The Houston Report:

Bloged in The Houston Report by John Rizzuti Monday March 5, 2007

Final In-Season Houston Report. The Bottom Line!

By Russell Pate
ITW Staff Writer

Here is a late and overdue edition of the Houston Report to wrap up 2006-07. Let me take a look at each state champ from the area.

Study in Heroism – Jamie Sheets
When I use the word hero here, I mean it in the superhero sense, because that’s what he did at State. When he stepped on the mat for the 145 lb. State Finals, Cinco’s Team Title chances looked about like Gotham City’s do before Batman arrives. He changed all of that with :48 seconds that will not be forgotten for a long time. His bookend state titles make an argument for him as the best Houston wrestler not named James Aston. There have been other 2X champs, but none who beat wrestlers the caliber Jamie did for his titles. This title win over undefeated Mike Murray was awesome, but don’t forget that his first championship was won in a weight class that had Shane Doughman and Sean Kitchen in the 3rd place match.

The Final Word – His leadership of Houston’s first state team title will be remembered even more than his pair of individual golds.

Study in Clutch – Matt Harris
If Sheets saved the day like Batman, then call Matt Harris Superman. He spent big parts of the last two regular seasons doing a good Clark Kent impression before taking off the glasses and becoming The Man of Steel each February. I have never seen a wrestler with the ability to raise his level and wrestle so far above himself when it matters most. He is the definition of the word “Winner” on the mat and on the football field. Whatever he decides for college, I will make one bet, he’ll be at his best when the lights get brightest.

The Final Word – The Rockets made Houston Clutch City back in the 90s, but Matt Harris has revived the nickname.

Study in Excellence – Steve Nijoka

Call Nijoka the Renaissance Man because it appears he does everything well. Not only did he just cap a 55-1 season with a state title, he did it in style. His low single in the 215 lb. weight class was perhaps the single best offensive move in the state of Texas this year. People often assume that upper weight wrestlers have no skill, but the truth is that the pushing matches we see are often the result of how hard it is to “Do” anything to a large athletic man (of which Texas has plenty). Nijoka, who started as a middle weight, was undoubtedly the most skilled wrestler in his weight class, but most skilled wrestlers cannot dream of finishing on guys that size. Nijoka offered the whole package though. His strength (he appears to be no stranger to the squat rack) and athletic ability were as big of factors to his low single as the countless hours he must have spent drilling it. I am also guessing that if we had a true “All-Weight” champion last week, it would have been him, not one of the heavyweights.

The Final Word – Nijoka was near the top of Houston’s 4 year run of 215 lb. state champs (Sanders, Aston, Jones, Nijoka).

Study in Ferocity – Austin McCain
McCain is a shark. There is no other way to put it. He sniffs out weakness like blood in the water and then he goes for the kill. No matter where he is he sees himself as the toughest guy in the Gym. You could put OU 125 lb. standout Sam Hazewinkle on the opposite side and Austin would go out to win. It’s not that he lies to himself, he’s just a killer on a very short leash. His destruction of a very tough Chris Nguyen at Regionals should have let us know what was to come at state. His semi-final with Josh Sandoval saw a pair of sharks, two guys who aren’t happy with scoring two, they are constantly looking five. And McCain out-sharked the shark that day.

The Final Word – Hopefully McCain plans on competing at the next level, because I’d love to see him bring that “alpha male” competitiveness to a college room.

Study in Tenacity – Eric Spjut
Eric is a tough kid who seems to never stop doing the right things. I have never seen a young wrestler have a more consistent first two years. He has been rock solid for over 50 wins each of his first 2 seasons, always working to improve. His on the mat style appears to be an extension of great character off the mat; bruising, intense, swarming, constant, and never satisfied.

The Final Word – expect Eric to not only repeat as a state champ, but expect him to be much improved for his junior campaign.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

19 queries. 0.270 seconds.
Powered by Wordpress