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Individual wrestlers advance to state with high hopes

Individual wrestlers advance to state with high hopes
The MatCats started the 2011-2012 season with an impressive 4-2 record, but the team now sits at a more modest 6-6. Nonetheless, the Cats–led by their coach, two-time National Collegiate Athletic Association Champion Khalil Abdul-Malik–have high hopes for the individual state meet.
The wrestling team has only three seniors: Julian Houk, Matthew Tyler and Austin Williams. Serving as the team’s most outstanding and experienced wrestlers, the captains are responsible not only for achieving individually, but also leading the rest of the team through the toughest of meets.

“The captains have been great,” said sophomore Jack Bondurant. “I especially like [Tyler’s] pregame speeches.”

In spite of suffering the effects of a roller coaster ride of late, the Cats have had many impressive team achievements. The team finished first at the Westminster Dual Meet and The North Atlanta Warrior Classic, and placed fourth in the Last Man Standing Tournament. But, the team fell short of qualifying for the team state tournament. Individually, Julian Houk has jumped out to a 22-1 record, and leads the entire team in total points, while Tyler and junior Justin Geeza hold records of 16-4 and 18-8, respectively. Sophomore standout Harrison McCamy also had an impressive 8-0 record before suffering a series of concussions that have ended his season.
Although the Cats did not qualify for the team state tournament, they look to enter many wrestlers in the individual state tournament. Multiple wrestlers have a good chance at making the state tournament: Junior Jesse Webb in the 126 pound weight class, Williams in the 132 pound weight class, junior Cole Spain in the 160 pound weight class, junior Jack Houk in the 170 pound weight class, Julian Houk in the 195 pound weight class, and Tyler in the 220 pound weight class. Julian Houk, in particular, finished third last year, and has already beaten the defending state champion this year.
“Julian Houk has an excellent chance at winning,” said assistant coach George Berry. “He [and] Matt Tyler have our best shots, but all [six] of these wrestlers have good chances.”
Throughout the season the Cats have two meets at the end of the season that have a special significance: Alumni Night and Senior Night. The first major meet in the New Year is Alumni Night. This meet, held in the first week of January, is, as noted, a meet in which former Westminster wrestlers attend to see the current era of Westminster wrestling compete. The alums range from wrestlers who graduated in the ‘60s to recently graduated wrestlers two or three years removed from their playing days. For coaches who have been coaching for a long time, such as Berry, it is “always fun to see all the wrestlers come back.”
“It was great to see the alumni especially the ones who graduated last year,” said Bondurant. “Most of the team had wrestled with them in previous years.”
This year the team was narrowly defeated by Jackson County High School to begin alumni night, and then rebounded and won against Whitefield Academy.
The second big meet of the New Year, and the one that the current wrestlers enjoy the most, is Senior Night. This meet, which always attracts the biggest crowd, takes place in early February, and means a lot to the team as it pays farewell to the seniors in their final home meet.
Although the team is going to lose three outstanding seniors, the squad has a bright future. Currently seven out of the fourteen varsity wrestlers are underclassmen, with five of them being freshmen.  Freshmen Alex Balser, Harrison Fiveash, Freddy Hart and Charlie Trense start almost every meet in the 106, 145, 120, and 152 weight classes, and Lawson Meadows, Trevor Rowland, and Alexander Silliman rotate starts since they all wrestle in the 123-pound weight class.
“We have a great freshman class,” said Berry.”I hope they stay in the sport.”

With eleven of the fourteen varsity members returning next year, the future only gets brighter for the MatCats.

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