By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
Treating wrestling like a year-round sport, Bryan continued its flat-out dominance of District 25, overwhelming the Central Texas area once again.
With eight individual champions, and 12 of its 15 wrestlers placing at least third, the Vikings steamrolled rival A&M Consolidated and the Killeen-area schools to claim their fourth straight boys title and third since joining the district.
"Bryan's the team everyone's gunning for," said Shoemaker coach Ken Soloff. "Ellison, for the boys, is always the best hope out of Killeen. But Bryan's got a good program, (they) are well-coached and they wrestle well."
Along with the eight champions, the Bryan boys advanced a district-leading 10 total wrestlers to the Region IV meet next weekend in San Antonio, while Consolidated advanced seven to edge reigning runner-up Ellison for second place by 0.5 points (214 to 213.5).
Shoemaker, which hosted the tournament, finished fourth with one wrestler advancing. Killeen, who entered the tournament with only nine wrestlers, will be taking five to the region meet next Friday and Saturday.
Harker Heights and Copperas Cove finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
"I thought knocking (Bryan) off would take a lot of luck and some hard work, but while the hard work paid off, the luck was never there," said Ellison coach Dean Schaub, who's Eagles have finished second to Bryan each of the past two seasons.
On the girls side, the Shoemaker Lady Grey Wolves finished first to knock off defending district champion Ellison by six points (143 to 137), after a single point separated the two last season. Despite the Lady Eagles claiming six individual champions, the Lady Grey Wolves won thanks to four second-place finishers to go with their four champions. The third-place Lady Knights advanced three wrestlers to the regional meet after one competitor finished third but moved on after winning a wrestle-back challenge. Consolidated and Bryan each had one female wrestler advance.
"For the last five or six years, Ellison's been our stiffest competition, but Shoemaker's kind of taken over the girls program, and not just the area but Region IV as well," Soloff said.
Leading the Vikings' charge were lightweights Fabian Diaz (103) and Logan Meekma (112), who pinned Heights wrestlers Royce Carpenter and Nate Tuthill, respectively, as Bryan swept through the first four championship bouts before A&M grappler Jon Shugart pinned Ellison's Aaron Gilbert at 130 pounds to break the early run.
But the Vikings picked up one match later as the state-ranked Victor Thomas (135) and Kevin White (140) pinned Shoemaker's Troy Felder and Ellison's Kevin Caba, respectively. Consolidated then won back-to-back matches as Jacob Wilson upset top-seeded Tracey Hodges of Bryan at 145 and Garrett Goodman pinned Killeen 152-pounder Anthony Solomon.
The Killeen-area schools finally got on the map when Ellison 160-pounder Darius Branch stuck A&M's Frank Cheng with 57 seconds left in the second period after already leading 11-2 in points when the pin occurred. Eagle teammate Luke Mayo followed that up with a pin of his own, overpowering Killeen's John Chivers with 1:20 into the match.
"This year coming in seeded first, there was a lot on my shoulders because last year I was an underdog, so I had everything to gain and nothing to lose," said Branch, who has won back-to-back district championships. "... I only know a certain couple of moves, but with my strength, it really helps me over all of my opponents."
With five wrestlers in the finals, the Roos finally got the taste of gold when 189-pounder Lawrence Lavan shutout Bryan's Denzel Brown with a 10-0 decision.
Along with Solomon and Chivers, Killeen's Demorris Turner (180) and Chris Sarder (heavyweight) also finished in second after losses to Jericho Farmer of A&M and state-ranked Kendall Gilbert of Bryan, respectively. Vikings 215-pounder David Jones pulled off one of the few upsets of the tournament with a technical fall over A&M's Erickson Caldwell.
After coming up short to Ellison last year, the host Lady Grey Wolves took home top honors with four individual champions, including sweeping the first three weight classes – Adrianna Garcia (95), Katie Soloff (102) and Mariah Gary (110) – before Ellison hit its stride winning six of the next seven championship bouts. Shoemaker's other champion was Zana West (165).
Despite the second-place team finish, the Lady Eagles were led by one of the biggest surprises of the tournament – freshman Fallon Chrisitain, who beat top-seeded Arielle McLean of Shoemaker 10-8 in the 128-pound final, just two weeks after earning her way onto varsity by beating an experienced Ellison senior in a wrestle-off.
Christian is now 5-0 on the season.
"I've been searching for that one thing that I'm really good at, and I finally found it," Christian said. "To be a freshman on varsity is the best thing that could happen to me this year."
Also winning for the Lady Eagles were Caila Robledo (119), Nalani Brown (138), Caila Sims (148), Ashley Cumba (185) and Chelsea Drisdale (215).
Contact Alex Byington at email@example.com or at (254) 501-7566. Follow him on Twitter at KDHsports.