Winter SPC Recap: Wrestling wins post-season tournaments, earns first All-American honors


Benny He

Sophomore Thomas Chang squares off with his opponent. Chang was one of the 14 wrestlers who represented the Mavericks at SPC.

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Fresh off victories at the Texas Prep State Championship and the Texas State Duals Championships, the Mavericks approached the SPC Championship with the expectation to win. The Mavericks, captained by seniors Harrison Fernelius and Wesley Gow, junior Thomas Grannen and sophomore Sebastian Jimenez, ended up finishing first with 258 points, 116 points ahead of the second place team, Episcopal.

“All these boys know is winning,” head coach Alan Paul said. “They don’t know where we came from. They have never experienced losing SPC. For them, it’s an expectation to win.”

The Mavericks took 14 wrestlers to SPC, and all 14 placed at least third in their weight class. Eight wrestlers were crowned individual champions, and Fernelius and Grannen gained their 100th wins, a milestone commemorated by a poster on the wall of the wrestling room.

“We ended up running away with it,” Fernelius said. “I’m really glad that I got to share this with my team, Coach Paul, and all the people who have helped me get to this point.”

With wins at the State Individuals, State Duals and SPC, this year’s team is the first in St. John’s history to win all three tournaments in the same season. Before this year, the Mavericks had finished second for several in years in a row at the State Duals, but had never won the tournament. According to Paul, a unique team is needed to win all three titles because each of the three tournaments is a different format.

“If you win all three of them, you are a dominant team,” Paul said. “You just absolutely dominated everybody.”

In 2013, the Mavericks won their first SPC Championship, and this year, the team won their sixth SPC title in the last seven years.

“The culture of wrestling has changed so much since I was a freshman,” Gow said. “It really feels like people have started completely focusing on the team’s success rather than their own.”

Paul attributes the team’s winning culture to their consistency and confident attitude.

“We’ve become that team that everyone thinks no one can beat, and our boys think that way,” Paul said. “They go into the matches knowing that we’re gonna be successful. They strive to absolutely be the best.”

At the beginning of the season, Paul expected this year to be a rebuilding year for the team, which was mainly comprised of freshmen and sophomores. According to Paul, the Mavericks far exceeded any and all expectations.  

“These guys just wrestled out of their mind,” Paul said. “We really separated ourselves from the pack, and it was quite impressive.”

On Feb. 22 and 23, Fernelius, Grannen, Jimenez, senior Roman Lewis, and sophomores Ken Matsunaga and Michael Diachman competed at Nationals in Pennsylvania, where they hoped to gain their first All-American. Fernelius and Lewis placed fifth and seventh respectively, and became the first wrestling All-Americans in the school’s history. Overall, the team finished 23rd.

“It’s really cool to show what Texas can do and what St. John’s can do at a national level,” Fernelius said. “Going forward, I hope that the wrestling team becomes a force on the national level and that they can set an example of what excellence looks like for the entire SJS community.

To continue their winning streak in upcoming years, the team aims to stay consistent with all of the small details that make their team what it is, from the soft and chewy bars the wrestlers eat before meets to the way they line up their bags in the wrestling room. According to Gow, “Coach Paul always stresses having all the little things right. Making sure we’re doing everything in unison is a big part of the program.”

Although the Mavericks won every post-season tournament that they competed in this year, besides Nationals, the team looks to continue improving.

“Every year, we have to grow and get better because all the other teams, they’re getting better and they’re chasing us,” Paul said. “We won everything, but we’re always gonna get better.”