Several Panthers punch tickets to Denver

Panther sophomore Zane Varner qualified for the state tournament with a fourth place regional finish.

RANGELY I Last weekend the Panthers wrestled in the regional tournament where it is either the last matches for the season, or where wrestlers continue on to the state tournament in Denver.

Sophomore Braxton Moore (120) had a tough draw right out of the gate wrestling the No. 1 seed of the tournament and No. 7 ranked wrestler in the state. Moore lost his second match which took him out of the tournament. Sophomore Alex Black (138) also went 0-2 to end his season. “Braxton and Alex both wrestled really good seasons. Both are pretty new to the sport and have grown a lot,” said head coach JC Chumacero. “I am excited to see what they do in the next two years.”

Sophomore Zane Varner (145) won his first match Friday putting him into the semi-finals. He lost his first match Saturday, but “wrestled really well the rest of the tournament, pinning his next opponent to put him into the third and fourth place and state-qualifying match.” Varner went to battle against a Norwood opponent defeated previously this year by one point. “We saw a repeat of the same battle only this time Workman sneaked by with a 4-3 victory over Varner,” Chumacero said. Varner’s fourth-place finish qualified him for the “Big Show” in Denver. “Varner has been wrestling tough all season and I am excited to see what he will do at state. He will enter the Pepsi center with a 31-8 record,” Chumacero said.

Senior Justin Rusher (152) went 0-2 ending a season in which he wasn’t expected to wrestle due to a football injury. “He pushed hard in order to get cleared the last three weeks. Rusher’s last loss was a heart breaker for myself and the whole team. He has so much heart and it was hard to see his high school career come to an end. I am really proud of him and can’t wait to see what his future brings,” Chumacero said.

Senior Tytus Coombs (160) started his tournament off strong beating his first opponent 8-1 and his second with a 15-0 tech fall. This advanced Coombs into the finals and automatically punched his ticket to state. Coombs had a rematch against a previously beaten Paonia opponent for first and second.

“We lost this match, for which I feel partially to blame,” Chumacero said. “Grey Neil [Paonia] has mastered a lot of the same moves that he loves to use. I focused a lot on his top game but overlooked his bottom moves. That’s what got us caught. We will know how to prepare Tytus for state now.”

Junior Anthony Garner (170) went 2-3 on the weekend placing sixth. “Anthony is giving up a lot of weight. He wanted to wrestle up a weight so he could be at varsity. He is giving up about 12 to 13 pounds, so for him to win matches and place I was very happy with,” Chumacero commented.

Senior Del Garner (195) went 0-2 and was also unable to continue his season. This is the first season Garner has finished because of injuries, but Chumacero said he always walks off the mat with a smile.

Senior Dalton Dembowski (220) went 2-2 and came up short of qualifying. “Dembowski really stepped up this year, he worked hard and I know how bad he wanted to be in the Pepsi Center. I couldn’t be more proud of him. He is really smart and I cant wait to see what his future brings,” Chumacero said.

Sophomore Byron Mackay (HWT) went 2-2 placing fourth and punching the Panthers’ final ticket to state. Mackay won his first match but lost his semi-finals match. “This put us in a situation where we had to avenge a loss in order to get into the third and fourth place match. Byron did just that, pinning his Dolores opponent. He lost a close match in the placing round earning fourth but punching his ticket,” Chumacero said.

The Panthers spent the week brushing up on their skills and preparing mentally for the state tournament in Denver which starts today.