By Jason Chlapek
Killeen Daily Herald
Prior to the 2008-09 school year, Shoemaker seniors Dion Everett and Jonathan Player had never won district wrestling championships, nor had the Grey Wolves football team – which they were both starters on – qualified for the postseason.
After leading Shoemaker football to its first playoff appearance in school history this fall, Everett and Player continued to rewrite their athletic histories as each athlete won their respective weight classes in the District 25 wrestling meet on Saturday at Killeen High School.
"This is sweet because it's my senior year and I want to go out with a bang," Player said following his 8-5 victory over Kendall Gilbert of Bryan in the 285-pound weight class championship. "I worked hard all summer to prepare for football and wrestling, and I need to continue performing the hard work that got me here in the first place."
While this will be Player's second regional qualification, it's the first for Everett, who pinned Gregory Hawkins of Ellison to claim the 180 class title.
"Sometimes things take a little longer than you like to go your way, but if you stick to it, it's that much sweeter when they happen in your favor," Everett said. "As far as next week is concerned, I just have to keep preparing myself to wrestle all-out for six minutes."
Everett and Player are just two of five Grey Wolves who will travel to San Antonio this week to participate in the Region IV meet, which takes place Friday and Saturday at the Blossom Athletic Center. Daddy Quiles and James Blackman, who were runners-up of the 130- and 160-pound classes, respectively, and 152 class wrestleback winner Josh Mains are the other Shoemaker boys wrestlers who qualified for this week's region meet.
Ellison will have four wrestlers in the region meet after the Eagles claimed a trio of weight class championships and a runner-up. Ellison also claimed second place in the team standings with 176 points.
Bryan, with eight district champions and five runners-up, claimed the team crown with 260 points.
The champions for Ellison were Jose Reyes (119 pounds), Omar Mickens (145) and Darius Branch (152).
"I'm ready for (regionals) next week," Reyes said following his 12-3 victory over Gabe Jimenez of Bryan. "I have to train and practice hard. I'm very thankful for my coaches, who train me well."
Reyes, who moved to Killeen from Lee's Summit, Mo. last summer, is participating in his first region competition since his eighth-grade year when he qualified for a club wrestling state meet in his former state. Mickens and Branch also will compete in their first high school region competition after points' victories against Garrett Goodman of A&M Consolidated and Saul Ramirez of Bryan, respectively.
"I've been working for this for a long time," Mickens said. "This is my senior year so there's no holding back. I hope to make it to state."
While Mickens claimed a fairly-comfortable 8-3 win against Goodman in the 145 championship, Branch had to go the extra mile against Ramirez for the 152 crown as the match was tied at nine points apiece after three regulation rounds, which resulted in the match going into sudden-death overtime. Just 32 seconds into the extra round, Branch recorded a takedown to claim the district championship.
"It was a tough road," Branch said of his championship match win. "I didn't think I would make it to the finals, but I did and it was a dream come true."
Adrian Cruz, the runner-up of the 112 class, will be Ellison's other region meet representative.
Dustin Lowrance of Copperas Cove will represent the Bulldawgs in San Antonio after his championship in the 140 class. He defeated Jorge Aguilar of Bryan in the championship match.
"This was a true testament of hard work paying off," Lowrance said. "The harder I work, the farther I'll go. And the more I sweat, the less I bleed."
Harker Heights and Killeen will each have a region qualifier as the Knights' Tylor Bigley claimed second place in the 135 class and the Roos' Demorris Turner won a wrestleback match in the 180 class.