3rd Season, Column 26; End of the Season News and Notes; ‘Cue the Local Angle; and some teams you need to know about

Whew. That was some season, folks. Let’s start with the obvious and branch out in all directions, shall we?

The Iowa Hawkeyes have returned to the rarefied air their legion of black and gold clad fans love and expect them to occupy on a permanent basis. They are undefeated, ranked #1, have 9 of their 10 starting wrestlers ranked in the Top 10, and are favored to win both the BIG10 Conference Tournament and the National Championship. Stay healthy, wrestle to their seed and their own expectations, and the Hawkeyes will earn 2 more 1st place trophies this season to put next to their Midlands Title crown.

NC State finished their first ever undefeated dual meet season and the Pack did it in style. They went 15-0. They beat Pitt, UNC, and VA Tech back to back to back in 3 straight Top 10 showdowns. They doubled the score on SoCon Silver Medal team App State. They hammered E.I.W.A. force and perennial Top 10 team Cornell. They hung a near 20 point beatdown on Chris Ayres surging Princeton Tigers. They tripled the score on Virginia and crushed 11-5 Hostra by 30 plus. 9 of their 12 victims finished with winning records. They were 8th at the Cliff Keen and, a month later, 2nd at the Scuffle. Get the picture yet? The #AmericanWerewolves are coming to a mat near you.

4X defending National Champions Penn State lost twice this year, their first dual meet defeats in 5 seasons. That the losses were on the road to Top 5 ranked Arizona State and #1 Iowa by a combined 3 points did little to mitigate the shock waves felt throughout the sport. The Lions, by necessity, retooled their lineup at 125, 157, 184, and 285 but remain a legitimate BIG 10 Tournament and National title threat. That they are not favored to win either following the regular seasons conclusion remains startling, however, given the last decades results.

Campbell charges into the SoCon Tournament on a 9 match win streak and as the undisputed Regular season champs. Half the starters have a better than 4-1 win/loss ratio with 6 of them at 20 plus victories each. Add all those W’s up, mix in a couple of Silver showings at the Navy Classic and the Reno Tournament of Champions, and you’re looking at a Conference tournament favorite and a potential multiple AA showing in Minneapolis.

Northern Iowa was the “trendy” pick for a Top 10 showing in this column and many other places. That belief wavered when 2017 AA Max Thomsens year refused to develop traction. It threatened to disappear when 2018 AA Jacob Holschlag was injured in his first match back from a years absence and his forced removal from the lineup following another in season, potentially career ending setback. Then the roller coaster really started. A 6 match win streak that started with a solid “w” over 7X MAC Champ Missouri and included a 19-15 defeat of Oklahoma State. The win over the Cowboys, who have captured the last 7 Big 12 titles, was a very big deal. Which made the downdrop, a 2 point loss to state rival ISU, that much more uncomfortable. If all that wasn’t enough, the #Panthertrain then road tripped to Madison and roared out with a 20-18 win over BIG10 power Wisconsin. 125LB Jakob Schwarms pin of Wisconsin star freshman Eric Barnett was the Panther seniors 15th of the year, the nation’s best total. UNI can still fulfill most everyone’s predictions if…Schwarm keeps putting good wrestlers in very bad positions, if 2019 165LB AA Bryce Steiert repeats that feat at 174, if Taylor Lujan stays torrid at 184, if 141LB Michael Blockhus and 285LB Carter Isley make it to Fridays rounds at Nationals, and especially if Thomsen reverses a 3 year trend of winning less and losing more each season. View here is still that UNI, this season, are more Panther Cats than Panther can’ts.

Missouri tied down their 8th straight title, and their 9th consecutive conference crown overall, in a season they entered with 3 new coaches out of 4, 5 starters (with 9 AA seasons between them) graduating, redshirting, or abandoning the program, and one they exited with more losses than the last 4 seasons combined. Do NOT try to tell this author or any other moderately intelligent wrestling fan that #TigerStyle isn’t a thing. You can conference/team bias BS your way into any wrestling argument you want, but argue that Brian Smiths work in Columbia is not only incredible but indisputable and you will lose that argument, my friend. The MAC is now, by virtue of the E.W.L. marrying into the family this season, a superconference in both size, geographic reach, and combined history. The Tigers will be sorely tested to take the tournament title home from Dekalb, Illinois back to Columbia. But they surely can. And no one with a lick of wrestling sense should be suprised if they do.

