Natural Born Thrillers!
Will Bishop Lynch Be the Greatest Texas High School Wrestling Team Ever?
By John Rizzuti
All rights reserved
Silhouetted against a supple black mat in their radiant new wrestling room, the Four Horsemen stand again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Ben “The Beast” Ashmore, Luke “Hi-Ho” Silver, Johnny “The Crusher” Koepp and “Cool Hand” Luke Ashmore. They form the lineage of the Bishop Lynch High School wrestling team, destined to be the greatest in Texas high school history. In the most recent preseason rankings, Amateur Wrestling News has Bishop Lynch ranked 7th nationally, ahead of a dozen perennial national powerhouses. Nazareth (PA), Brandon (FL), St. Paris Graham (OH), and El Reno (OK) among others all ranked below B-L.
But don’t think this is only a four-person all star-studded ensemble. The awesome gathering of newcomers is what separates this team from other past Texas powerhouses. Add-in New Mexico-transfers, the nationally-ranked and highly-touted, academically rock-solid Adamson boyz (Riley, Dak “The Pinning Machine” and Ace), toss-in All-American Louisiana-transfer David Staines and super freshman Justin Armstrong and stir. What do you get?
A rock-star lineup from 103 through 160 as good as any in the nation. A team that may be just too talented and too tough to tame. Lynch may be even able to handle teams like Blair (NJ), St. Edwards (Ohio), Great Bridge (VA) given the right circumstances.
It’s as simple as this: It doesn’t get any better. Good teams come and go, but this one is for the ages. The scary thought is that had they landed Alex Meade and/or Teddy Gambordella they could have been unstoppable.
Come December and January, they will find out just how good, and just how dangerous they are. In wrestling, talk is cheap. You must walk the walk on the mat. In wrestling you can run, but you cannot hide.
Texas has had great teams. The El Paso Burgess teams of 1979-82, Irving MacArthur teams of the early 80’s. St Marks in the early-to-mid 90’s, the Arlington Martin men in black and the Highland Park wrecking crew just about any year of the past seven. But none of these had the potential to go toe-to-toe with the top wrestlers in America like this Lynch team does.
There is a serious Achilles heel, of course. A major area of concern. From 171 through 275 the team is lean on experience and credentials. One exception to this may be Jack Thelian who has worked with the Dallas Dynamite club and is looking solid. For the first ten weights, there may not be a better lineup in the entire country. Pound-for-pound, weight-for-weight, man-for-man, for the first time in memory, there isn’t a better team in Oklahoma than this team in Texas. You can take that to the bank. I would pay real money to see Lynch pound on El Reno High School just to see the veins in Archibald “Bunker” Randall’s redneck explode.
With the only question marks in the front-side ten being freshman Justin Armstrong at 130, who has a great youth record with Team Monday, and Sean Rowe at 152 who is an unknown at this level, the Lynch team has All-American after All-American after All-American.
Of the six national Texas all-class wrestlers, according to Dan Fickel of Wrestling USA, five are Lynch wrestlers. For you math wizards out there, that’s 83%. That’s incredible. That’s stunning. Several B-L grapplers are ranked in the top ten nationally for their class including both Ashmores (#1 and #2) Silver (#2) Koepp (#1) and Dak Adamson (#3) and Riley Adamson (#4).
The bottom-line is that against the powerhouse teams in dual meets Lynch will give up 30+ points and will need all of their superstars to win. In tournaments except for possibly Blair and St. Edwards, Lynch should be right in the hunt. They do have two supreme tests. One tournament and one dual meet. (See below in “Running the Gauntlet.”)
ITW Projected Bishop Lynch Lineup:
(Note: Bishop Lynch will change their lineup on a constant basis depending on the format (dual vs. tournament), competition at given weights, etc. Watch for flip-flopping at 103/112, 119/125/130, 140/145, 171/180 and others. This is our projection of what would be the day-in and day-out team. This is not the projection of Bishop Lynch coaches or anyone involved with the program. It is ours).
103: Riley Adamson, Freshman, Fargo All-American
112: David Staines, Senior, Fargo All-American
119: Ben Ashmore, Senior, Fargo All-American and 2x Prep National Champion
125: Dak Adamson, Sophomore, Fargo All-America (Both Freestyle & G/R and scored an amazing 12 falls in 20:46 to win both styles pin award)
130: Justin Armstrong, Freshman
135: Luke Silver, Junior, Prep All-American
140: Johnny Koepp, Sophomore, Fargo All-American and Prep All-American
145: Luke Ashmore, Junior, Fargo National Champion, MOW and Prep National Champion
152: Up for grabs, but most likely Sean Rowe, Junior or Andrew Ellis, Junior
160: Ace Adamson, Senior
171 Jack Theilan, Senior (also may go 180)
180: Up for grabs most likely Russell Burgess (Senior) who will also contend at 171
189: Nolan Hahn, Junior
215: Nate Clear, Junior, battling with Peter Trantino, Senior
275: Mario Aguilar
You’ve come a long way, baby!
