PREP STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS – 02/02/2020
Houston, Texas – This Saturday, St. Thomas High School will be hosting 23 private school teams at the 2020 PREP State Wrestling Championships. The top three placers in each weight division qualify to wrestle at the PREP National Championships hosted by Lehigh University later this month. PREP Nationals is one of the toughest and most highly recruited events in the country every year with multiple perennial powerhouses in attendance. This year, eight of the top 50 ranked programs in the country will compete there including Blair Academy (#1), Wyoming Seminary (#2) and Malvern Prep (#8). Wrestlers who place in top eight are awarded PREP National All-American status.
The Texas PREP State Championships are open to any and all non-UIL private school programs in Texas. There are no classifications, so the size of the participating schools varies greatly. The primary two private school organizations in Texas are – TAPPS (The Texas Association of Parochial & Private Schools) and SPC (The Southwest Preparatory Conference). Later in the month, those organizations will host their own state organizational championships. PREP, however includes all private schools, including independents. The Casady School in Oklahoma – as a member of the SPC – also competes at PREP State.
PREP State Preview
106 – Benton Phillips from All Saints has been wrestling well all year, but expect big challenges from Jake Berlin at Episcopal. Former #1 ranked Ishan Shah of St John’s is a talented and experienced grappler who is capable of winning the whole thing.
113 – This is one of the toughest and deepest weight classes in the state. Returning state champ (106) Sam Schafer of All Saints and Houston Kinkaid’s Taft Foley – also a returning state champ (113) – have the inside track on getting to the finals. St John’s Sebastian Grannen is very good, and has split with Foley this year, so he is highly motivated. Episcopal’s Lane McCool and St Thomas’ Will Dundee are on par with all of them, so this weight class is going to be exciting to watch.
120 – This class is dominated by two outstanding wrestlers. St John’s Ken Matsunaga is currently ranked number one, and dominated at the state duals, but if anyone can beat him here, it is McKinney Christian’s Nate Gwynn. Gwynn is funky, tough and also went undefeated at the duals. This is going to be one heck of a fight.
126 – TCA’s Alan Fandrich is on a different level than everyone else in this group, but seniors Evan Benavides of St Thomas and Raul Villa of Bishop Lynch have wrestled extremely well this year against very good competition in and out of state. Those two are capable of upsetting quality guys and – assuming they meet in the semi-finals – their match will likely be a barn-burner.
132 – This weight features the best 132 lb. wrestler in the state of Texas in nationally ranked Skylar Smith. Smith, who shocked the wrestling community last year as a sophomore by making it to the PREP National finals as a #11 seed, is being recruited by some of the top programs in the country. It is a battle for 2nd place here, and the list of candidates is deep and accomplished. Kinkaid’s Odin Hicks has had a strong showing this year, as has All Saints’ Nick Thompson. St John’s Wyatt Cyprow showed real grit in his upset of Bishop Lynch’s Luke Mazur at the state duals. McKinney Christian’s Patriot Butler has split with Thompson this year. Places 2-4 are hard to predict with these guys.
138 – Like 120, this weight class is a two-man race – not deep, but loaded at the top. Returning state champion (138) Sebastian Jimenez of St Johns is an outstanding wrestler. He will have his hands full with Liberty Christian’s Jaren Powell, who finished 3rd at UIL 5A State last year (132). Powell has looked sensational of late and an upset here may not be an upset. I have them dead- even.
145 – Like 113, this weight class is loaded with talent, depth, and parity. With St Mark’s Cooper Ribman out for the season with an elbow injury, the top of the heap belongs to Mason Morland of TCA. Morland has beaten some quality competition this year, including dominating and pinning UIL 5A #3 ranked Spencer Buchholz of Highland Park not once, but twice. Morland is not the only stud in this group. St John’s Thomas Grannen and St Thomas’ Travis Enochs have both had solid campaigns this season, with Grannen winning both of their head-to-head matches by one point. Bishop Lynch’s Evan Petrek had a big win over one of the country’s best wrestler’s earlier this season and is always looking to be a spoiler. This very skilled group will be entertaining to watch, to say the least.
152 – This weight class features a much-anticipated clash between two outstanding grapplers. Both are 2x PREP National qualifiers. The favorite is All Saints’ Braeden Baller, a PREP Nationals All-American. He has only one loss on his record this year and he looked dominant at the state duals. His match IQ is outstanding. Hoping to challenge for the title is Bishop Lynch’s Cort Doyle. Doyle, too has had a strong season, winning multiple tournaments and going undefeated at the state duals. A drastic contrast in styles combined with the tenacity of these guys make this match one people are anxious to see. Trinity Christian’s Caleb Key is another talented wrestler in this class. He suffered a major decision loss to Doyle at the state duals, but expect him to rise to the challenge this weekend. He is very good.
160 – Current #1 Kendrick Williams of All Saints has developed into one of the top wrestlers in the state. He is the man to beat here, but he had better be on his A-game, as St John’s Michael Daichman, Dallas Christian’s Matthew Mata, and Bishop Lynch’s Jimmy Nguyen are all solid wrestlers who have had close matches with each other. This is another nail-biter of a weight class.
170 – San Antonio Christian’s Zachary Vasquez is an absolute beast, having finished 2nd at PREP Slam in Atlanta. He is the heavy favorite here…or is he? McKinney Christian’s Denzel Poulter is an Iowa transfer who has looked better and better every week, finishing 3rd at the Texas Outlaw. Harrison Heard has moved down from 182 and is fully capable of beating anyone here. Now, throw in St John’s Thomas Chang, perhaps he most technical of the bunch and a great athlete and you have the makings of a battle royale. All Saints’ Eric Salazar, Episcopal’s Paul McGarry, and Faustina’s Gregory Halisky are all capable of a big upset as well in this weight class.
182 – With Heard moving down to 170, Ethan Wilson of Liberty Christian is the prohibitive favorite to win his first state title in this class. St John’s gutsy John Perdue always seems to find a way to win. He and Bishop Lynch’s Kade Findley should round out the qualifiers in this weight class.
195 – This weight class is wide open, with no clear-cut favorite. St John’s Jack Curtin would seem to be the favorite here, but Elijah Ellis from St Mark’s and Nick Clarke are each capable of winning this. The dark horse here has to be Bishop Lynch’s Webster Walls, a talented kid just back from injury.
220 – This weight class is another one filled with hammers. Lynch’s Charlie Holub is the clear favorite here, placing or winning every tournament he has entered this year. St Thomas’ Jackson Phillips is a tough, relentless wrestler with a great motor, but he was pinned by Holub in both of their matches. Episcopal’s James Ogunrin is a former #1. He finished 2nd at the Texas Outlaw, but he was beaten by Phillips at the Houston City Duals. When a guy who gets 2nd at Allen Outlaw is the #3 seed, you know it’s a tough group.
285 – Heavyweight is not deep this year, but the top guy features a kid who is nationally ranked in his freshman class. Liberty Christian’s Gabe Moore is a heavyweight who wrestles with the skill of a lightweight. Beating him will be a long shot but you can bet that St John’s Eric Johnson and Episcopal’s Beau Edwards will go down swinging.
PREP STATE CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM PREDICTIONS
- St Johns (SPC)
- Liberty Christian (TAPPS)
- Bishop Lynch (TAPPS)
- All Saints (TAPPS)
- St Thomas (TAPPS)
- Episcopal (SPC)
- TCA (TAPPS)
- St Marks (SPC)
- McKinney Christian (TAPPS)
10.Newman International (TCAF)