While the Jackson County wrestling team didn’t have a percent weekend, according to head coach Jason Powers, it navigated its first Class AAAAA state tournament well enough.
The Panthers, who jumped up two classifications this season, wrapped their year with a 14th place finish at the state tournament over the course of Friday and Saturday (Feb. 12-13) in Macon.
“They competed extremely hard,” Powers said. “We slipped up in one or two locations, but you hope for a perfect weekend. We fell just short of a perfect weekend, but I’m extremely proud of our guys.”
Cooper Hoffman (113) led the Panthers, advancing to the consolation semifinals and finishing fifth.
“He wrestled extremely well all weekend, just a tough kid,” Powers said. “He came out with a great mentality. He really had to battle. He won a huge match in the blood round, lots of pressure is always on in that blood round … He came up with a big win over a very tough opponent.”
Hoffman, a junior, stands to be one of the Panthers’ top wrestlers next season.
“He’ll be back with us again next year, so I’m looking forward to seeing him compete again,” Powers said.
Hoffman along with Jose Pacheco (106), Ramon Castillo (120) and Jacob Crumley (160) all reached the championship quarterfinals before suffering their first losses. Others with strong tournaments were Jett Gonzales (126), Ethan Logan (195) and Tyler Vaughn (285), who all went 4-2 and advanced to the deep rounds of the consolation bracket.
Powers praised the senior leadership this year from Gonzales, Vaughn and Crumley.
“Unfortunately, all three of them fell just short of the podium at the state tournament,” Powers said. “However, with Jett, Jacob and Tyler, all three of them have added so much to our team aspect from a leadership standpoint.”
Gonzales and Crumley wrestled with Jackson County for four years, while Vaughn wrested his junior and senior seasons. Powers said he hated to see his seniors “come up just short.”
“But it was definitely great leadership throughout the process, and they were such a huge part of the team that I appreciate everything they did for us,” he said.
Jackson County’s first season in Class AAAAA season included a Region 8-AAAAA duals title, a runner-up finish at the traditional region tournament and tying for fifth at the Class AAAAA state duals.
Powers said last week’s traditional state tournament was “a great jump start” for next year, but said his wrestlers must grow stronger in the weight room.
“We’ve got to get a lot stronger,” he said. “We’ve got to get a lot bigger into our weight classes, and that will definitely help some things out.”
Powers noted that some matches weren’t decided on technique.
“They might have been just a little stronger than us in certain positions,” he said. “We definitely learned a lot coming away from this weekend and look to build on that moving into the summer and really into the fall.”