For the past two years on the gridiron, Kenneth Pitts has only known defeat.
But, after pinning Killeen heavyweight K.J. Harris in the 285-pound championship match Saturday, the Ellison senior finally felt the rush of being a champion as his victory secured the Eagles’ wrestling team’s third consecutive district title.
“(After) going 0-20 (in football), this makes up for the 0-20, to become a district champ,” said Pitts, a starting offensive lineman each of the past two seasons for the Eagles’ football team.
Heading into the final championship bout of the District 13-5A wrestling meet at Shoemaker High School, both Ellison and Shoemaker sat tied atop the points standings with 190 points apiece. But with the Grey Wolves out of wrestlers, Pitts took advantage, reaching back from the bottom position and securing Harris in a head-and-arm lock for the pin at 2:44. The victory gave Ellison 210 points to pull away from Shoemaker with Bryan nipping at its heels with 188 points in third place.
“To know that feels amazing,” said Pitts, who missed the district tournament last year with academic issues. “To know that I could come clutch for the team, and that they can count on me to get the victory for them.”
On the girls’ side, the Lady Grey Wolves also continued their district dominance, winning their fourth-straight district title by edging out the rival Lady Eagles 123-117 with a district-leading five individual champions.
“I’ve always preached that we want a program, boys and girls, not a wrestling team,” said Shoemaker coach Ken Soloff. “And we’ve established ourselves regionally, locally, as a wrestling program. ... This (fourth-consecutive district title) is kind of nice, they earned it.”
For the first time, top four placers in each weight class advance to the Region IV meet next Saturday at the Blossom Center in San Antonio. In prior years it was just the top two finishers, but this is the first season after the UIL split wrestling from a single 5A division regardless of enrollment into 4A and 5A divisions.
Joining Pitts atop the medal stand were 120-pound champion Joshua Shortte and 170-pounder Mark Bynog, who pinned Shoemaker’s Anfernee Folks with just two seconds remaining in the second period. Shoemaker’s champions were Rayvin Edayan (113), who pinned Eagles counterpart Carlino Ward in 3:23, Michael Lloyd (132) and Lloyd Mills (138).
“It’s just motivation, we’ve got to work hard to keep what we want and accomplish more, and to build our legacy as a wrestling team at Ellison,” Bynog said. “So to be district champions is just another notch on our belt.”
Other boys champions included Copperas Cove’s two-time district champion Julian Doubleday (182), Harker Heights’ David Vino (106) and Tyler Combs (152), A&M Consolidated’s Shaon Goodman, and Bryan’s Rafael Aguilar (126), Nathan Jimenez (145), Rafael Torrubiartes (195) and Francisco Vasquez (220),
Championing the Lady Grey Wolves’ charge was senior 110-pounder Dineesha Jones, who redeemed herself after a runner-up finish a year ago to win gold with a pin of Bryan’s Rhonda Johnson in the 110 championship. Also winning gold for the Shoemaker girls were two-time 102-pound champion Alicia Vasquez, Deedrah Catthouse (119), Harmony Maitland (165) and Anne Ford (185), who beat Ellison’s Keyira Gibson by second-period pin to give Shoemaker two head-to-head finals victories over the runner-up Lady Eagles.
“(It means) we’re dominant. ... We just go in there and give it our all because this is our home, we need to redeem ourselves again and again and again,” Jones said of winning four straight district titles.
Ellison’s only head-to-head victory over Shoemaker came in the 128-pound championship, where senior Fallon Christian won her third-consecutive individual district title by edging rival Maya Little for the second straight year. Lady Eagles’ 215-pounder Danielle Rivera also won gold. Other girls champions included Harker Heights’ Keyanna Wilder (95), and Killeen’s Shameeka Gonzales (138) and Destiny Lilly (148).