday. They would’ve scored some points. And we had a couple get sick while we were there. I don’t know if it would’ve been enough to bump us up, but it had an impact.

“Overall I’m pleased. Everybody we got to the last round won their matches, so we closed it out strong.”