by: Eric Thiergood, WrestlingTexas.com
The 16th Annual Cy Fair ISD Invitational (oftentimes called “The Berry Center” by wrestlers and coaches alike as the tournament is hosted at the Cy Fair ISD Richard E. Berry Educational Support Center in Cypress, Texas) proved once again to be one of the top high school wrestling tournaments in Texas. With 84 boys teams bringing 746 wrestlers and 73 girls teams bringing 423 wrestlers, the Berry Center is, by far, the largest Texas high school wrestling tournament in the state. Ten of the 14 weight divisions had over 50 entrants with 152, 160, and 220 each having 59 wrestlers.
With this much Texas wrestling talent on display at one tournament, it was no surprise that college wrestling coaches were present and actively recruiting. Coach Troy Jewell, head coach at Schreiner University’s new wrestling program was on the second leg of a two day, two tournament recruiting trip that started on Friday in Austin at the 2018 Craig T Grace CenTex Tournament and ended on Saturday at the Berry Center. Coach Jewel is excited about the wrestlers participating at the Berry Center and said, “Another great tournament in Texas, solid teams and high level competition. We could not be happier with the wrestling we saw today.” Coach Jewel is also thrilled to be building a top level university wrestling program that will give Texas wrestlers the opportunity to stay in state and continue their wrestling and academic careers closer to home.
This year’s tournament featured matchups of some of the top 5A and 6A wrestlers in the state from not only the Houston metro area, but also from the DFW area, San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, and one team even making a Northeast trek to Houston from the Valley and one team crossing the state lines from Louisiana to compete. Even with all the teams entered, the top two team spots on the boy’s side were claimed by Rockwall ISD; with Rockwall High School taking first place and Rockwall Heath taking second. Third and fourth places were captured by area teams, with Klein High School taking third and Katy taking the fourth place team spot. As always, the boys matches proved to be exciting with close matches and several upsets
Christian Lopez, the 25-1 sophomore of Houston Westside maintained good match control throughout his 8-3 win over Katy High School’s solid freshman Jackson Crandall. Overall, Christian was pleased with his performance but credited Jackson with being aggressive during the match. Christian said, “He was able to get to my legs a lot, but I was able to defend it well and ride him out on top and score my takedowns on my feet.” 3rd Place in the 106 division went to 20-3 Junior, Gabriel Gamez of San Antonio MacArthur who edged out the always scrappy Houston Cypress Ranch freshman, Jacob Grogan.
Freshman Jude Camacho of Houston Cypress Ranch took on fellow freshman Reynaldo Perez of Uvalde in the finals of the 113 lbs division and squeaked out a 6-3 win over Perez to take the gold. This was Jude’s first tournament of the year at 113 and he faced some stiff competition having a number of close matches this tournament and said the Berry center was “definitely the toughest tournament I have been in so far, but I’m a freshman and I know there are a lot more tough tournaments to come and I am looking forward to it.” Jude was quick to attribute his success to his teammates and coaches and said “they are the real reason that I am here, I would not be here without them. When I slack, they are here to push me.” Cy Ranch Head Coach Chris Potter had nothing but praise for his freshman grappler. “Jude is a fantastic kid, a straight A student, and does everything we ask him to do. Fantastic family, we couldn’t ask for more.” The bronze at 113 went to 2017 State qualifier, first place winner at 106 at last year’s Cy Fair ISD Invitational, and top seeded Harley Williamson of Euless Trinity who narrowly won over another to 2017 State qualifier, and second place finisher at 106 at last years Cy Fair ISD Invitational, Steven Flowers of Rockwall. This match was a repeat of last year’s 106 finals match between Williamson and Flowers, but at a different weight and now battling for bronze rather than for gold like last year.
First Place in the boys 120 division went to Bennett Siler of Austin Westlake who came in as a 6th seed to beat Mason Woodword of Weatherford 10-6. Westlake Head Coach Pat O’Harra was thoroughly impressed not only with Bennett’s win, but with all of the hard work that he has put in this whole year. “To come back from an injury last year and not make the state tournament was tough. Coming back this year, Bennett has been so focused on training and wrestling hard. He has really opened up his wrestling this year. Bennet is a great kid, has great parents, and is a real asset to our program. Junior Richie Azbill of Katy Cinco Ranch took home bronze in a nail biter beating Austin “Pretty Boy” Hernandez of Houston Cypress in sudden victory overtime 6-4.
Joseph Segura of League City Clear Falls won first over Daniel Hernandez-Mendoza of Houston Westside. Clear Falls coach Corey Kerr said of Daniel, “We are super proud of Joseph and his effort this year. Daniel is a kid who Joseph has wrestled before and is in our district, so we will be wrestling him again this year. Hopefully this win will set the tone for the rest of the year. Joseph is a senior so we will hate to see him go, but we are excited for what he will do.” While Joseph was happy with the win, he knows Daniel is a tough opponent who he will see again this year, so he will have to keep working hard. Segura said, “I’ve got to keep improving and maybe the outcome next time will be better. A pin, a tech, I don’t know we will see. He’s a real tough wrestler.” Third place went to Andrew Parsons, a senior from College Park High School who shut out sophomore Tyler Ramirez of New Braunfels 8-0.
