For the Mustangs, the UIL state wrestling tournament feels like déjà vu. With a twist. Last year, Gabe Cabrera and siblings Jacob and Blake Andrews were Grapevine’s state qualifiers. This year, Blake and Cabrera are state-bound again, but this time younger brother Brian Andrews joins the experienced duo.
“We had two Andrews and Gabe go to state last year, and two Andrews and Gabe are going this year,” said head coach Kent Hall. “It’s just a different two Andrews.”
The family has a long history of wrestling experience, and last year’s 170-pound state champion Jacob is now wrestling on the collegiate level.
“My dad wrestled when he was younger and took second in the nation,” said Blake. “He got us into it in third or fourth grade and we’ve just wrestled ever since.”
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Blake is looking to finish his senior season state win.
“I was hoping to go to state all four years like my older brother, but I had a really tough district my freshman year,” he said. “I am going to just go and wrestle every match like it is the state championship match.”
Hall has confidence in his 220-pound senior.
“Blake is very athletic, which really helps him for his size,” he said. “Big guys who can shoot and move like little guys are at an advantage. Most big guys don’t move that way.”
That athleticism comes from hours of hard work.
“Blake’s the leader of the whole group,” Hall said. “He leads our warm-ups and just has a great presence. He has an incredible work ethic and just really puts in the time working out in and out of school.”
Blake has committed to Ouachita Baptist, where Jacob wrestles, and looks forward to continuing wrestling after high school.
“It feels good to know where I am going and who I’m going to wrestle with next year,” he said.
At 170 pounds, Cabrera has worked hard over the past year to return to state faster and stronger than his showing last year at 152 pounds.
“I wasn’t as strong last year, and I was able to make the choice to not cut weight this year,” he said. “I set my goals really high and worked hard all summer, and I plan to be in the finals this year.”
“Gabe is a good wrestler, especially on his feet,” Hall said. “He put in time doing some summer wrestling also, and it really is true what they say that ‘summertime wrestlers make wintertime champions.’”
Cabrera’s experience has come in handy.
“I know my opponents are beatable, and I wrestle smart,” he said. “If you get distracted in one position then you counter with another position. You make them earn the points. You don’t give the points away.”
182-pound Brian has grown up wrestling his older brothers.
“It’s been tough this year and I have faced almost all seniors,” Brian said. “My brothers have been training me, which is probably what has helped me the most, and I’ve really gotten better over the year.”
Hall credits Brian’s dedication, as well as his family, for his success.
“He is pretty amazing for a freshman,” Hall said. “He wrestled a lot when he was younger and wrestling is one of those sports where the more you wrestle, the better you are. Probably having two older brothers hasn’t hurt either.”
Gaining an older brother’s admiration isn’t the easiest thing to do, but Brian has earned the praise.
“It is pretty amazing for a freshman to do what he has done this year,” Blake said. “I’ve been training with him all year and he has improved a lot.”
After eight years in Austin, the state tournament has moved to the Garland ISD Curtis Culwell Center.
“We are really hoping that the venue change will help more people be able to come out and support our wrestlers,” Hall said.
Tournament dates are Feb. 14-15 and all details can be found at www.uiltexas.org.