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February 12, 2014

UIL WRESTLING STATE TOURNAMENT — Huntsville wrestlers ready for big stage

HUNTSVILLE — The anticipation is nearly over and they’re back on the state’s biggest stage.

After cruising in the regional wrestling tournament a little less than two weeks ago, the Hornets and Lady Hornets can hardly wait to get going at the UIL Wrestling State Tournament, which will kick off Friday and Saturday at the Garland ISD Curtis Culwell Center.

“I’m excited,” said Morgan Carr, who will wrestle in the boys 182-pound weight class.

“I’m anxious and nervous, but then again I’m ready,” added Kori Beckham, who will wrestle in the girls 119 class.

Thirteen Huntsville wrestlers (nine girls and four boys) will be competing in the double-elimination tournament, looking to win enough matches to stay alive and advance to Saturday’s final day of competition.

Making up the group of Lady Hornets are Jordan Kader (102), Maya Lewis (110), Beckham, Laterrica Riles (128), Marissa Dixon (138), Skylar Brock (148), Zenia Hernandez (165), Christian Walker (185) and Latresha Johnson (215).

David Magness (120), Toby Dierksheide (138), Jordan Johnson (160) and Carr will represent the Huntsville boys.

“You can see it in their eyes. They want to finish what we started,” Huntsville wrestling coach Dean Schaub said. “Someone’s going to win it. So why not us?”

The large contingent of Hornets and Lady Hornets advanced to the state tournament by placing fourth or higher in their weight class at the Region III meet, held at the Berry Center in Cypress on Feb. 1.

Dixon, Magness and Johnson also all won regional championships, which gives them a good position on the state bracket.

“So far as a team, we’ve done really good. We’ve done really good individually also,” Beckham said. “We just have to go out like every match and go to the mat thinking that you’re going to win. If you go out with a negative mind-set, you’re going to lose.”

Even though he finished fourth at the regional tournament, Carr had to fight to keep his spot for state.

Since Carr and the fifth-place finisher, Chris Malone of Kingwood Park, hadn’t squared off in the tournament, they had to wrestle to see who would go to state. Carr held on to secure his spot and is the reason why he’s preparing to wrestle at the state tournament.

“I know he wanted it just as bad as I did,” Carr said. “He was a senior, so he doesn’t get to go. I feel bad for him, but I’m glad I get to go. I’m excited this year.”

Of the large group of Huntsville wrestlers, seven return to the state tournament looking to improve on their performances.

Beckham and Dixon each won a bout before being eliminated, while Kader, Riles and Johnson were shut out.

“It didn’t work out very well, but this year we plan to go even further. Hopefully all of us will place,” Beckham said. “We learned a lot from it. Last year, it was nerve-wracking, but this year since it’s the second year we kind of know what to expect and know what to work on.

“What we’re telling the ones who didn’t go last year is to just keep your mind ready and don’t freak out just because it’s state. Yes, it’s another meet, but it’s the big meet. We also tell them to just keep their head there and believe in yourself.”

Walker came away with a state medal when she finished sixth at the 2013 state tourney.

“I think their goal right now since they were two and done last year is to make it to the second day,” Schaub said. “Kids like Christian, who placed sixth, she’s looking to place first. She has a leg up on the rest of the team because she’s gotten a UIL medal and she wants a different color one this year.”

Having seven wrestlers back who qualified for last year’s state wrestling tournament has made it easier to prepare, Schaub said.

“It does make a difference,” the coach explained. “I don’t have to explain to them the stage we’re on. They can anticipate what they’re going to see. We’ve got about six new ones, but I’m going to get them and show them that it’s the same regulation-size mats that they’re going to be on and just a different building.”

Several of the Huntsville wrestlers have their work cut out for them.

Kader, Lewis, Riles, Hernandez, Walker, Latresha Johnson, Carr and Jordan Johnson all face opponents in the first round who have lost five matches or less this season.

“Realistically, they’re going to face the best of the best,” Schaub said. “Anybody that can make it to the second day of the state tournament is doing something correctly. Last year, we had one. This year, hopefully we’ll triple that or have five or six. No one wants to go to the state tournament and lose two in a row, but it happens. A fourth of the wrestlers will lose two in a row.”

The tournament gets underway Friday, beginning at 7:30 a.m., with the opening round, quarterfinals, first round in the consolation bracket and the semifinals. Saturday’s action is set to start at 8 a.m., with three consolation rounds, then the fifth- and third-place matches, followed by the state championship bouts.

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