The 132 finals gave us our first look at a boy’s Corpus Christi team in a medal match where Daniel Leal of Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial won 1st places in a close 7-4 victory over Chase Howerton of Rockwall. Daniel said, “I feel great. In my last 2 matches I tried to take a lot more shots and work on my short offense.” Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial head coach was please with Leal’s effort at the tournament and this entire season. To that point he added, “Daniel wrestled all summer, has worked hard, is putting in the extra hours and its paying off. Daniel takes care of his business.” Garrett Orlando of Houston Cypress Fairbanks took third by beating Abel Vasquez of Klein Oak 10 to 6.
Houston Cypress Lakes’ Joaquin Bautista took gold in the 138 pound division and in doing so beat both a 2017 state champion and a 2017 state bronze medal winner who were the 1st and 2nd seeds in the 138 pound class. For his efforts Joaquin not only took home the gold, but he also received the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler award. Head coach and father of the 138 pound champion, Coach Joaquin Bautista, Sr. is proud of Joaquin Jr. as both a father and a coach. Coach Bautista said it’s a fine line that you have to balance as both father and coach adding “As a coach , you have to balance being tough on him, then knowing when to step away and come back as Dad and be an encourager. Over the years I’ve learned to do that, but its always tough. As a coach you are always confident in your athletes, but sometimes as a Dad, the nerves creep in. He did great though. I’m very proud of him.” Always a student of the game, Joaquin Jr. felt that he could have done better. “I slowed down too much in the 3rd period. I have got to get to my attacks more often.” When asked how it was to have his Dad as his head coach, Bautista said “Its awesome, but it is tough at times too, but overall its great.” Obviously the younger Bautista is taking his father’s coaching to heart if his performance at this tournament and being awarded MOW is any indication. In the final match, Bautista beat Michael Kumlien of Justin Northwest High School by 1 point (4-3) to take first place. The 3rd place match was won by Chase Warden of Dripping Springs who beat Hunter Rinehart of Klein High School via a fall by technical superiority 15 -0.
Junior Daniel Manibog of Katy HS wreaked absolute havoc on the 145 division by winning all of his matches except one by pin or tech fall. Manibog’s dominance in the division was on full display as he won his final match by pinning Andrew Maldonado of Chisholm Trail 45 seconds into the second period. Katy Head Coach Vinnie Lowe was proud of Daniel especially as he is coming back from a tough loss against Allen’s Trent Dooley last month at the Texas Outlaw tournament. Lowe said, “Daniel has been working hard all week. We are getting back to some basics with Daniel this week and he was able to display it this weekend.” and added “Daniel is a fantastic kid off and on the mat. He is a great student. He does anything you ask him to do and then some.” The always humble Katy wrestler said that his loss at Allen was tough, but it is showing him what he needs to be working on heading into the later part of the season. When asked how he felt about the rest of the year and going into Districts, Daniel flashed his trademark smile and gave me a one word answer “Amazing”. 145 pound division be forewarned, Daniel Manibog feeling and wrestling “Amazing” is a very scary thing. Senior, Steven Gamez of San Antonio MacArthur took home the bronze in a commanding 14-6 win over Carson Lipsey, a junior from Rockwall.
Ryan Ierubino of Houston Clear Lake took first place in the enormous 59 man 152 pound bracket. Ierubino did so in convincing fashion with two 1 minute pins, a 3 minute pin, and a 12-6 win in the finals over Georgia state qualifier and Woodlands transfer Gunnar Pierson. Ryan said that he was happy with the win but wants to improve in each match. 3rd Place in the 152 bracket went to Adolfo Almanza of Corpus Christi Carroll who beat Abednigo Sagomba of Rockwall in a 3 to 2 heart stopper.
In what may have been a surprise dark horse victory to everyone but the wrestlers, fans, and coaches at Keller Fossil Ridge, Joseph Rodriguez took home the first place crown in what proved to be an exciting match that ended with Rodriguez winning by 2 over Aiden Jean of Justin Northwest High School. Rodriquez proved the prognosticators wrong by fighting his way through a tough bracket and a surprising 13 placed seeding to win the 160 pound weight class. Joseph was complementary of his tough opponents and was happy with how he pushed the pace during his matches. Joseph dropped from 170 at the beginning of the year, but feels comfortable at 160. “It wasn’t a hard cut, and I feel like it helped me. I feel very strong at this weight. My drill partners, Izzy and Jack help me a lot and my coaches are always supportive whether I have a good match or a bad one.” Fossil Ridge Coach Waymon May feels that 160 is a good natural weight for Rodriguez and Coach May was very pleased with Joseph’s performance. DJ Owcarz, a senior from College Park, captured third place in a thrilling 3-1 sudden victory overtime win over Carlos Cuevas of Houston Cypress Fairbanks.
