Panthers claim regional title in a down-to-the-wire battle for first place
by David Tesitor
WESTCLIFFE — For the last 45 seconds of the 2A-Regional tournament in Westcliffe, the John Mall Panthers and Fowler Grizzlies were on their feet, anxiously awaiting the results of the final match, not involving a Panther, but a Fowler Grizzly, Garett Gribble, who needed a win for Fowler to steal the title from John Mall. In the end, JD Chamblin of Manzanola (20-8), a senior, won a 3-1 decision over Gribble. Gribble led through two periods 1-0 and seemed in control before Chamblin forced an escape and takedown to take a 3-1 lead with less than a minute to go.
The Manzanola victory enabled the John Mall Panthers to secure a two- point margin of victory in the regional tournament, with 209 points to Fowler’s 207. McClave came in a distant third at 152 points.
This is the first regional title for the Panthers in three years with the second closest margin of victory in all of the 2017 regional tournaments in all classes. Only 2A-Region 1, which pitted Paonia and Meeker in the heavyweight finals, determined the champion with a closer margin. Paonia won that match and took their region by one point. Going into the morning, John Mall held a comfortable lead, but the consolation rounds helped Fowler make it a close battle for first.
Going into the finals, John Mall was in first place with 188 points and Fowler in second with 185. It would boil down to which team crowned the most champions in the finals: JM with eight, Fowler with seven.
There were two head-to-head battles which could have made a difference in the final outcome: at 106 pounds, Chris McKenna of John Mall versus Seth McFall of Fowler; at 138 pounds, Isiah Sandoval of John Mall versus Dylan Palomino of Fowler. The Panther grapplers lost both of those matches.
Wesley ‘A.J.’ Van Matre, Jonathan Andreatta and Marshal Ross were each victorious and, by the end of the 138# bouts, the Panthers were ahead by nine points. Fowler and John Mall lost their next two matches then, at 160 pounds, the Fowler Grizzlies won and moved within five points of John Mall. With the regional title on the line,
Jason Murphy needed a win, preferably by pin to pull ahead. His win over Dominic Romero of Dolores Huerta gave the Panthers another six point lead, requiring Fowler to win their next two matches to claim the title. They came close. At 220 pounds, Fowler’s Ty Sigler pinned Camryn Baumgardner of Del Norte in 1:09 to move within two points of the Panthers, setting up the heavyweight bout.
After the tournament, Fowler head coach, Grady Garrison said, “When we lost to (Panther Trystan) Estrada in the semi-finals at 45 and (Panther Nick) Griego at the 70’s, we knew we had to keep pace with the Panthers in the finals. Winning our two head-to head helped, but it wasn’t enough.” (For more details on these matches, see related story, page 13).