MPHS Panther wrestlers fare well in state competition
The Panthers finished 20th in a field of 48 teams at the state tournament scoring 30.5 points. State champions Brandon Strang and Joe Visconti brought home two medals.
Six Middle Park High wrestlers participated at the state tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Feb. 19-21, which is one of the top four state high school wrestling tournaments in the United States.
Centari High School won the 2009 3A champion.
The Colorado High School Activities Association brings together the top 16 wrestlers in each of the 14 weight classifications in the 2A, 3A, 4A, and 5A divisions. About 900 wrestlers descend on downtown Denver for three days of thrilling competition to crown the best wrestlers as, “State Champions.”
Every wrestler contributed to the Panther’s success, said coach Cal Cherrington.
“It is important for the young guys to get that first victory at the state tournament,” he said. “They are so hard to come by. Everybody is under a lot of pressure because this is what every wrestler has prepared for all season.”
The team brought home two medals.
Brandon Strang, 103, wrestled to a fifth place finish winning four matches and losing two. In his opening match, Brandon faced off with Jacob Cole from Florence. With just 30 seconds remaining in the match Strang trailing by 4 points escaped, took Cole down and put him on his back to score 5 points. Cole was able to fight off his back seconds later reversing Brandon to his back as time ran out, securing an 8-5 victory.
Strang would then go on a tear, winning three straight matches to get into the medal round. William Casey of Estes Park would be Brandon’s first victim losing by major decision 12-4. Strang then pinned Elijah Mora of Brush in 3:30. Next for Brandon would be Drew Greer of Denver Lutheran who he defeated in a hard fought 3-0 decision. Michael Sandoval from Lamar then handed Brandon his second loss of the tournament in a close 6-5 decision. In the fifth/sixth match Strang squared off against Jacob Haney of Strasburg High School. With only 9 seconds remaining on the clock trailing by a point, Strang hit a hard double leg takedown to score the winning points ending the match at 5-4.
Joe Visconti, 130, also had an exceptional tournament. Joe dismantled his first opponent, Caleb Pringle of Pagosa Springs, by techfall in the first two minutes of the match 15-0. Next up was Geoff Keeling of Strasburg. After a scoreless first period Visconti took over the match scoring a 12-1 major decision. Visconti would now face Kaylen Keys, the eventual state champion from Centari High School in the semi-finals on Friday night. In one of the most competitive matches of the night, trailing by a score of 2 to 1 with time running out Visconti made a last ditch attempt for a takedown and was turned away. This put Joe up against the number one ranked wrestler and defending state champion, Jake Eitzen from Estes Park, who had been upset earlier in the day. Despite wrestling a great match, Visconti would come up just short in a 5-4 decision. As luck would have it Geoff Keeling had battled back into the fifth/sixth match and would once again fall victim to Visconti by a score of 4-1.
“Joe has been the leader of this team all season,” Cherrington said. “The hard work he put in and the discipline he showed all season brought him so close to attaining his ultimate goal. It is such a fine line between the wrestlers who reach the podium.”
Shelby Garrett, 135, fell just victory short of the medal round. Garrett was defeated in the opening round of the tournament by Brandon Padilla of Rye High School, 8-2. Shelby then came back to win decisions over Tyler Roberts of Denver Lutheran 6-3; and Logan Hertzner of Erie, 3-0.
“This put Garrett in the so called heart break round where he lost a very hard fought 4-0 decision to Clayton Johnson from Ellicott High School.” Cherrington said.
Nate Birdseye, 152, started off his state tournament with a huge victory over highly ranked Shay Hanson from Brush, with a 5-4 decision. Things did not go so well after that as Nate was beaten by Aaron Velasquez of Bayfield, 9-2; and Ben Register of Classical Academy, 10-0; eliminating him from the tournament.
Freshman, Brian Macchione, 189, sustained an opening round loss to Marcus Ekstein of Bayfield, 14-4. Trailing in his second match 8-4, Brian threw Jared Gambrell of Bennett to his back with just 15 seconds remaining to pick up 5 points, earning a 9-8 victory. Edger Borunda, of Monte Vista High School, eliminated Macchione from the tournament by pinning him in 3:41.
Mitch Strang, 215, lost in the opening round to eventual state champion, Jacob Hunter, by fall at the 5:28 mark. Strang then came back to pin Tyler Parish of LaJunta in a time of 4:30. Next up for Strang was the eventual third place finisher Davy Rhodes of Olathe High School. Rhodes would end Mitch’s tournament with a tough 3-1 decision.
“I am proud of each one of these young men,” Cherrington said. “Each of them wrestled their tails off all season. They not only grew as wrestlers and athletes during the season, they grew as men. The main goal of our program is to have these lessons learned in wrestling: winning, losing, adversity, sacrifice and accountability, carry over into everyday life. I have been privileged to have such a great group of kids, coaches and parents to work with this season.”
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