Panthers push through challenges, look forward to next year

The state qualifiers flanked by two of their coaches, JC Chumacero (left) and Mike Dillon (right).
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RANGELY | The Rangely Panther wrestling team qualified three for the “Big Show”:  sophomores Zane Varner (145) and Byron Mackay (285), and senior Tytus Coombs (160).

Both Mackay and Varner placed fourth in their respective weights at regionals. This makes things hard right out of the gate at the state tournament as all the fourth place finishers are placed with regional champions. Varner’s first draw was a tough opponent in the form of Lyons junior David Gardner.

“Zane wrestled him tough and kept at him but we fell by a tech fall in the second period,” said head coach JC Chumacero. Gardner ended up being the state runner up.

Mackay also had a tough first match against Wiggins’ Laith Ibrihim, falling by pin.

“Byron was wrestling very competitive in what I felt was a very winnable match. He got tangled up in an upper-body match up and just got caught,” Chumacero said.

Coombs was the only Panther able to secure a win Thursday in Denver. “He came out on fire against his Lyons opponent countering his shot with a very fast takedown. Tytus then secured one of the fastest pins of Thursday finishing the match in 22 seconds,” Chumacero said.

On Friday, Varner wrestled a “really smart and technical match” to beat his Buena Vista opponent 5-0.

“He got an early lead and was able to keep it, this was big because we gave up a few leads throughout the season. Varner worked hard in the room to keep that from happening again,” Chumacero said.

Mackay secured his first win Friday, pinning his opponent in the second period. “He looked sharp, he controlled the whole match leaving no doubt on his advancement to the next round,” according to Chumacero.

Coombs started his day on the championship side of bracket determined to keep winning. He came out firing on all cylinders, taking down his Wray opponent quickly and locking up a cradle. The 44-6 Wray senior was able to break Coomb’s lock and quickly counter with a wing, catching Coombs on his back.

“This was a heart breaker for Tytus,” Chumacero said. “Just like most wrestlers his ultimate goal was to be in the finals. This loss unfortunately took that chance away from him. There is a pretty big break between that match and the second round of consolations. So we went back to the room to rest and get our minds right.”

Coombs rebounded very well beating his next opponent with a dominant 9-1 victory. This advanced him into Saturday’s competition and got him one step closer to the medal rounds. Unfortunately Varner and Mackay did not have the same outcome. Varner fell to No. 4 seed Jack Ring from Highland. Mackay fell to Isaac Mantey from Burlington. Mantey ended up placing sixth.

“Both of these young men had amazing seasons and I couldn’t be more proud of them. This was the first time for both of them to wrestle in the state tournament. I am glad they both qualified as sophomores, now they know what the state tournament is like and it can help prepare them for the next two years,” Chumacero said.

As a coach, Chumacero recounted a feeling of déjà vu entering the Pepsi Center with Coombs, who was the only Panther to qualify for the state tournament for the last two years. In his first match, which Chumacero calls the “blood round,” Coombs was matched with Chase Moore from Mancos.

“It stayed very close going into the third period 1-1. Coombs secured a late takedown and then put Moore on his back securing a third-period pin. This put him into the consolation semi finals where we faced off against Rocky Ford senior Jadon Baldonado. Tytus went up early with a 3-0 lead but after a few questionable calls, Baldonado got the late lead in the third period going up 4-3. In the final seconds Tytus went for broke trying to get out, This forced his Rocky Ford opponent to lock his hands bringing the match 4-4. After the first overtime the match was still locked 4-4 sending us into double overtime. Baldonado was given the first chance to escape off bottom but Tytus stayed strong and did not allow him to score. Tytus got an escape and was able to keep his lead winning the match 5-4 in double overtime,” Chumacero said. It was the first and only double overtime match of Coombs’ high school career.

“After the match Tytus said to me, ‘overtime sucks,’” Chumacero said. The win advanced Coombs into a rematch against Emmanuel Huerta. Huerta got up early on Coombs forcing him to try and play catch up.

“He took Tytus out of his element, this caused him to make mistakes and ultimately lose the match. Tytus never stopped attacking Huerta, even when we were down big. This showed me how big his heart his. Coombs finished with a fourth place and I couldn’t be more proud. That’s top 4 in the state! I hope he sees how big of an accomplishment that is,” Chumacero said, adding, “With the season at an end I would like to say how proud I am of everyone on the team for sticking out a tough season and once again for sticking by my side.”

The Rangely Panthers 2019-2020 wrestling team included freshman Colton Stevens (113), sophomore Braxton Moore (120), sophomore Alex Black (138), freshman Sage Rhea (145), sophomore Zane Varner (145), freshman Kasen LeBleu (152), senior Justin Rusher (152), senior Tytus Coombs (160), SO Brent Cantrell (170), JR Anthony Garner (170), SR Del Garner (195), senior Dalton Dembowski (220), and sophomore Byron Mackay (285); managers Kenzie Satterly, Tiana Lucas and Whitney Rusher; and assistant coach Mike Dillon.

“I would like to thank all the parents and families for their support and help with feeding the team. I would also like to give a big thanks to volunteer coach Jeff LeBleu (Buck) for helping me so much throughout the season and helping get the nonqualifiers to the state tournament so they could be a part of the experience. I am excited to see what next year brings,” Chumacero said.