By Habeab Kurdi
Sophomore Ryan Elswick wrestled with an injured shoulder and still outwrestled most of the competition at the regional meet Saturday in San Antonio to secure a second-straight berth to the UIL State Wrestling Championships Feb. 24-25.
Senior Cooper Scott is making is first appearance at the state meet after grappling to third place at regionals.
For the two Chaparrals, years and pounds apart, they have a common goal – earn a state medal. Elswick will wrestle in the 160-pound division after taking second at regionals, and Scott will take on 220-pound opponents.
“I like their chances, I think with the right draw they can definitely end up on the podium,” Westlake coach Pat O’Harra said.
Elswick and Scott both won their first two matches on Friday, earning them a little rest before the final round on Saturday.
In the semifinals, the third-seeded Elswick beat Austin Boles from Akins, the same wrestler he had to beat last year to make it to state, and an opponent he’s very familiar with. Elswick won that but easily, 6-0, earning him a guaranteed spot at state.
Another wrestler Elswick is familiar with got the upper hand this time as the Chap lost in the final to Vandegrift’s Adrian Baraza, 4-2.
“The great thing about Ryan is he’s a sophomore and a two-time state qualifier,” O’Harra said. “So he’s been there before, knows what to do. But to have two years in high school and already be a state qualifier twice is pretty impressive.”
For Scott, who came in seeded fifth, he started the tournament with a controlled, dominant performance for a 5-0 win. Then he took down the fourth seed, Kris Rivera from La Joya, 1-0, to earn a spot in the championship bracket. In the semifinals, Scott was pinned by Bryan’s David Jones for a loss, but he rebounded to beat Greg Hernandez from San Benito in the consolation semifinals 9-0 to secure his spot at state.
In the third-place match, Scott pinned Killeen’s Derrial Collins in the third period and now looks ahead to his first state trip.
“He did really well,” O’Harra said. “He came in as the fifth seed but I anticipated he’d do better than that.”
Turning to training over the next week-plus, the two Chaps will have different approaches, although they’ll participate together when they can, such as taking a long run together earlier this week.
“Ryan’s proved earlier in the year he can wrestler with the best guys in the state,” O’Harra said. “The doctor said he’s not going to injure it anymore. It’s just how much can he handle? The tough thing will be the preparation between now and then because if it hurts, we don’t want to wrestle a lot live in practice, but how do you prepare for state then? It’s kind of a catch-22.”
As for Scott, revisiting offensive tactics and finding a way to be aggressive without overdoing it will be the focus.
“Heavier-weight wrestlers tend to be less offensive because if you make a mistake you have a lot of weight coming down on you,” O’Harra said. “But at the state level, he’s not going to be able to be defensive, he’ll have to open up his offense and take some chances so that’s what we’ll work on.”
The state wrestling meet is scheduled for Feb. 24-25 at the Delco Center.
For more, visit uiltexas.org/wrestling/state.
[*The Feb. 16 print edition of the Picayune incorrectly stated the story author]