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SUNSET REGION: Hart helps Palo Verde to fast start

Jordan Hart felt the thrill of winning an individual championship at last year’s Sunset Region wrestling tournament.

The Palo Verde 120-pounder now is driven to experience a team title as a senior.

Hart helped the Panthers get off to a fast start in the Sunset tournament Friday at Durango High, advancing to today’s semifinals with a bye and then a pair of first-period pins.

“It’d make it so much more special,” Hart said of a possible team title. “Everyone’s put in the time and hard work, so definitely.”

Palo Verde led in team scoring with 60 points heading into the quarterfinals.

However, official team scores were unavailable at Friday’s conclusion because of a computer malfunction involving 32-person brackets that halted consolation matches. Brackets were still being pieced together late Friday night.

Palo Verde, Centennial, Cimarron-Memorial, Spring Valley, Arbor View and Shadow Ridge all figure to be in the mix for the championship.

Consolation matches are scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. today at Durango. Championship matches are set for 6:30 p.m., although the top three finishers in each weight class clinch spots in the Class 4A state tournament, which begins Friday at Cox Pavilion.

Hart won his second-round match by fall in 1 minute, 4 seconds, then needed only 1:13 to pin his quarterfinal opponent.

“Usually it takes a couple matches to get into it, but today I felt really good, and I just got a good jump-start to the tournament,” Hart said.

Palo Verde sent eight wrestlers to the semifinals, including two pins each from Hart, Drew Ferguson (106) and Renzo Costa (126).

The Panthers are gunning for their first region title since 2001-02.

“We have nine seniors, so they definitely want something a little extra to go with,” Palo Verde coach Scott Nemchek said. “It’s been 10 years.

“Guys came prepared really well and got over some late-season injuries, and I think they’re starting to get on a roll.”

Centennial had only one wrestler go 0-2 and advanced seven to the semifinals, including two pins each from Jesse Gamez (120) and Brady Howell (126).

The Bulldogs also benefited from Shaeden Santana (113) advancing to the semifinals with a technical fall in the first round and a 16-6 decision in the quarterfinals. Centennial’s Joshua Bird (138) earned a second-period pin in the quarterfinals to move into the semis.

“We wrestled great. We had a lot of young guys step up big,” Centennial coach Steven Wike said. “This has been our goal, if we can walk out of here and maybe surprise some teams. No one saw us coming. I kind of consider ourselves a darkhorse.”

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