The Gilbert wrestling team made a bit of history on Saturday at the 3rd Annual Cardinal Newman Christmas Clash.
The Indians, in just their fourth year of varsity competition on the mats, put together a late surge to nip host Cardinal Newman for the first tournament championship in program annals. Individual title runs by Jeff Hoover at 171, Zac Watkins at 189 and heavywight Leon Watts allowed Tracy Gooding’s Tribe to beat the defending tournament champs at the 229-225.5 margin.
“This was the very first tournament that we have won at Gilbert, and it reallywas a team effort,” said Gooding. “We actually had four guys not make weight and were unable to wrestle, so all ten of the guys that made weight placed. That made the win even sweeter. Our guys are working hard and it is starting to pay off. We will continue to work hard and see where it takes us from here.”
Hoover, Watkins and Watts all went 3-0 on the way to first place. Zack Kennedy was the other Gilbert individual winner, going 3-0 at 135, beating three-time SCISA champion Talley Lattimore of Cardinal Newman in the title bout. The Christmas Clash champs had plenty of scoring support. Chris Price (103), Matt Risinger (130), Justin Miller (140) and Matt Chapman (160) all finished with 2-1 record and earned runner-up honors. David Amick (125) and Drew Neff (152) both finished with 3-1 tourney marks and earned third-place, consolation titles.
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Gilbert finished with a 19-11 dual meet record last season and advanced to the third round of the Class 2A state playoffs before being eliminated by Cheraw. Seniors Hoover, Watkins and Chapman were state qualifiers a year ago, as were juniors Austin Amick and Chris McGee.
“I’m pretty pleased with the growth in the program,” said Gooding. “We have 60 kids out from middle school to varsity, so the interest certainly is there. The only problem is we have just one mat, which means we have to practice in shifts.”
Gilbert is off to a 4-3 start in dual meets, recently going over the .500 mark by a tri-match sweep of Fox Creek and Pelion. The Indians edged the neighboring Panthers, 38-36 in a hotly contested match.
The Indians take on Airport and Columbia in a tri-match at Airport on Tuesday, and will take part in the Taco Bell Invitational at Spring Valley on Friday and Saturday.