Panthers wrestle in first duals of season

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RANGELY | After being quarantined for the first official weekend of the 2021 wrestling season, last weekend the Rangely Panther wrestling team competed in their first duals.

Junior Zane Varner bested Hayden’s Jake Lindley on Saturday. | GAYLE ZIMMERMAN PHOTO

Friday the team traveled to Coal Ridge High School where they wrestled the Titans and the Rifle Bears.

“We saw some ups and downs,” commented head coach JC Chumacero. “We lost the dual by points but outwrestled the Coal Ridge Titans, winning seven out of 10 matches.”

There are two freshmen on the team: Kobey Chism at 132 lbs and Jaxon Torsell (195). Both came away with their first high school varsity wins. Chism won his match by major decision beating his opponent 11-3, while Torsell won by pin. Sophomores Colton Stevens (126), Julian Pena (170), and Kasen LeBleu (220) came up short of a win. Juniors Braxton Moore (145), Zane Varner (152), Alex Black (145) and Brent Cantrell (170) all came away with wins by pin.

“We didn’t match up as good against Rifle, only getting five matches out of the 14 weights,” said Chumacero.

Torsell and Chism came up short of wins, LeBleu won by major decision 11-4, and Moore and Cantrell both came away with pins.

After a long trip home Friday, the team had an early trip to Hayden Saturday where they were scheduled to meet Hayden and West Grand.

“Unfortunately West Grand was unable to make it due to weather, ” commented Chumacero, “We struggled a little bit against Hayden. They are very tough, especially in their lower weights.” Varner bumped up to 160 pounds in order to get a match and was the only Panther to win a varsity match, winning by pin. The rest of the Panthers fell to more experienced Tiger wrestlers. “Overall I was very impressed by how we wrestled,” said Chumacero, “this was our first outing of the year and I feel like we wrestled very well. As a team, we have been in and out of the practice room a lot this year, and this has made it extremely difficult to fully prepare. We are not the only team going through such an abnormal year. We plan to hit the room hard again and keep getting better week to week and prepare for the regional tournament.”

Joining Chumacero again this year is Mike Dillon as assistant coach and Jeff “Buck” LeBleu as the volunteer coach. The team boasts two returning state qualifiers, Varner and Byron Mackay (HWT). Varner has made multiple trips to the state tournament and Mackay made his first appearance in 2020.

This Saturday the team will travel to Norwood for a Tri. They will face a team that is a combination of Norwood and Nucla, and Paonia.

For fans at home, the Panthers are scheduled to host Nucla, Soroco and Paonia on Feb. 27. Regionals will be in Meeker this year on March 5-6, details to follow.

By TIFFANY JEHOREK – Special to The Herald Times