by Peter Dewey
ITW Senior Writer
Just when you think the wrestling at the Grapevine Duals can’t get any better, it does. There was no match this weekend between New Orleans Jesuit and Highland Park. But noone seemed to miss it. On Saturday in particular there were duals between top ranked teams everywhere you turned. Most were being decided by the very last matches. Top ranked wrestlers were battling each other. In some cases more than once. Upsets abounded. New stars were emerging. Top teams were establishing a pecking order. When the gym finally cleared NOJ reclaimed the Championship they have won three of the past five years. But to do so they had to survive not one but two intense duals with Arlington Bowie. And Bowie left absolutely no doubt that they were the best of the rest and a force to be reconded with in two weeks at the Texas State Duals Championships.
Day One is pool competition. Some of the matches are a bit lopsided as the top seeds can usually roll up the scores on the lesser teams. But for the wrestlers themselves it is a tough grind of five matches in a single day with a weighin awaiting them the next morning.
There were no real surprises at the top of pools A, B and C where each of the top two seeds emerged with perfect 5-0 records. They were Allen, St. Mark’s, Highland Park, Carl Albert, New Orleans Jesuit and Arlington Bowie.
But #3 seed Rockwall shook up Pool D with wins over #1 The Woodlands 42-33 and #2 Lake Highlands 42-36.
Cinco Ranch with the disadvantage of being a #3 seed had to face both Bowie and NOJ on Day 1. The CR-Bowie match was a good one and the score seesawed back and forth with Bowie prevailing 36-32. We were treated to a match at 160 between two state champs – Brent Rogers (Bow) and Matt Harris (CR). Great match. Harris tied it with a takedown in the last 30 seconds and Rogers won it with an escape at the buzzer 7-6. Brad Atkinson (Bow) (who would go 10-0 this weekend) dropped to 140 and missed Jamie Sheets (CR) who stayed at 145. Both won by fall. At 171 undefeated Will Morriss (CR) met Chris Brooks (Bow). Great match tied 8-8 with 20 seconds remaining when Morriss hit the 5 point throw for the win. And then came Will McNair v. Marcus McGraw at 189. This time it was McGraw who got the early 5 point move and made it stand up for 7-3 win. Great match … have we said that before?
After a match with Dallas Jesuit, Cinco Ranch had to face off with NOJ. The match started at 112 and NOJ has some outstanding lightweights. Before CR could catch its breath, NOJ had recorded falls at 112, 119, 125, 130, 135 and 140 and the score stood 36-0. Time to pack it in for CR. Not a chance. Too much pride on this senior laden team for that. CR won at 145, Sheets got a fall at 152 and Harris got a major at 160. At 171, Morris gave it everything he had but suffered his first loss of the season to NOJ’s Michael Matthews 9-7. CR won at 180 and then Will McNair had an impressive 11-4 win over La State Champ Johnny Plamer at 189. In the end it was NOJ 50, CR 25. It was a brutal first day for CR, could they regroup on Day 2?
Day 2 began with each of the top two seeds squaring off in the final round of pool competition. These matches were absolutely wild. The enthusiasm was high. The gym seemed to be rocked by the cheering and shouting. HP beat Carl Albert by a single point. Allen beat St. Mark’s. And it was Bowie’s turn to face NOJ.
Bowie could not have asked for a better start as Marcus McGraw overpowered NOJ’s state champ Johnny Palmer 11-5. But in the next match Bowie felt they were the victim of a quick pin called for NOJ’s Speyrer against Usman. But Umeh picked up a TF at 285. Then the NOJ onslaught began as the match moved to 103. Any points saved would be valuable. Hill avoided a pin at 103 but NOJ got falls at both 112 and 119. Bowie hoped Shawn Klemm could break through with a win. He built a 4-0 lead against NOJ’s Gruezke but couldn’t make it stand up and he too fell 6-4. NOJ followed up with a TF at 130 and fall at 135. The score now stood at NOJ 35 Bowie 8 but Coach Mance had been up and down the bench imploring the troops to weather the storm at these lower weights and they could climb back into the match. The climb back began with Brad Atkinson at 140 as he scored a major decision. Then Okere won by fall and Roberts won 4-2. Bowie was back in it at 35-21 and still had Brent Rogers and Chris Brooks waiting in the wings. Bowie believed they would prevail. At 160 Rogers took the mat against NOJ’s Cobena. Tension was high and tempers flared when Rogers partially dislocated Cobena’s shoulder. Cobena continued for awhile but was forced to injury default.
