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Panther grapplers looking strong

by David Tesitor
WALSENBURG — The John Mall Panthers’ wrestling team has been gearing up for some tough competition as they head into the 2012-13 season. The team has been working with 12 wrestlers in the early season which means they can fill almost every slot in competition.
Returning to the team this year are John Paul Vigil, a senior who finished second at the regional tournament, qualifying him for the state tournament where he lost in the consolation round. He finished the season with a 30-14 record. Lorenzo Trujillo, heavyweight, is also a senior. He won the regional tournament and qualified for his third state tournament.
Other seniors include Jacob Pino who finished fifth at the 2012 regional and missed out in qualifying for state. He is looking to make the trip this season. Dylan Tenorio and Dakota Cagle from Aguilar comnplete the list of seniors. Tenorio will also be playing basketball this season.
Rounding out the team are junior Lupe Gilbert, sophomores Julius Langer, an exchange student from Germany, and Jack Ortiz. The freshmen include Lawrence Martinez, Adam Bobian, Josh O’Hare and Zane Barber, who comes from a wrestling family. His father Bob was the JM coach five seasons ago and his older sister also competed on the team.
Martinez and Bobian competed at the eighth grade state tournament last season after placing high in their respective regional tournament. Barber and O’Hare did not compete at regional, but had an outstanding regular season and the four freshmen could bring a few surprises to the team this year.
Coach Josh Vialpando looks forward to competing against the best teams in the state. Vialpando stated, “We have some strong returning veterans on the team and everyone has been working very hard in practice. Everyone is excited about the season and anxious to start competing!”
Their first tournament of the season is December 8 at Lewis Palmer in Monument, traditionally a tournament hosting 3A-5A schools.
sThey will also have other opportunities to compete against the larger schools including a dual meet against Taos on December 14 and the Pete and Ina Gomez Invitational the following day. This tournament already has sixteen confirmed teams from across the state, including powerhouse teams from Ignacio, Trinidad and Alamosa as well as teams from as far away as New Mexico.
Another large tournament the team participates in is the Westminster Invitational, the day after a dual with Adams City. It is their one overnight trip which according to Vialpando gives the team an opportunity to travel and get a feeling for what the state tournament brings. They need to learn discipline, like what it takes to make weight and sleeping habits. “This tournament is the furthest distance the team will travel but the experiences of wrestling 4A and 5A schools is invaluable,” Vialpando said.
The team has been building in strength and size since coach Vialpando began working with the Peewees (Misfit Wrestling Club). The older wrestlers worked with the younger future stars in the off-season and themselves have been busy with camps, working out and building strength.
Seniors Trujillo, Vigil and Pino have accepted their role as team leaders, and the team is already working toward weight to fill most of the weight classes. Every wrestler will be competing in some class. The only question is what will best suit their individual talents and will be good for the team.
It is hard to say, but there is a strong possibility the team can field eight or more state qualifiers given their discipline and talent.