SUNSET REGION: Palo Verde goes to wire to unseat Cimarron-Memorial as champion

Palo Verde wrestler Marcus Judd was given a message before he stepped on the mat for the 182-pound final in the Sunset Region tournament Saturday.

“My coaches came up to me before it was clinched and said, ‘There’s no pressure, but if you win, then we win the region.’ So I knew I had to go out and win.”

It’s safe to say the senior handles pressure well.

Judd won an 8-5 decision over Arbor View’s Brandon Cunningham, helping the Panthers clinch their first Sunset Region team title since 2001-02 at Durango High School.

Palo Verde won with 179½ points, edging defending champion Cimarron-Memorial (177½). Spring Valley took third with 156 points, followed by Centennial (152½) and Shadow Ridge (134).

“It was a big opportunity, and (Judd) is the kind of guy who will come up big in a situation like that,” Palo Verde coach Scott Nemchek said.

In addition to Judd, Palo Verde received individual titles from Jordan Hart (120) and Kyle Leet (138). Judd, who won a region title at 171 pounds last season, said securing the team title made it much sweeter.

“This year a team title is definitely a lot better feeling,” he said. “It’s definitely nice to walk away from a long day with a ‘W’ and a team title.”

The top three finishers in each weight class clinched spots in the Class 4A state tournament, which begins Friday at Cox Pavilion.

Cimarron finished second behind individual titles from Chris Colwell (126), Bronson Ashjian (132), Austin Beaman (170) and heavyweight Austin Sinyard.

Colwell used an under-hook throw in the final seconds of the second period to pin Centennial’s Brady Howell at the 3:52 mark in the championship match.

“Normally it’s not my go-to move, but it was there, so I took it,” Colwell said. “I just threw it as hard as I could.

“It feels great, but my main focus is just on winning state right now.”

The best individual performance might have belonged to Spring Valley’s Ray Waters, who won the 160-pound final with a pin in 1 minute, 34 seconds of Arbor View’s Vincent Russo.

Waters improved to 56-0 with 50 pins on the season. He won all four of his matches in the tournament by pin, including three in the first period.

“I’m not looking so much at regionals right now. I’m looking at state,” Waters said. “I’m looking next week to go out and wrestle hard, take nothing for granted and leave it all out there on the mat.”

Desert Oasis’ Koran Robinson (152) captured the first individual region title in program history with a thrilling 8-6 overtime decision over Cimarron’s Martin Bernardino. Robinson scored a decisive two-point takedown near the edge of the mat with 47.9 seconds remaining.

“I can’t even describe it. I dreamed about this as a freshman, and to have it come true as a senior, I can’t explain how I feel,” Robinson said. “It’s one of the happiest days of my life.”

Individual titles also were won by Shadow Ridge’s Jonah McKee (106), Bishop Gorman’s Owen Lawrie (113), Bonanza’s Josh Jackson (145), Shadow Ridge’s Brandon Fisher (195) and Centennial’s David Wilson (220).