The Coppell wrestling team has enjoyed plenty of success over the years, but boys head coach Chip Lowery said it has been a while since the Cowboys have had three wrestlers place in the top three at the state tournament in the same year.
Last weekend was definitely one to remember for Coppell.
Seniors Scout Carrell (132 pounds) and Isaiah Francis (190) finished in second place in their respective weight class divisions at the Class 6A state tournament in Cypress, while senior Jess Mendez-Gil won five straight matches to earn third place at 138 pounds after losing by one point to Pflugerville's Weiss' Maya Khabbaz in her first match of the two-day tournament in the Berry Center.
Carrell and Francis were two of four area wrestlers that competed in the state finals, joining Lewisville senior Ileah Brown (second at 114 pounds) and Little Elm junior Emily Pedro (second at 126).
For Francis, he added to his family legacy. His older sister, Hannah, finished her high school career as a two-time state placer. But last weekend was the first time that Isaiah wrestled in the state tournament. He got to the state final after defeating Allen's Aiden Cooley 3-2 in a tie-breaker. Francis fell a coupe moves short in a 9-6 loss to Rockwall's Jarrett Stoner in the title bout.
"That was was same guy (Stoner) that beat us by tech fall at the Santa Slam," Lowery said. "This time, we stayed in the fight. We were in a couple of positions to score, but Isaiah wrestled really well.
"He's never been to the state tournament. Usually, the progression is a little different. Usually, you go and see what it is and you might place and get in the finals. He's always loved the sport of wrestling. He also played varsity football last year but wanted to focus on his wrestling and dedicate it full time to it. You can see that it's paid off."
Carrell, meanwhile, capped off an impressive 37-2 senior season by making it to the state final for the first time in her high school career. She advanced to the first-place match after she handed Klein Cain's Elena Gutierrez her first loss of the season in the semifinals. In the final, Carrell wrestled Arlington Martin's Jania Dunigan for the second time in a week, but Dunigan got the better of Carrell with a 7-2 decision.
"Obviously, she didn't want to be the state runner-up because she had beaten the girl the week before at regionals," said Ted Witulski, Coppell head girls coach. "It's not easy to beat the same person twice, but she understands the perspective that we have in wrestling that the challenges are always out in front of us. She's pretty dang proud of getting to the state final. She beat a girl in the semifinals that was 65-0. She had a pretty good tournament."
Mendez-Gil also earned a spot on the medal stand. She was impressive on the back side of the bracket after dropping an 8-7 decision to Khabbaz in the first round. Mendez-Gil scored a pin of New Braunfels' Gabriella Zarate in the third-place match.
"She only came out for wrestling probably middle of January her junior year," Witulski said. "She had never been in wrestling before, but talk a kid that had worked so hard. She was able to figure it out."
Little Elm had its second-ever state placer. Pedro joined 2021 Little Elm alum Jax Brown, who placed fifth at heavyweight in his senior season, in that elite company.
On Saturday, Pedro became the first Lobo to appear in the state final. She got to the title match after earning a 5-0 shutout of Cypress Ranch's Mariah Smith in the semifinals. But in the first-place bout, Austin Bowie's Olivia Moreno left with a 1-0 decision to finish 60-0 on the season while handing Pedro her lone loss of the season. Moreno recorded an escape in the second period to earn the only point of the match. Pedro finished 30-1.
"They were pretty evenly-matched," said Bryan Raymond, Little Elm head coach. "One-to-nothing was how that match should have probably ended. Obviously, she was upset after that match. I think she was okay with how high she finished. Obviously, she wanted to finish that last one with a win, but it'll be good to build off going into next season."
History was also made by Lewisville. Brown became the first Farmer wrestler to compete in the state final since current Marcus head girls coach Brittany Marshall accomplished the feat in 2015. But getting to the final was a plan that started a few weeks ago.
"Prior to district tournament, Ileah had always been up at 120," said Karra Brooks, Lewisville head coach. "I saw competition the competition that she would face. If she wanted to place, she needed to be at 120 at state. If she wanted to make a run at the finals, she would need to drop down to 114.
"The head coach at Irving Nimitz (Anthony Bergamini) gave Ileah a strict meal plan and have her eat seven meals a day with a specific number of ounces of protein. I said to her, 'It you get down to 114, I thought you'd have a shot.'"
On Saturday evening, that strict diet and moving down a weight class allowed Brown to earn a spot in the 114-pound title match. Brown worked as hard as she could against Lake Highlands' Fernanda Lopez, but Lopez built a 4-0 lead going into the third period on her way to earning a 6-2 decision.
"Ileah trained with Fernandez on the national team last season," Brooks said. "We watched the semifinals match where she beat (Southlake Carroll's) Bayley Trang beat her, 8-0. Ileah was a little worried. Ileah got in a reversal in the third period but Fernandez had already scored a few shots."
Flower Mound's Isabella Da Silva earned a trip to the podium after she earned fifth place at 114 pounds. She lost her first match 9-7 in a tiebreaker but she rebounded to win four of her five matches, including a second-period pin of Arlington Martin's Madison Moody in the fifth-place match.
The Colony also had a state placer with Saniyah Ward earning fifth place at 132 pounds in Class 5A. Coming into the season, Lady Cougars head coach Ryan Bascue said Ward had a "lot of raw talent that needed to be refined."
But Bascue said that Ward got much better as the season went along, and she capped off a 49-win season by pinning San Antonio Burbank's Gideon Sanchez in the fifth-place match.
"What impressed me the most was she just kept wrestling," Bascue said. "She was down in several matches and found ways to win. She beat a regional champ twice, once in the first round and for fifth place, and in the blood round Saturday morning, she beat a returning state placer after being down 10-3 late in the third found a way to pin that girl.
"She never quit no matter what the situation was she kept wrestling and found a way to win on big matches."
Creekview continued its tradition of having a state placer. Raquel Iturrino won three matches -- the first two by a 5-0 decision -- to earn sixth place at 114. Her biggest win of the was a 2-1 decision in the ultimate tiebreaker against Corpus Christi's Genevieve Bellino 2-1 in the consolation third round, which clinched a top-six finish for Iturrino..
"She battled and had to win a quadruple overtime match to place," said Clay Goodloe, Creekview head coach. "The weight class was super difficult and it was a great way to end her sophomore year. We're only thinking up from here."
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