Princeton broke the brooms out in New Jersey on the seasons last weekend, finally defeating in-state bully boy and BIG10 power Rutgers 18-15. It wasn’t just that this was the Tigers first win over the Scarlet Knights in 30 years or the fact that, with their 32-9 demolition of 12-3 MAC East Champ Rider, Princeton won the NJ D1 title for this first time in nearly 4 decades. It was the season long grit on display from Chris Ayres crew, wrestling with a schedule that had 5, count em, 5 Top 10 teams and 3 more in the Top 25. This years Tigers are NJ champs, Ivy League Champs, and are a very serious threat to send half their team to the Nationals. Observant wrestling fans will probably say “not 6”? That potentially sad statistical note comes from numerous professional observers accounts of the R-U barnburner, reporting that Princetons AA 197LB Patrick Brucki sufered a knee injury early on in his match against Rutgers Jordan Pagano. Brucki finished the match, losing by 1, and helping to save his teams victory by not giving up any bonus points. That he may have lost a chance at any more personal success this season speaks to his desire for team success far above and beyond his own accolades. Last year the Tigers finished 3rd at the brutally hard E.I.W.A. tournament and top 15 at the Nationals. They were on track to improve both when 3XAA Matt “MK Ultra” Kolodzik came out of redshirt. Brucki-less, not so much. Here’s fervent hopes for Princeton to put their “unvarnished truth” lifestyle and some carbon from those burned ships into their wheelbarrow and have a fully healthy 197LB horse Hot wheel them to both an E.I.W.A. medal and a Top 10 finish in Minneapolis.

WAIT, THEY DID WHAT? WHOA….

SDSU may have come out on the short end of their Border Bell Battle with NDSU by 1, 19-18, but in Coach Damion Hahns second season at the helm the JackRabbits finished 12-6, and 6-3 in the ever improving Big 12. HUGE ups from Hahns first year in Brookings, when his rookie Rabbits were a dismal 3-10, with just 2 conference wins. Highlights? The JackRabbits rolled them out in abundance this year. A 3-1 record at the South Beach Duals. a 5 match mid season win streak with a double digit win over double tough Northern Iowa and a 1 point barnburner home victory against Wyoming. SDSU will double-tan your hide, with 165LB Tanner Cooks 12 pins and 197LB Tanner Sloans 11-1 mark in bonus point matches. Theres athletes from New York state to Washington state, from the warm climes of Arizona, California and TX to the winter bound wrestling rooms of Iowa, Wisconsin, and of course neighboring Minnesota and the home state. Suprising that there’s nary a grappler from “T-S-U-N”, Dakotas style, on their roster? We think not.

The one gifted with gab and great hair, Ben “Funky” Askren, expounded excellently on his “On Deck” Podcast about the upswing experienced out Long Island way this year, so this treatise on the rebound success of Dennis Papadatos Hofstra crew will be brief. Last year, bad. 6-14. Multiple season ending injuries. This year, good. 11-5. Undefeated, 7-0, in the E.I.W.A. 5 starters staring at 20 win seasons. A full season of Hellers, with 149LB Reece, 165LB Holden, and 174LB Sage, with Reece tied for the team lead in wins (19) and all 3 set to return next season. An established anchor at both ends of the lineup with 125LB Dylan Ryder and 285LB Zachary Knighton-Ward. This is a dual meet dynamo of a team, as their 8 match season ending win streak highlights. That part of the season is done, now the question is what translates to the 2 day gruesomeness that is the E.I.W.A. tournament in Bethlehem, PA. Thats next weeks column. Told you this would be brief.

Army West Point has been on an upswing since the arrival of Coach Kevin Ward, but this year the Black Knights of the Hudson truly secured the high ground. The #chasinggreatness team finished a fantastic 10-3, winning 4 out of 5 E.I.W.A. duals. Along the way Army took matches from top teams in the BIG 10, the MAC, the Big 12 and the SoCon with only a 7 point loss to UNC preventing a multi conference sweep.(1) NONE of this, not a bit, came close to the sweetness savored by Army when they won their 4th straight STAR match over Navy…..on hostile ground, in Annapolis…..by CRITERIA. Coach Wards message to his team prior to the epic showdown was less than 30 seconds in length but thousands of years in the proving. He told his men that to win, they had to be no more than what they had prepared themselves all their lives to be. They had to be….what they are. What they are is……ARMY STRONG.

When John Clark takes a post regular season, pre-E.I.W.A. tournament breath, it’s going to be with a smile on his face. With a completely retooled staff and a tough schedule the Pioneers put together an 8-6 season. They held a prodigious 48 man roster through the end of the schedule. The Sacred Heart Head Coach and his program were sole subjects of the authors Season 2, Column 7: A Mission for Mr. Clarke & Company, 11/26/18. Recently they hit the big time in a long form interview with Andy Hamilton and Kyle Klingman of TrackWrestling.(2) And they have a coach with the chops to take them to the best versions of themselves. New England needs an established wrestling power base. Brown and Harvard have taken a bold step in establishing a joint RTC, Regional Training Center. Now its Sacred Hearts turn to help complete a TRINITY of wrestling greatness beyond the PA, NJ, and NY power base.

‘CUE THE LOCAL ANGLE: SHOUTOUTS TO S. TX. WRESTLERS, COACHES, MOMS, DADS, & MEDIA(4)

At that critically ignored, customer-crave catering BBQ spot smack dab between 410 and 1604 on Blanco Road in beautiful North Central San Antonio, the pre and post season parties for those who follow the worlds greatest sport were many and varied and will continue into the weeks ahead. First and foremost this column will attempt due diligence in noting our marvelous immediate area athletes who put their hearts and souls into this season, and whose efforts were rewarded by that most magnificent of accomplishments: a spot EARNED, not given, at the U.I.L. State Wrestling Championships.

