GATESVILLE — The Gatesville Hornets are in their inaugural wrestling season and debuted as a University Interscholastic League team in December.
Gatesville attended the Georgetown tournament and, despite being the new kids in town, returned home with nine medals from the event.
“It’s just a program I’ve been interested in starting for quite some time,” said Gatesville athletic director. Kyle Cooper, “I think it has a whole bunch of different benefits and draws a dynamic of kids that maybe we’re not reaching with our other athletic programs.
“I also just think it does a number of things to support other sports — toughness, aggressiveness — I like the ability to do that, and I like kids being able to compete year-round, so it’s just another alternative for kids to be able to do that.”
The Hornets have 26 athletes on the team, all of whom head coach Andy Gomez said were completely new to the sport in November.
Gatesville’s grapplers include two seniors, four juniors, five sophomores, and 15 freshmen.
In just the first couple months, every athlete is now experienced in the preparation, practices, drills and competition of the sport.
And while the Hornets attended their first large tournament last month, they also competed in a dual meet at Temple — another first-year program — and hosted a four-team event of their own at Gatesville.
“That was a lot of fun,” Cooper said of the Hornets tournament. “But a lot for me to learn, too — I had to learn through that process and how it worked.
“I’m looking forward to watching this sport grow and finding some kids that are really sold out to making our wrestling program better.”
And while Gatesville is in its first year, it’s actually been a work in progress over the last three years.
When Cooper had the initial idea to bring wrestling to Gatesville, all he needed was the right person to help establish the program.
“I’ve thought about it for some time and kicked the idea around with some guys on our staff,” Cooper recalled. “But we didn’t really have anybody that could start this up.
“And then Andy Gomez walked into my office one day.”
Gomez previously taught and coached in suburban Dallas at Wylie High School but is a native of Gatesville.
Three years ago, when Cooper was looking to start the newest Hornets sports, Gomez had recently moved back to town in order to take care of his parents.
“And I just want you to know that if you do anything with wrestling, I’m interested in helping out,” Cooper recalled Gomez telling him.
Cooper knew Gomez was the right man for the job.
“I coached at A&M Consolidated in the 1980s,” said Gomez. “And began the wrestling program at Grand Prairie ISD in the 1990s.”
Gatesville is the fourth wrestling program Gomez has been a part of.
“Andy Gomez walked in and has been our savior,” said Cooper. “He’s taken that program and done a great job.”
The first year the program came about was more intramural-type competition, according to Cooper.
The following year, the Hornets wrestled as a club.
“We ran some matches with some other schools,” Cooper explained. “Then this year, we jumped both feet in into UIL and got into district.”
And while Gatesville is off to a great start, both Cooper and Gomez hope to see the program continue grow.
“We hope to be a catalyst to get other area schools to add wrestling,” said Gomez.
Cooper added: “We just want to be highly competitive,.I want it to be not just a pastime.
“We ran it as intramural for a year but we don’t want to do that anymore, we want to move forward We want this to become an extremely competitive athletic competition for us.
“We want kids that are sold out to wrestling, dedicated to wrestling and looking to just really be highly competitive in that sport, and that’s what we look for in all of our sports — just be top-notch.”
Although there are still some growing pains that come with such a young program, including young wrestlers, Gomez noted the freshmen will most likely fill half of the 14 varsity slots at the District 6-5A Tournament on Feb. 7 at Burleson’s Centennial High School.
While wrestling is still new and growing in Gatesville, it seems the sport is here to stay as parents and community members recently began “The Hornets Swarms” — a youth wrestling program.
Fans can catch the Hornets in action next on Jan. 16 as they face Killeen and Shoemaker in a dual match at Killeen.