In late 1997, I was assigned to referee the dual meet at Bishop Lynch between the Friars and Arlington Bowie. That year Bowie was loaded. They had awesome, powerful wrestlers who would and could chew and pound the other team’s athletes. In some cases it was more like men vs. boys than wrestler versus wrestler.
At 152, Bowie had Ben Heizer. This was the first time I actually got to meet Ben, (the start of what has become a long and marvelous relationship). As the match was about to begin, I could quickly tell that the Lynch wrestler was young and inexperienced. I whispered to Heizer “Don’t hurt this kid.” He took him down easily, and carefully cradled him up for a quick fall, all with a smile on his face. Bowie just crushed Lynch. It was a battle of annihilation. The Lynch team had few guys out and even few with strong mat experience.
But in every match there was head coach Tim Mathews, on his knees on the corner of the mat coaching his heart out. Knowing his team was getting blasted never stopped Mathews from urging his young gladiators on. The score didn’t matter. The wrestler didn’t matter. Coaching his best with a group laden with inexperience. There just wasn’t much there for any coach to work with. Other coaches may have given up. Eight years ago B-L did not have a great wrestling future.
That was then. This is now.
Running the gauntlet.
Being a private school has its advantages. You can go anywhere and wrestle anyone you want without the constraints of a state governing body. Also, at times in a private school environment, well-healed parents and supporters can help defray travel expenses to allow the team to travel far and wide.
This is the case with Lynch who will undergo a tremendous schedule this year. The team will travel to Lawton, OK, Arkansas City, KS, the rugged and infamous “Beast of the East” in Delaware, and perhaps the most interesting test of all: The H.S. “Final Four.” The Beast may be the toughest but the final four could be labeled, “The Test of the Best.”
From the NHSCA site: In an attempt to determine which high school wrestling team is truly the best dual meet team in the country for the 2005-2006 season, the NHSCA presents the “Final Four” of High School Wrestling to the wrestling community.
Four of the top ranked high school wrestling teams in the country will determine on the mat instead of on paper, who truly has the best dual meet wrestling team in the country. The stage is set for what guarantees to be the most exciting team competition of the year. This event is a must for all wrestling fans to attend!
The format is a dual meet format. Two mats will be used during the morning and afternoon sessions. Every weight class will prove to be a key match. There will be three sessions beginning at 10:00 AM, Noon, and 2pm. The high school powerhouses entered in the 2006 event are Blair Academy (NJ), Easton (PA), Bishop Lynch (TX), and Parkersburg South (WV).
You are looking at the top teams in the nation in Blair and Easton and the team from Parkersburg is ranked in the top twenty-five and is also well schooled. Not having the 180-class will help Lynch, but the duals will be decided based on how they do from 103 through 160. It may not be unusual for Lynch to give up (in duals) up to 24 points from 171 on so the success of the team will come down to how well they do and how many bonus points they score from 103 through 160.
The coaches with the mostest.
Not only does Bishop Lynch have perhaps the strongest lineup in Texas history, but they have a coaching staff that is loaded too! Perhaps also the finest ever assembled at one school at one time in state history.
Some I have talked to wonder who is really the head coach. Do not kid yourself. Tim Mathews runs the show. He may not have the pedigree that others on his staff may have, but he does know how to get his kids ready and to perform. He is as rock-solid a person as you would want to be in the position of teacher and role model. Not only does he coach High School wrestling, he is returning from twenty months on active military duty (as a drill sergeant no less) with the U.S. Army. He is a full-time firefighter with the Coppell fire department. As I said in a speech one time to me that makes him three times a hero.
Once I had the pleasure (along with my grandson and future NCAA champion wrestler “Jumpin’ Jackie Flash” Austin) of riding in one of the big red fire trucks with Coach Tim. Now that was fun!
Backing up Coach Mathews as assistants are a couple of my Texas wrestling favorites in “Bullet” Bob Liston and Duane “Hip-Hop” Watts. Two classy and dedicated guys who really stepped up last year to help the Friars when Mathews was out much of the time on active duty. Duane works in on a weekly schedule. Also on the staff are three ex-Oklahoma State wrestlers, the very talented Ty Wilcox, and OG’s Kendall Cross and Kenny Monday. (Wilcox and Cross work on the weekly schedule, while Monday is daily.) You know or should know the background of these three guys so I won’t go into it but needless to say they bring a gold-medal track record of worldwide success and experience. Tom Schlachter backs up the team coaching the Jr. Friars group.
The team is solid. The staff is solid. The support system is solid. Now the time to talk and write is over. The time for action on the mat against the very best in America starts.
The Four Horsemen and their fellow stallions ride again!