Pin for the win

Boys wrestling makes way up to THSWCA 5A state championship


Ryan Ruiz

Junior Dylan Gass Pins a state ranked opponent at the THSWCA state duals last Friday.

Julissa Vargas, Sports Writer

Ranked 38th in the state and seeded 13 out of 16, the boys wrestling team entered the 2023 Texas High School Wrestling Coaches Associaton 5A Boys State Dual Jan. 20.

But what happened that day will live in in the memory of those wrestlers.

“We were the last team to enter the tournament,” coach Tim Clarkson said. “I am on the THSWCA board, and there were only 15 teams entered.  I volunteered to bring our guys. I expected that we would compete, but never in a million years expected to beat No. 5, No. 4, No. 1 and then tie No. 3 the returning state championship team.”

They took on fourth-seed Midlothian winning 45-33, then fifth-seed Ellison winning 48-25, and finally  top-seed Amarillo Tascosa winning 34-29.

They found themselves in the championship match against defending champions Lucas Lovejoy.

Lucas Lovejoy was down 21 points but came back to tie.

The match difference ultimately came down to a tough 175-pound battle between junior Nicholas Dudzikowski and Lovejoy’s Corey Soliz. Ranked No. 9, Dudzikowski scored the first points of the match with an escape in the second period after the two battled in a scoreless first period.

The No. 16-ranked Soliz tied the match, which led to the overtime tie 2-2 with Dudzikowski taking the tiebreaker.

The biggest match was the final match at 120 pounds when No. 10-ranked Jackson Lambert of Lovejoy pinned senior Clayton Engelking 17 seconds into the third period. Lambert needed to win by a pin as the Rangers trailed 36-30. Any kind of non-pin victory would have given them the title.

The wrestlers had a 15-0 lead in the match.

No. 6 junior Tristan Luna pinned Lovejoy’s Caden Stubblefield at the 126-pound match. Junior Absalon Valencia (132) got another win for the Rangers when he beat Elijah Strand – No. 12 at 126 – by an 8-5 decision. No. 16-ranked sophomore Skyler Sanchez pinned Landon Davis in a minute giving Smithson Valley the win. No. 3-ranked Mercer Ashley brought the Leopards back with a pin in 1:42, but the Rangers got those points back immediately. No. 13-ranked senior Carson Deike recorded a pin in 18 seconds. Andrew Kotecki, No. 7-ranked at 165, won the 157-pound match for Lovejoy with a 2-0 win over senior Jefferson Tipton. Junior Efren Arizmendez Jr., ranked No. 6 in 165, pinned Braxton Aubel of Lovejoy for another win for the Rangers. Dudzikowski’s win made it 30-9.

The final for both teams was 36-36 with a pin in the final match.

“The announcement first came out that Comal Smithson Valley was the state champion,” Clarkson said. “A second announcement followed before the trophies were handed out: a review of the tie breaking criterion was reviewed again.” 

Wrestling lost by one, 14-13, based on the association criteria. ‘The team having the greater number (total match points) of first-point(s) scored shall be declared the winner,” reads the 9th criteria.

“Being a heavyweight, it is special and capping it off with the state win for the team,” said Sam Reynolds, named the most outstanding wrestler for the tournament. “It was crazy. I have never seen or heard anything like that before. It is fun to do it with the team.”