Now the score was 35-27 with Chris Brooks up against a tough Michael Matthews from NOJ and then an almost certain win for Bowie at 180. In the 171 match Matthews picked up Brooks and “slammed” him on the takedown. It wasn’t vicious but it was illegal. Brooks was shaken and lay on the mat. If he couldn’t continue Bowie would get 6 points no questions asked and an almost certain win. But he wasn’t hurt and he and his coaches decided he would continue. Wrestlers or coaches with less integrity might have taken the easy way out. Chris Brooks lost the match 8-3 but won the respect of everyone who understood what was happening. Final NOJ 38 Bowie 33
When it was all said and done the top three seeds advanced from each of the pools with one exception. In Pool C, Trinity wrestled extremely well and knocked off everyone in their pool except HP and Carl Albert to advance to the Championship bracket.
As the Pool winners rested, the Championship rounds began with 2nd and 3rd place teams squaring off. Bowie easily turned back Dumas 69-16. Carl Albert dispatched The Woodlands 58-21. Trinity continued to impress with tough wrestling but fell to Lake Highlands 44-33. And Cinco Ranch drew yet another tough opponent in St Marks but turned them back 42-28. Two matches of note were Sheets (CR) with a solid victory over David Henry (SM) 7-4 and Will Morriss (CR) and Scott Hage wrestling into OT with Morriss winning 10-9.
Then it was time for Championship Quarterfinals. NOJ dismantled Carl Albert 54-15. Allen was pushed to the limit by Lake Highlands and trailed the entire match before picking up a fall and major at 215 and 285 to win 39-30. And Rockwall had CR on the ropes after Max White (R) won an impressive 7-4 decision over state champ Matt Harris and the Rock led 27-22. But four victories in the last 5 matches gave CR the 34-30 win.
And then there was Highland Park and Bowie. Last year the match with HP dropped Bowie into the consolation bracket. This match began at 103 and Tobin Fulton (HP) was shutting out Ryon Hill 11-0 when Hill turned him to his back and would not let go. The fall came at 5:41. This put Big Mo on the Bowie bench and they never looked back. Bowie just dominated the defending Grapevine, State Dual and UIL Champion. The most significant individual win besides Hill’s was by Brad Atkinson (B) who beat Chase Gallatin (HP) 5-2. When it was over Bowie had doubled up HP 52-26.
In the semi-finals it was a Bowie-CR rematch and NOJ taking on Allen. Three teams from Pool B of four remaining ended all arguments about the toughest pool. Bowie did not relish a rematch with a team it had so narrowly beaten the day before and who could blame them. This situation rarely faors the winner of the first match. And it was just as close the second time. We saw a Rogers (Bow) – Harris (CR) rematch won by Rogers 6-4 and a McGraw(Bow) – McNair(CR) rematch won by McNair 3-2. How about this for a match:
at 140, Atkinson gave Bowie the lead
at 145, Sheets gave CR the lead
at 152, Roberts gave Bowie the lead
at 160, Rogers extended the Bowie lead
at 171, Morriss gave the lead back to CR
at 180, Brooks gave Bowie the lead
at 189, McNair gave CR the lead
at 215, Usman gave Bowie the lead
at 285, Giaffre gave CR the lead
at 103, Hill gave Bowie the lead and the win
Final: Bowie 31, CR 26
The Allen-NOJ semi started at 112 and the Eagles had to be shell-shocked at what NOJ threw at them. A 15-1 major at 112, a fall at 119, a fall at 125, a 6-0 shutout at 130 and a 10-0 major at 135. The score stood at 23-0 before Smedley (A) could stop the bleeding with a fall. But the match was well in hand for NOJ. Still there remained the showdown at 103 between the undefeated #1 ranked junior Eric Simmons (A) and #1 ranked in LA sophmore Jonathon Dupre (NOJ). It was a good match. Dupre remained aggressive throughout but Simmons had a counter for everything and won it 8-2.
