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Photo by Paul Brick

Ryan Elswick celebrates his win with the rest of the Chaps wrestlers in the final round during the Boys 5A Region IV Wrestling Tournament in San Antonio on Saturday after the team finished in fourth place to advance to the state tournament.

The routes were different, but the results the same – three Westlake wrestlers earned a spot in the UIL State Wrestling Championships with top-four finishes at the regional tournament that finished Saturday in San Antonio.

Junior Ryan Elswick, sophomore Alex Pankhurst and freshman Hunter Roberts will compete in the state tournament set for Feb. 21-13 at the Delco Center.

Overall, the team fell short of its goals at the regional tournament as only four wrestlers wound up in position to have a shot at qualifying Saturday, but Westlake wrestling coach Pat O’Harra said the young squad still showed a lot of promise.

“Alex dominated at 145,” O’Harra said. “We didn’t wrestle as well as all the kids could have, but in the end, the guys won who needed to win to take it. We left Saturday feeling good how things went in the finals. The earlier rounds we didn’t do as well as we could.”

Elswick (11-3) earned his third trip to the state meet in three years and had to overcome quite a lot to make his way back. The junior had to battle through a bout of mono earlier in the season and hasn’t had the chance to get on the mat frequently this season. Then, at the regional tournament he nearly had his arm broken on an illegal move – disqualifying his opponent – yet Elswick still had some wrestling to do to qualify for state and was dealing with a hyperextended elbow.

After wrestling at 106 the past two years, Elswick worked past it and won the third-place match and earned his way into the state tourney in the 126-pound bracket this year.

“I was really nervous, but he wrestled great and dominated the match,” O’Harra said. “He knew he had a chance to be our second four-time [state] qualifier ever, and he did what he had to do to win … He had undoubtedly the toughest weight class of the tournament.”

Pankhurst (23-2) burst into the state tournament with a 4-0 record at the regional tournament, earning first place in the 145-pound bracket with an 8-2 decision over Alexander Boles in the title bout.

The sophomore actually had soccer practice in town the night before the first round of the tournament but still arrived in better shape than the rest of the bracket.

“Alex just gets up next day and whips everybody,” O’Harra said. “He’s an incredibly intense athlete. No matter what he does, he’s the hardest worker at it. It’s really impressive.”

Roberts’ (29-7) route to state had a few twists and turns as well, with the freshman wrestler needing a wrestle-back victory to lay claim to the fourth qualifying spot after finishing fifth overall in the 113-pound bracket.

After losing to a great move earlier in the day, Roberts earned a chance to wrestle the fourth-place finisher since the two had not met earlier in competition. Roberts was trailing early on but had a takedown and three-point move to swing the match in his favor.

“To get a turn at that level that late in the match – phenomenal,” O’Harra said. “It was a great move. He got control and punched ticket to state. To do that as a freshman is impressive.”

Hugo Giordano came close to earning a spot at state as well with a fifth-place finish, but he did qualify as an alternate, meaning if one of the top four from the region have to bow out then he would step into their spot at state.

Travis Braithwaite did well in the 138-pound bracket, Mack Murray lost to the eventual champion in the first round in the 132 bracket and Kevin Zarzana battled through illness in the 106 bracket.

“I really wish I knew [why Westlake fell short of some of its goals],” O’Harra said. “We’ve been racking our brains on it and really don’t know.

Some of it maybe was letdown from winning the district title but we told them, come Monday that doesn’t mean anything anymore. We’re still a really young team and will have most of them back next year.”

McAllen Memorial won the overall title with 113.5 points, San Antonio Johnson was second at 109, CC King came in third at 106.5, and Westlake wound up fourth with 85.5 points.

“We’re still young, maybe the guys went in a little bright-eyed,” O’Harra said. “It’s definitely a learning experience, and we’ll use that to motivate us all spring and summer.

“The way we wrestled really was not OK. We lose a couple of guys, but we come back next year basically with the same team intact, and the region title is not out of our reach at all. We might be a favorite considering the kids coming back.”
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  1. Great job by the coaches and all the boys says:

    I had the pleasure of watching several meets this year. These boys truly give it their all. And the coaching staff is motivated, and puts in time and effort with every single kid on the team. That includes the JV as well. They really have a lot of good kids coming back next year, and should be even better. And the JV had several winners in the JV district meet. Westlake should be very proud of this coaching staff and all the boys on the varsity and the JV. They did the school and community proud.

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