Wrestling off to strong start, wins first of Trifecta of championships

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Wrestling off to strong start, wins first of Trifecta of championships

Courtesy of John Perdue

Courtesy of John Perdue

Courtesy of John Perdue

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In 2019, the wrestling team won the “Trifecta” of Texas high school wrestling championships—the Texas State Duals, Texas Prep State and SPC championships—and was the first program to do so in state history.

This year, the team has set the goal of defending their Trifecta victory. On Jan. 18, they claimed the first of the three tournaments, decimating their competition to win their second consecutive Texas State Duals championship. The Mavericks accrued 325 total points to their opponents’ combined 70, defeating Bishop Lynch High School, ranked no. 2 among Texas private schools, 60-15 in the finals.

“That day was one of the most remarkable total team efforts I’ve seen during my time at St. John’s,” head coach and 2019 Texas high school Wrestling Coach of the Year Alan Paul said.

According to captain Sebastian Jimenez, wrestlers help each other focus by encouraging their teammates before they step out onto the mat and providing tactical advice and constant support during the matches.

“We have some technical wizards, like Sebastian, who can yell out pointers in the middle of the match,” sophomore John Perdue said. “We also maintain a wall of sound to keep whoever’s on the mat going.”

The Mavs’ continued triumphs placed pressure on the team, ranked no. 1 among Texas private schools, to maintain their dominance. According to Paul, this pressure makes “staying at the top” more difficult than “getting to the top,” and all other teams look to beat St. John’s.

“When we won our first SPC title in 2013, we were simply climbing a mountain,” Paul said. “The situation we’re currently in involves us fighting at the top of the mountain while every other team tries to push us off.”

However, the pressure does not faze the Mavs. They embrace the challenge in their meticulous preparation for competition.

The coaching staff, which includes 12-time Cuban national champion and Olympian Alberto Rodriguez, NCAA Division I All-American Joey Ward, and two-time New England state champion Jeb Ligums, devises a complex strategy for each match, including how each wrestler will tackle his opponent and which wrestlers compete.

“Without a doubt, we have the best coaching staff in the state,” Jimenez said. “Coach Paul has done a terrific job of gathering the best resources he can find to help us succeed.”

According to Paul, the athletes “do not hesitate” to execute the strategy.

“I trust in our preparation,” Jimenez said. “My mentality is all about focusing on what I have to do and feeling the moment, but I’m careful not to overthink.”

The Mavericks’ success in execution relies on the readiness of each wrestler, even if they are not normally a member of the starting 14, to compete when called up.

Courtesy of John Perdue

“Each team member was able to participate and add something to the team, which gave us the chance to rest some of our top 14 wrestlers,” Paul said. “That played a key role in our domination of the championship match.”

During key moments, the coaches’ plan paid off. In the final, senior Jack Curtin, competing in his first match of the day because of a knee injury, pinned his opponent in the first two minutes, snowballing the momentum in the Mavericks’ favor. A pin earns six points, the most a team can gain from a single match. Curtin’s pin turned a sizeable 18-6 Maverick lead into a 24-6 blowout.

“Jack’s pin helped us get out to an early lead, so it was a total game-changer,” Perdue said. “After that, it was pin after pin after pin.”

Paul is encouraged by the team’s victory.

“We’re capable of amazing things,” he said. “You win the State Duals 60-15, and that’s quite remarkable. The boys see from this tournament how their work paid off.”

Looking forward, the Mavericks will remain focused on their daily training.

“We’re going through the right preparation,” Jimenez said. “This tournament sets the tone for the next two tournaments and boosts our confidence heading into the state championship.”