For Keller Fossil Ridge wrestlers Dammion Heard and Paige Garcia, the third time truly was a charm.
The pair have competed in the UIL state wrestling tournament in each of the last three seasons, and on Saturday in Austin, in each wrestler's third attempt, both emerged as state champions.
I just can't believe it, Garcia said. I went into it kind of nervous, because I didn't remember wrestling any of the people I was facing. But as I went on, it got much easier.
Garcia defeated Kierra Boyce of Pflugerville Hendrickson in the championship match 6-4 in the Class 5A 215-pound weight division, and coach Anthony Lopez said he could not have been more pleased with her effort.
Paige wrestled well in the finals match, Lopez said. She pretty much dominated the first three matches, but she was challenged a little in her finals match, and I felt she wrestled it smart. She didn't make any mistakes, and she came out on top because of that. I was proud of her.
Garcia finished the season with a perfect record of 28-0.
For Heard, reaching the state finals in 2011 and 2012 and finishing second both years left a bitter taste in his mouth. That was part of the reason the 113-pounder said this tournament was very special for him.
I think I wrestled pretty well, Heard said. I went out there with the attitude that I was going to try to dominate everyone that I wrestled, and I felt I did that. I felt I controlled every match and wrestled the match I wanted. To win, is just awesome.
Lopez said there was not much doubt in his mind that the Ridge senior would claim the top prize, either.
He came into the meet focused and ready to wrestle, Lopez said. I think he knew what he had to do. He was prepared, and I thought coming in, he had a pretty good chance of winning it all just because of his preparation and level of confidence.
Heard defeated Jordan Hall of South Grand Prairie 8-3 in the state championship match, and wrapped up the season with a perfect record of 46-0.
In team action, Arlington Martin finished fourth overall as a squad on the boys side, with three placers.
Coach Patrick Dunn said that his team's performance at the state meet exceeded his expectations.
I thought we would be somewhere between second and fifth, so to finish fourth was pretty much what we were hoping for, Dunn said. I'm very satisfied with how we performed. We have a great group of kids, and all eight of our qualifiers won at least one match, which was really good for us.
Tarell Tatum finished third at 132 for Martin, Elyjah Crumpler was also third at 170 and Steven Candley finished fourth in the 182-pound weight class at the state tournament.
Elizabeth Fitzgerald finished fourth in the 185-pound division on the girls side for Martin.
In other action on the boys side, Grapevine's Jacob Andrews won a state championship in the 170-pound weight class, while teammate Blake Andrews was second in the 182-pound division.
Arlington Bowie's Rafay Ali finished second in the 152-pound class, and Alfonso Kaihua of Euless Trinity also finished second at heavyweight.
Southlake Carroll's Michael Basler finished fifth at 152, and teammate Cody Lindberg finished fourth in the 195 weight class.
Byron Pruitt of Arlington Sam Houston and C.J. Stratton of Arlington finished fourth and sixth, respectively, at heavyweight.
On the girls side, Khayri Howell of Sam Houston won a state championship at 185, and Valeria Lopez of Trinity finished second at 128.
Tara Jones of Arlington finished sixth in the 95-pound weight division, teammate Sydney Szmuc was fifth at 138, Daysha Woods of Sam Houston was third at 102, Bowie's Gisselle Ruvalcaba finished fifth in the 148-pound division, and Jasmine Brown of Arlington Lamar was fifth at 215.
In the 4A tournament, the Azle girls won the state championship as a team, with Jesse Grubbs bringing home a title at 215, and Paige Wolf and Hannah McFarland finishing second at 148 and 185, respectively.
Azle coach Chris Allen said he was pleased with his teams effort, and said Grubbs was especially impressive through adversity.
She was unbelievable, because we had two matches where there were some cautions or penalties, and a lot of kids would have gotten rattled, Allen said. But she kept doing her thing, and really wanted it there at the end of the third period.
Grubbs defeated Christine Chessher of Corpus Christi Ray 9-5 in the state championship match.
Azle finished with 99 points in the tournament, 20 points ahead of second place Amarillo Caprock.
In addition to Grubbs, Wolf and McFarland, Bernadette Duhan finished fifth at 102 for the Hornets, and Montana Stewart finished fourth at 128.
Saginaw's Haley Moreno won a state championship at 110, while teammates Miah Finch-Acosta was third at 215, Martina Martinez fourth at 138 and Raven Norris fifth at 128.
Saginaw finished third as a team at state on the girls side.
Arlington Seguin's Alanna Berecin finished fifth at 165, and teammate Kenyasha Paige was fifth at 215.
On the boys side in 4A, Michael Gonzalez-Jones of Saginaw Boswell finished second at 126, and Kody Collins of Trophy Club Nelson finished second at 152.
Other state placers on the boys side included Saginaw's Beric Bassinger at 113, Julian Perez at 182 and Azle's Brett King at 195.
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