Senior, Kyle Kretzer of League City Clear Springs, who took 4th last year at UIL 6A state, won first place with a 5-1 over #1 seeded and 2017 UIL 5A state runner up Dillon Thomas, a Senior from Chisholm Trail. 3rd Place went to Senior Benjamin Humada of Corpus Christi Veterans Memorial Benjamin Humada who won over Eli Sheeren 7-3. A special congratulations goes out to Sheeren who was the only freshman to place in what was likely one of the toughest brackets in the tournament that only saw a few freshmen entered, none of whom except Sheeren, made it out of the second round.
Kimbal Christenson, a Senior from College Park, fought his way through another tough bracket and a relatively low seeding at 7th to win the gold medal in a close 4-2 win over Javonte Knoxon of Waller High School. Coach Eric Spjut had plenty of great things to say about his 182 pound champion. “Kimbal wrestles really hard all day, never stops wrestling, and he does the same thing in the practice room. That is why he comes out on top. Kimbal is a great kid on the mat and off the mat, and does all the little things right. He’s the kind of guy you want in your program.” Kimball admitted being surprised by winning such a big tournament, but credited Coach Spjut for having confidence in him even when Kimball’s confidence in himself waned. Kimball said, “He [Coach Spjut] is everything to me, I definitely would not be here without his support.” Kimball feels confident about his chances towards the end of the season. Kimball added, “Just like this tournament, if I wrestler how I know I can wrestle, then I can win.” 3rd Place in the 182 division went to Yire Ardoin a senior from Katy Cinco Ranch who beat senior, Zachary Grimes of Keller Timber 3-1.
The 195 pound divisions treated the attendees to a battle between number 1 seed Josh Wilson, a senior of Houston Cypress Fairbanks, and number 2 seed Jack Allen, a senior from Katy Cinco Ranch. The match, which was much more action packed than the 5-3 score would indicate, was a good match up of two solid wrestlers. The victor, Wilson, attributed his improvements as a wrestler to his coaches and especially the club wrestling he has added to his practice regiment. Wilson credits his wrestling club, Without Limits Wrestling, and his club coach, Mike Moor, with helping take his wrestling to the next level. The bronze medal was captured by Alex Torres of Lamar Fulshear who earned a quick pin of Austin Lumetta of Corpus Christi Ray
Randall Pulido of Austin Westlake took home gold in a dominant 10-3 victory over Sean DelMonte of Rockwall. Westlake Head Coach Pat O’Harra was thrilled with Randall’s performance throughout the entire tournament and especially in the final match and said, “Randall has worked tremendously hard, that is the best match he has ever wrestled. He stayed aggressive on offense, attacked the whole time. That’s exactly what we were looking for. We feel good about going into districts. Randall and Sean are both probably top 5 220 pounders in the State right now.” Coach O’Harra was equally complimentary of O’Harra’s accomplishments off the mat. “The kid is brilliant. Randall is a top, top student. One of the smartest kids I’ve ever coached. He has already been accepted into Caltech [California Institute of Technology].” Caltech is one of the top science and mathematics universities in the country. Pulido was please with how he wrestled and his cerebral analysis of his performance was evident and only served to support his coach’s statements about how smart Randall is. Randall said, “I tried to just stay in a good position, I’ve analyzed him [DelMonte] so that I could know what to expect from him, such as throws to make sure I was defensive on that front and to work my offense, non-stop offense.” Randall is excited about the remainder of the year as his confidence is building as he wrestles and beats better wrestlers. Next year, Randall will be majoring in Applied Mathematics at Caltech. Third place when to Levi Bell of Cedar Park who won by a pin over Tim Dendy of Houston Cypress Woods.
The heavyweights ended the finals of the tournament with a bang. Senior Desmon Williams of Rockwall Heath edged out New Braunfels sophomore George Marsh in a close 6 to 4 match than featured much more movement and action than some would expect to see in a heavyweight bout. Many were expecting to see Williams, the #1 ranked 6A heavyweight battle 5A #2 ranked Chidoze “Dot” Nwankwo, but Nwankwo did not attend the tournament. George, provided a more than sufficient replacement in what turned out to be a very well wrestled match from both grapplers. While hats off are definitely due to Desmon for fighting through a terribly impressive lineup of 285ers, sophomore Marsh, is also due plenty of props for wrestling a very solid match against the top 6A heavyweight in Texas right now. Great job gentlemen. The 3rd place match provided an equally exciting heavyweight match, which Slade Manlief narrowly edging out Joshua Tatman Conroe Oak Ridge by 7-6.