80° F Saturday, March 25, 2017

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A school-record 11 Westlake wrestlers are heading to the regional tournament this weekend after the team won the District 14-5A championship Friday.
The Chaparrals cleared second-place Bowie by more than 40 points, bringing home three first-place finishes, three seconds, two thirds and three fourths.
It was the first tournament all season where Westlake had its full, healthy lineup ready to go, and the record results showed the Chaps’ potential.
“That’s what we were hoping for all season long,” Westlake wrestling coach Pat O’Harra said. “We didn’t take our foot off the gas pedal the entire time.”
Gabe Moreau (120 pounds), Alex Pankhurst (145) and Hugo Giordano (170) captured individual titles in their respective weight classes for Westlake. Kevin Zarzana (106), Hunter Roberts (113) and Ryan Elswick (126) placed second, while Mack Murray (132) and Jake Beard (160) took third-place honors.
Westlake advanced nine wrestlers to the regional tournament in 2009, the season the Chaps took third in state. The team is also advancing are Travis Braithwaite (138), Brent Davis (152) and Robbie Boyd (215).
“It’s been pretty exciting, I’m pretty happy with it,” O’Harra said.
Westlake finished with 215 total points, Bowie had 172, Anderson had 155, New Braunfels finished with 145.5, and New Braunfels Canyon was fifth with 145.
The regional tournament is Feb. 8-9 at San Antonio’s Blossom Center, where O’Harra considers McAllen Memorial, SA Johnson and SA Reagan.
“We’re obviously gonna make a lot of noise down there with 11 of the 14 weights represented,” O’Harra said. “Now that we’re out of district, a lot of teams will have a lot of wrestlers there as well.”
The road to regionals was tough for the Westlake wrestlers, but an impressive day at the Delco Center brought the team’s promise to fruition.
“I was shocked [Moreau] won the tournament – that was fantastic,” O’Harra said. “Travis had the toughest bracket of all the guys. Brent Davis wrestled the tournament of his life.”
A two-time state qualifier already, Elswick, who has missed most of the season with illness, will have a chance to advance again but will face some of the state’s best in the regional tourney.
“He’s got four really tough kids in his bracket and that’s not even counting the rest of the [competitors],” O’Harra said.
Grasping a different district
Following realignment last year a lot of the focus was on the reshuffling of classes and districts in the major sports.
Under the radar, wrestling actually had a big shuffle that benefitted a lot of schools and should be a big boost to the upcoming postseason as well.
For the first time Westlake moved into a district with the Austin high schools as there was a somewhat combination of two districts to improve competition while increasing the amount of schools and athletes that can advance from two to four.
“We’ve not been in with AISD schools before this year,” Westlake wrestling coach Pat O’Harra said. “It was a long time coming to have that split. I was on committee petitioning for that for a few years.”
O’Harra and other coach’s push finally put things in a format they had been hoping for a while.
With the competition before, there were several athletes that couldn’t advance to regionals even though they could be a likely state contender. Now that four advance, there’s not a lot of chance of a superior wrestler being left out of regionals or state.
“It’s much more equitable now, a lot more fair,” O’Harra said. “Before you could have four that could place at state but only two make it out of district.”
Westlake topped Bowie, Austin High, Anderson, Akins, New Braunfels, NB Canyon, Hendrickson and Pflugerville at the district tournament Friday at the Delco Center in Austin.
The team only advanced two wrestlers to regional last season in a difficult district, with only the top two individuals going on as opposed to four this season.
“We only had two last year because of the crazy tough district before the split,” O’Harra said. “We had four or five guys place third would have qualified for regional in any other but in ours they couldn’t crack the top two. It’s helped us – and every team – as far as getting more kids there.”
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