CLASS 5A

113LB Sebastian Pacheco, SA Wagner Jr. 12-9

195LB Matthew Salazar, SA Burbank Jr. 21-12

6A

106 Troy Guerra, SA Johnson So. 18-6

Zarek Hernandez, SA Reagan Jr. 36-4 3rd place

Only a decision loss to undefeated State Champ Eamon Jimenez of Killeen Ellison prevented Zarek from a state finals berth.

113 Joseph Davila, SA Madison Jr. 37-20

Ethan Huerta, SA MacArthur So. 34-11

120 Juan Lugo, SA Madison Sr. 40-10

Luis Rodriguez, Converse Judson Sr. 31-10

126 Brett Green, Comal Canyon Jr. 34-20

Scott Killian, SA Johnson Sr. 46-8

Aiden Valadez, New Braunfels So. 23-15

3 out of the top 4 spots in the region were claimed by area athletes, with 2 returning next season.

132 Xavier Sanchez, SA MacArthur Sr. 19-8

Austin Saylor, Cibolo Steele Sr. 44-12

138 DeShawn Cosby, Schertz Clemens Jr. 36-4 2nd place

Amir Musalli, SA Reagan Jr. 27-13

145 Isiah Dugar, Converse Judson Sr. 43-8

Austin Hartmangruber, SA Lee So. 22-5

152 Cameron Laurel, New Braunfels Sr. 38-15

Caleb Sebra, SA Johnson So. 48-11 4th place

RaShaud Hunt, SA Roosevelt So. 35-17 Another weight class where area athletes ruled Region 4. Roosevelt’s Hunt and Johnsons Sebra, a sophomore Regional Champ, have 2 more years to settle their differences.

160 Darwin Hull, Schertz Clemens Jr. 51-2. 2nd place

Tommy Smith, SA Madison Jr. 30-19

170 Landon Marsh, New Braunfels Fr. 38-10

Quinn Porter, SA Churchill Jr. 32-19

Ethan Laws, Comal Canyon Sr. 35-19. While all 4 Region 4 state qualifiers (3 from the immediate area) went 0-2 at State, there’s hope returning next year in Churchills outstanding student-athlete Porter(3) and Marsh, a rare freshman upper-weight champ.

182 Jackson Macias, Schertz Clemens So. 34-9

Noah Cairns, New Braunfels So. 25-8

Another multi year battle in full brew between these 2 bordering counties contestants, with Cairns eliminating Macias in the Blood round. Cairns then avenged a 2nd round loss by pin with his 5th place match victory over Vincenzo Oliva from 10 time team State Champ Allen HS.

195 Chris Pruske, SA Churchill Sr. 50-13 4th place

Marcos Mercado, SA Roosevelt Sr. 29-11

It was a “Fab 50” win season for stellar Churchill senior Pruske, a multi sport academic and athletic star at the Scribes adopted HS, just a rib bones throw away from, yeah, that’s right, that BBQ restaurant.

220 Braxton Zarate, New Braunfels Sr. 31-12

Adam Bell, SA Lee Sr. 30-6 4th place

Kobe Mora, Smithson Valley Sr. 29-14

6 out of 8 Region 4 spots in the “big bad boyz” weight classes were scooped up by immediate area grapplers. 3 seniors highlighted 220 and “the big redhead,” Lee’s Adam Bell, will be heading to Colorado Springs to compete for the Air Force Academy.

285 Adam Miller, SA Churchill Jr. 19-14

Ryan Benca, Smithson Valley Jr. 32-15

George Marsh, New Braunfels Sr. 41-0

Both Benca and Miller have to notice the T-Rex sized hole in their weight class as they head into preparation for the 2020-2021 season. 3X state medalist and this seasons undefeated champ, George Marsh of New Braunfels, is graduating and headed….where, exactly? Seems here that a young man who can navigate the current currents of young adulthood while winning 3 medals, a state title, and posting 37 straight wins by pin should be on about, oh, a hundred or so coaches call list. Thought here is that 615 is an area code the big (young) man ought to have on speed dial. Not saying, not recruiting, just sayin….

See you next week!

Ted Carreras

  1. NO PAC 12 matchups for The Long Gray Line this year despite a West Coast road trip to open the season. Que lástima, PAC 12, no es bueno.
  2. Cannot wait to listen, though sometimes theres a quiet hope that Andy will tire of Kyle’s often inane nick naming and rabbit holeing each and every show opening, and just mackerel-smack some sense into his brilliant but screwy co-host.
  3. The “Fab Female Super Fans 4” of Churchill wrestling refreshed their energy after a team State send-off last Thursday at…well, you know where. SHOUT OUTS to Super Fans Misty Simmang, Jessica McMillan, Sarah Snyder, and team Captain Debra Porter, mother of Quinn, and relentless wrestling cheerleader. THANK YOU, ladies, one and all!!
  4. Big time “goodonyers”, as they say Down Under, to Express News Correspondent Jason McDaniel, Texas Wrestling, Track Wrestling, The Dallas Morning News, and our area coaches for insight, assistance, persistence, and understanding.