The Stone Memorial Panther wrestling team qualified five individuals for the prestigious TSSAA State wrestling tournament.
Cody McCarl (106), Darren Rosser (145), Anthony Giattino (152), Cody Caruthers(160) and Justin Johnson (182) placed in the top four of the Region 3 Wrestling tournament at William Blount High School on Saturday.
“We went in with three seeded wrestlers in, arguably, the toughest region in the state and came out with five qualifiers. I am very happy with our individual performances this weekend,” said Coach Brian Parker.
McCarl, even as a two-time state qualifier, went in as a fifth seed and lost to the fourth seed in the second round. After pinning Maryville in the consolation quarters, he had to face and defeat the third seed to qualify for state. He dominated his Walker Valley foe and pinned him in the second period. He lost in a rematch with the fourth seed to place fourth in the tournament.
“Cody is a scrapper and had probably his best match of the year at just the right time. This allowed him to become a three-time qualifier. Cody really earned this trip to state, and I am impressed,” added Parker.
Rosser had nearly the exact senario as McCarl in his weight class. He lost a close match to the fourth seed in the second round but came back strong in the losers bracket. He had to quick pins before facing the second seed from Walker Valley in the consolation semi-finals. In this match, the lead changed hands several times before Rosser scored an escape with 10 seconds left for the victory and state berth. He went on to claim third place with a first-period pin over his Bradley opponent.
“Darren had a terrible first match when he under-estimated his Maryville opponent. He came back on Saturday as good as he has been all season and dominated losers bracket. If he wrestles like that this weekend, he may place in the state tournament,” added Parker.
Giattino lived up to his billing as second seed at 152 pounds by pinning his first two opponents quickly and defeating the third seed from Maryville by a regular decision to make it to the championship finals. He went on to lose by regular decision to his state-ranked Cleveland opponent.
“Anthony is very strong and a great technician, but he seems to have a roadblock with this Cleveland kid. We are going to work on that roadblock and there is a good chance that when he beats this kid at the state tournament, it will be for a state medal,” noted Parker.
Caruthers got a pin in the first round match only to fall by regular decision to the second seed from Bradley in the semi-finals. After winning by regular decision over Kingston to qualify for state, he stunned the Walker Valley fans with a decision over the very tough fourth seed. Cody took third to two of the top five wrestlers in the state at 160 pounds.
"Like Anthony, I think Cody has the ability to make the medal rounds at the state tournament and get another shot at the Bradley kid. He has been working very hard and he is going to surprise some people at the state,” added Parker.
Johnson has turned out to be a rookie sensation for Panther wrestling. He went from knowing nothing about wrestling just over three months ago to placing fourth in the region to qualify for State.
He lost in the semi-finals due to his inexperience, but rebounded to win a close match in the consolation semis. He then lost a close match in the consolation finals to take fourth.
“Justin is such an athletic kid and it shows by how he naturally reacts to tough situations in a match. His takedowns are hard to stop when he commits to them and you can't hold him down. I am very excited to see what he can accomplish when we get him more experience and time on the mat,” said Parker.
Landon Barlow (170) and Alex Norris (285) placed fifth and were one match from qualifying for the state. Dakota McAdoo (132) finished seventh.
“Landon, Alex and Dakota probably would have placed in most other regions, but they have the misfortune of being in a region with five of the top-ten AAA teams in the state. That is some pretty stiff competition to contend with, but they handled it well. We finished sixth to those five teams as an A-AA school and that is something they can be proud of,” concluded Parker.
The Panthers will take their five qualifiers as well as their Lady Panthers qualifiers to the TSSAA State Tournament in Franklin on Thursday, Feb. 14. The Lady Panthers who qualified a couple of weeks ago are Angel Feeler, Madison Finley and Laura Napier.