This past weekend was a first for Houston. The area hosted 2 large tournaments in the same weekend, with The Woodlands Invitational and the Chicken Wing Classic at Westside. Both featured the area’s top teams, as well as tough competition from around the state and Louisiana. Not too long ago Houston lacked two such tournaments in a season, now a Houston wrestling fan was faced with choosing which to watch.
The 32 team Woodlands tournament featured a tough out of area lineup with visiting Arlington High School, Grapevine, El Paso Irvin, and Lafayette and Comeaux out of Louisiana. Arlington battled The Woodlands for the team title from the beginning and came up with a narrow win, as both teams ran away from the field. Arlinton was led by champions Danny Lutrell at 103 (MOW) and Spencer Jernigan at 160. Lutrell was the class of the field and was not challenged. Defending State Champion Jernigan faced a much tougher weight class. In the semi-finals he battled Woodlands standout Chris Moulder. Moulder looked tough on the mat, but lacked the explosiveness to match Jernigan on his feet, so Jernigan’s OT takedown to secure 9-7 the win was not surprising. In the finals Jernigan was tested again by Comeaux’s John Bonin, who scored an early takedown to keep it close before falling 14-9.
The Woodlands was led by champions Eric Spjut (112), ben Capella (119), Colin McElroy (135), Daren Dickinson (152), and Austin Spires (171). They are clearly the team to beat in Houston. The first day allowed them to show off their depth, when the first night ended with the following team scores
1. Woodlands Varsity 71
2. Woodlands JV 70.5
That’s right. They ended the first day with their JV ahead of Arlington, Bryan, Cy Fair, and the rest of the field. This is the depth I spoke of before the season when I said there JV could easily finish top 15 in the area. The second day saw them fall off, but they still had a strong finish. Right now I doubt they will be tested come January and the City dual tournament.
Cy Fair was a surprising 3rd with the help of a core group of wrestlers that scored big points. Leading the way was Mike Murray who dominated the action in the 145 final against John Luttrell. Murray looks like he can wrestle with anybody in the state. His teamates were tough, but look a bit like the “not quite ready for primetime group.” They (McCains, Larrington, Pikulski) all seem to have the talent to make the jump, but lack the aggressive wrestling Murray seems to have picked up from new coach John Banas. The sleeper of the group is Hasson at 140. They are already one of the toughest in Houston, but this is a group who could make BIG waves at state this year with the right mental attitude.
Bryan and Mayde Creek rounded out the top 5. Both seemed to have good depth, and the ability to score at every weight, but neither had a true superstar.
On the other side of town
Westside has been hosting their chicken wing tournament for years, and the quality of the field showed that. While the Woodlands had better top teams, and a larger field to supply depth, Westside offered a tournament field that truly was the cream of the crop. There were no 2nd class teams in attendance, and very few free victories. Coppell was the Top Dog in a field that was dominated by the Dallas schools. They were followed by Arlington Lamar, and two of Dallas’ Region 3 teams Allen and Rockwall. Westside was a dissappointing 5th, but was obviously the toughest Houston Team.
The 130 pound final was one of the day’s top matches. Home fan favorite Patrick Blakely defeated a very big Dillan Horn of Coppell. Horn clearly looked bigger, but in the 3rd period it was Blakely who appeared stronger. The toughness of the Westside room has obviously put him in the kind of shape necessary to compete at the highest level, as he won the match 9-5.
At 140 Jamie Sheets defeated returning regional finalist Rhodes of Rockwall by the score of 10-4, but he struggled earlier in the semis and looked like he might not even get a finals match. He appeared to be less than his regular self but found a way to win over Witten White of Lamar.
And Houston fans seemed to come together in the 171 pound match and root as one. Joey Depew of Taylor wrestled Dane Covey of Coppell in a pair of tight matches. In the dual Friday night, Covey scored a questionable takedown on the edge of the mat with 3 seconds left. This definitely raised the tension heading into their finals match saturday. Covey scored first for a 2-0 lead, but Depew scored a pair of takedowns, cutting Covey each time, for a 4-4 2nd period tie. The 3rd period saw Depew cut him again to start the action. Covey wrestled conservatively to say the least, while Depew poured on action as he always does. I won’t tell you now that stalling should have been called, but one wrestler forced action all match, even cutting his opponent to keep it going, while the other continually shied away from it. And while I still won’t tell you Covey was stalling, I know a few hundred fans made the call from the stands. This is a match I would love to see again.
I will end the wrap-up with this week’s power rankings
1. Woodlands, will not be happy with anything less than a state crown,
2. Westside, they had question marks, but seem to be answering them,
3. Klein, fast start has since slowed a bit,
4. Cinco Ranch, awesome junior class (sheets, mcnair, harris, waltman) needs help. More holes than any recent Cinco team.
5. Klein Oak, not quite sure at this point,
6. Bryan, very deep, best suited for duals
7. Cy Fair, great core group beginning to get help,
8. Taylor, looked very tough lately,
9. Katy, another one I can’t pin down,
10. Mayde Creek, surprisingly high finishes, best of rest?