The Panthers ended the wrestling season with a shot heard around the world. This past weekend at the State Finals in Huntington, I saw a family, a family of friends and neighbors of all makes and sizes come together as one unit to support the six Panthers who fought hard all year to be the best. The fans were the most incredible; it was as if each boy wrestling had many mothers and fathers who all felt the pain when a wrestler lost and elation when one of their boys won. The coaches and team wish to give a special thanks to all of those fans who came in support of the team. You are no longer fans but family.
Now that being said, here are the facts. Jack “Mad Jack” Cummings cracked the whip hard and fast in the final showdown. In a matter of seconds, he pinned Allen Matheny of Calhoun County who had given Jack the most competition all season. This was a great moment in the life of Senior Jack Cummings who will end his wrestling career as a State Champion. He had a battle to fight and a great mission in life that transcended the will of others who tried to defeat him. It was written into the fabric of his being that no one would keep him from his goal and they didn’t. Tyler Stewart also came into this final as Senior who had to start late in the game because of a shoulder injury. His will was set as he faced off against Nicholas County’s finest coming in with a 35-1 record. Undaunted, Tyler went about the business at hand and came out as Clay County’s second State Champion of 2014. He was cunning; he knew when to shoot and when to back off, he sensed the traps and had weapons to overcome, and he knew how to use everything to his advantage.
It is difficult to come up with the words to describe what the two felt at that defining moment, a time when you are the center of attention in front of a thousand people, some against you some for you and you win, now labeled as the finest wrestlers in the state, Champions. It was an excitement that was on a higher realm of thought and feeling and was carried throughout the wrestling family when their arms were raised in victory. The Clay County wrestling team wasn’t given much of a chance throughout the year because of the smallness of their team. However, the Panthers sent six wrestlers to the state competition and placed 4th as a team, an unheard of accomplishment reserved only for the most elite of teams. Now the Panther wrestling team can be on that pedestal they deserve.
Two others of the Panther’s finest took the bronze, placing third in the state. Wyatt Dawson and Brandon White both overcame a ton of odds to get that medal. Ryan Stewart and Robert Pritt may not have placed this year, but they dished out some punishment, and without their sacrifice Clay would not have been ranked 4th. The Panthers wrestled as a team and won as a team, and as far as this writer is concerned, are undoubtedly #1. Congratulations to Head Coach Geoff Hamrick and assistant coaches Phil Dobbins and Cam Stewart who were there for the boys all season and never let them down. To the six guys that took on one of the greatest feats of their lives at the state competition and defeated it, I leave with this. Everything you do, everywhere you go, the world will tell you that you are nothing, but as you proved this past weekend, everything that is within you will change the world and you. Congratulations on a great end to a great season.
The Lady Panthers ended their season with a heartbreaking loss to the Lady Huskies of Hoover by the score of 40-43. The Lady Panthers just couldn’t seem to get the ball to fall for them, scoring just two points in the first period. The Ladies have been plagued by this problem in other games but usually rebound in the second half. In this case, the Lady Panthers made a run for the gold in the fourth period scoring 18 points but it just wasn’t enough. The girls of Clay end the season with a 16-6 record, certainly nothing to sneeze at. Top gun for the game was McKinzee Barker with 15 points followed by Peyton Lucas with 10. Congratulations to the Lady Panthers and their coaches on a fine year. With most of the Ladies returning next year, it is certain to be another barn burner of a season.
Panther Basketball was also on the road this week playing their first game in the sectionals at Hoover. The Panthers went in and took care of business, defeating the Hoover Huskie team . The Huskies didn’t know what hit them. Stephen Cole was a beast under the boards and let open the flood gates scoring a massive 19 points in the game. Storm Carver was dropping threes like a B-17 from the perimeter and had 15 points. The Panthers will have to be on their game this coming week as they travel to Poca to take on the Dots in their second game. Two more wins and they will be on the big dance floor at the Civic Center. This will be a tough road, but it can definitely be done. Poca is a really good team coming into this game with a 21-1 record. At their last meeting, the Panther defense held the Dots to 54 points but couldn’t scratch the net enough to win the game. This will be an edge of your seat ball game to watch. If the Panthers upset the Dots, there will be nothing stopping them. Good Luck to the Panthers on their bid for a state title.