High school wrestling: Parkway leaves no doubt, repeats as Div. II state champ

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Robert Summerlin/Special to The Press-Tribune Parkway team members, coaches and administrators gather for a photo after the Panthers won the Division II state championship Saturday night at the CenturyLink Centerl.

After sharing the Division II state wrestling title with the Teurlings Catholic Rebels last year, the Parkway Panthers prepared for the 2018-19 season with three words in mind — leave no doubt.

That’s just what the Panthers did Friday and Saturday at the CenturyLink Center in the AllState Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Wrestling State Tournament.

“We weren’t going to share it this year,” Parkway coach Emmett Beggs said. “We wanted to be sure we left no doubt. That was pretty much the point the whole summer, leave no doubt. We’re not tying again.”

Parkway had the Division II state championship wrapped up before Saturday’s championship matches even started.

The Panthers led Teurlings Catholic by 41 points. Led by seven finalists, including three state champions, Parkway finished with 288 points to 242 for the runner-up Rebels. North DeSoto turned in a strong showing, taking third place with 201.

The title is Parkway’s fourth. Teurlings Catholic had won five straight.

Parkway and Teurlings Catholic competed against each other in four tournaments during the regular season. Each time the Rebels finished slightly ahead, including three titles.

But in the most important tournament of the season, Parkway’s depth and determination helped the Panthers prevail.

On Friday, Parkway wrestlers advanced to the semifinals in 12 of the 14 weight classes. Parkway wrestlers finished in the top six in 13 classes overall.

Teurlings Catholic had two champions and three runners-up. Four other Rebels placed in the top six.

Parkway senior Trey Fontenot, who won his second individual title, praised his teammates.

“All of our guys in the cons (consolations), I couldn’t thank them enough,” he said. “Without them we couldn’t have done it. They all went out there and did their thing and they secured it by the finals.”

Fontenot won the 120-pound class, defeating Live Oak’s Clayton Hill by a 13-4 major decision in the finals. After receiving a first-round bye, he pinned his first two opponents and then defeated Belle Chasse’s Francisco Castro 8-4 in the semifinals.

Fontenot’s victory came a year after he lost in the semifinals by a point and then had to be taken to the hospital after being knocked out cold in his third-place match. Fontenot won the 126-pound title as a sophomore.

“This year coming back in strong I had the right mindset and right determination,” he said. “I just went out there and I pushed myself and I didn’t give up. Just coming out on top feels great.”

He felt even better about winning the team title.

“That is such a great feeling,” he said. “Last year sharing the team title, it was kind of disappointing. But this year coming out in the semis we had it in the bag after that.”

Parkway’s Darryl Nicholas and Connor Cloinger also won individual titles.

Nicholas’ finals match in the 126-pound class was filled with drama. He led Teurlings Catholic’s Colten Sonnier 3-2 for much of the way. But Sonnier scored a point late in the final period to send the match into overtime.

It didn’t take Nicholas long to end it though. He scored two points very early in the OT for a 5-3 sudden victory.

Nicholas, the No. 2 seed, said the victory was the result of dozens of hours of hard work, especially during the summer.

“It means a lot to me,” he said. “Over the summer I was working my butt off. Me and three of my closest friends worked all summer. We did everything together. We got up early in the morning and ran miles every day. We lifted weights and after that we hit the mats and wrestled all day.”

Cloinger, the No. 1 seed, capped a dominant performance in the 220-pound class by pinning North DeSoto’s David Norris in 3 minutes, 1 second. He pinned all four of his opponents.

Cloinger said Norris didn’t do what he expected early in the match. When Norris scored two points in the first period, Cloinger figured the match might last awhile.

But in the second period he seized an opportunity.

“I could see he was breathing heavily so I was like, ‘Maybe I can get him off the false move so I kept working and working,’ “ Cloinger said. “Finally he was hanging his arm down. When he hung it down I gave it a quick tug and as he fell I just locked it up and pinned him.”

Like his teammates, Cloinger, a senior, was thrilled with the team title. He said after last year’s tie, Beggs told the team he wanted to win by a significant amount this season.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “Like I told the guys (Saturday) morning we’ve got to show up and show out and that’s what we did and I’m proud of all of us.”

Parkway’s state runners-up were Joshua Keeler (106), Kaleb Garcia (160), Carson Sanders (170) and Dezrel Eloph (285).

Keeler and Garcia, both No. 2 seeds, lost heartbreakers to No. 1 seeds in their respective finals.

Keeler, who pinned his first two opponents, fell to Archbishop Shaw’s Glenn Price 8-6. Garcia, who won four matches to reach the finals, lost to Carencro’s Taylor Clay 5-2.

Sanders, also a No. 2 seed, lost to No. 1 Kendrell Williams of Carencro by fall in 3:33. He won three matches, including an 8-2 decision over Teurlings’ Vaugn Romero in the semifinals.

Eloph, another No. 2 seed, was pinned by Teurlings’ Miles Santiago, a multiple state champion, in 2:23 in his title match match. Eloph rolled into the finals with two pins and a victory by technical fall.

“The guys who lost in the finals, there were some close, close matches,” Beggs said. “They had the chance to win those and capitalize on their opportunity, but they did their part for us with  team points. The first priority of our team is to win the team title.”

After losing a tough 7-5 decision to Archbishop Rummel’s Jacob Ramirez in the semifinals, Parkway’s Jacob Chittom, the top seed, bounced back to finish third in the 138-pound class. He defeated North DeSoto’s Lance Ferguson 7-3 in the third-place match.

Other Panthers making the awards stand (top six) were Jordan Clark (fifth, 113), Brandon Turner (sixth, 132), Hayden Wood (fifth, 145), Steven Driggers (fifth, 152) and Terrence Murray (fourth, 182).

Benton had three wrestlers make the awards stand in Division II — Micah Gibson (sixth, 106), Trey Jenkins (fifth, 220) and Preston Fisher (fifth, 285).

Haughton had two wrestlers reach the awards stand — Nate Williams (fifth, 138) and Justin Nixon (sixth, 195).