Panthers wrestling head coach Mike Schmieder put the late-season lineup puzzle together pretty well.
Pedro Billups won the 120-pound weight class, three of his teammates came away as runner-ups and Division III Coconino finished second as a team at the Section Four tournament on Saturday at Payson High School, qualifying eight total wrestlers for the state championships that start next weekend.
"We stumbled a bit, but part of that is the struggle of putting the puzzle together as opposed to having a sculpture and just polishing," Schmieder said, adding that it's good to be back in the mix when it comes to the section known for producing studs.
Coconino tallied 146 points for the silver medal, edging third-place finisher Mingus Union's 145 total points. The Panthers flirted with taking over the top spot, but Chino Valley continued to pull away down the stretch of the long day and claim the crown with 157 points.
Second-place was a "bitter-sweet finish" for the Panthers, who were glad to hold off the Marauders.
"People didn't think we would be a contender, so for us to roll, we had Chino scared to death," Schmieder said. "They were picked to win it from the get-go, and we had them worried."
It was the second straight year that Billups finished with a gold medal after winning at 106 pounds a year ago for the Panthers, who had to make decisions this season about who would end up competing where. The senior received a first-round bye and went on to record three consecutive technical falls for the title.
Billups blanked his first two opponents and won the title bout 18-2 over Show Low's Tanner Fellows, providing a team-high 24.5 points. Panthers 106-pounder Tony Hernandez finished second overall and added 22 points, with teammates Cooper French (126 pounds) and Ulises Gutierrez (220 pounds) also coming away with second-place results. Coconino had it's best section tourney showing since the 2014-15 season, when it took third as a Section One program.
Panthers heavyweight Tiberone Clarke took third place and teammate Nickolas Phillips follow suit at 113 pounds. Haiden Kendall, who finished fourth at 138 pounds, and 195-pounder Mauricio Quijano rounded out the Panthers heading to the state tourney.
To qualify eight, Schmieder said, was a "huge achievement" for the Panthers.
The D-III state tourney begins Friday.
D-III Flagstaff had one wrestler make it to the state tourney as 138-pounder Zach Collins placed third Saturday at Payson.
Collins lost in the quarterfinals of the champ round and had to work his way through the consolation bracket to the third-place match, which he won over Kendall. He notched three straight pins in the consolation bracket before meeting his crosstown rival.
Page finished fourth as a team in the Section Four tourney on Saturday in Winslow, registering 96.5 points and qualifying six wrestlers for the D-IV state tourney that begins Friday.
Page also had a repeat occur, as Zachery Ruiz placed first at 113 pounds as he looks for a second straight gold at states as well. His 145-pound teammate Kaleb June also walked away from the mats with gold around his neck.
Meanwhile, four other Sand Devils made the cut by taking fourth place in Ashton Penrod (106), Shayne Ruiz (120), Harrelson Sampson (132) and Hunter Richardson (138).