And while all this was going on, Lake Highlands handed Highland Park its second defeat 42-34.
This time it was NOJ’s turn to dread the rematch with Bowie. As the match began it was obvious both sides – wrestlers, coaches and fans – were simply drained of energy and emotion from a long day filled with tough matches. The match progressed according to form. Beginning at 119, NOJ built a 22-0 lead on two falls and two tech falls. Then beginning with Atkinson at 140, Bowie picked up three wins, score 22-9. At 160 NOJ forfeited to Rogers, NOJ pinned at 171 and Bowie pinned at 180. Score NOJ 28-21. Then the rematch between Johnny Palmer (NOJ) and Marcus McGraw (Bow). Palmer who couldn’t finish a takedown the first time around got one in the first period. The wrestling was aggressive but clean. Emotion returned to the benches. Then the improbable occurred as Palmer slipped on a shot and Marcus made him pay in a hurry. If you blinked you missed it. McGraw got the fall and Bowie sensed upset. Emotion built as Usman (Bow) would not be taken down by Speyrer (NOJ). Sitting on a one point lead Speyrer got dinged for stalling as regulation ended and in overtime Usman got the takedown and the win. This was the first match with a different outcome from this morning. But one might be all Bowie needed. After Umeh worked hard for a fall in the final 15 seconds of the 285 match, Bowie led 36-28.
But protecting an 8 point lead against NOJ’s Jonathon Dupre and Kevin White would be a tall order. Although Hill had avoided bonus points the first time around, Dupre was on a mission this time. He went immediately to work with a takedown and turned Hill. Hill somehow avoided the fall but a few seconds later with a different pinning combination Dupre ended it in the first period. NOJ’s Kevin White also got a quick fall and NOJ had prevailed again … narrowly … 40-36. But much respect was earned all the way around. Fans, wrestlers and coaches who were going at it minutes earlier milled around to congratulate each other and talk about the excellent wrestling they had just experienced.
Meanwhile Cinco Ranch and Allen were in a tight battle for 3rd. At 103, CR’s Girgis gave Simmons (A) all he could handle for 5:45 before being pinned. Allen’s lead was short lived as Waltman (CR) won 9-5 at 112 to make the final score CR 36 Allen 35.
New Orleans Jesuit. It has been mentioned several times about how tough the NOJ lineup is from 103 through 135. Well just how good were these guys? Four of them – 2006 State Champ Kevin White at 112, Michael Gruezke at 125, Lee Redfern at 130 and 2006 State Champ Ben Capella went undefeated for 9 matches over two days. The other two suffered one loss each: Jonathon Dupre at 103 to Eric Simmons of Allen and Michael Wieser at 119 to Carl Albert’s superstar Comes 14-11 (Comes also beat Eric Spjut). And these guys not only won they usually got falls or tech falls. Simply winning would not have been enough to win this Championship. NOJ’s Michael Matthews at 171 also went undefeated.
Top Dual Teams. One man’s opinion. Arlington Bowie is right now the best dual team in Texas. Cinco Ranch and Allen are both in the top 5. I’d give the other two spots to Coppell and Bishop Lynch who performed well at Lone Star Duals. Opinions won’t matter in two weeks.
The Tournament. Exceptionally well run yet again. Coach Lujan and Coach Martin continue to carry on but I understand there was a whole new crew of volunteers. Kudos to these ladies led by Susan Jones. Excellent job. Everything was first class.