McALLEN — The La Joya Juarez-Lincoln Huskies pieced together a dominant team performance en route to capturing their second straight District 15-6A wrestling title at the district meet Tuesday afternoon at McAllen High School.
The Huskies tallied a staggering 239 points as a team, as they beat out Edinburg High (179) and La Joya High (151), which finished second and third, respectively. Edinburg Vela (143.5), McAllen High (141), Mission High (122) and Edinburg North (116) rounded out fourth through seventh place in a crowded field of competition.
Edinburg High and La Joya High actually took first in many of the early championship matches, though.
Junior Josiah Sloss got it started for the Bobcats, earning the victory at 106 pounds with a fall and pin just 73 seconds into the bout. He was joined in the winner’s circle later in the day by teammate Emmanuel Duron, who improved to 36-5 on the season after taking first in the 220-pound division.
The Coyotes were even more dominant in the early going, securing victory in two of the first three championship matches. After Sloss claimed the first individual title for Edinburg, Brandon Garza (34-9) won a tightly contested battle for the 113-pound crown, Andres Ochoa (32-7) ran away with the 120-pound title and Jacob Gonzalez (36-2) won first at 145 with a 10-0 decision.
Ochoa, a sophomore who repeated as a district champion, faced a familiar foe in his title bout and was determined to come out on top again.
“I had gone against him before, so I felt really confident in my moves and whatever my coaches were telling me,” Ochoa said. “He’s a really good competitor, I just wanted to tell him that I could beat him a second time.”
But the Huskies were the group that shined the most across every weight class. Juarez-Lincoln landed wrestlers in either first, second or third in eight out of 14 classes represented.
A pair of undefeated senior wrestlers, Carlos Doria and Jose Cerda, won the Huskies their first two individual district titles of the day. Cerda improved to 17-0 by taking first in 132-pound division, and Doria jumped to 15-0 with his 13-2 decision win at 126.
Doria, who previously won a district championship for La Joya Juarez-Lincoln, was elated at the prospect of going out on top.
“Honestly I was just thinking about finishing. I was thinking about the hard work I’ve put in for the past couple months. That’s what got me through my match,” Doria said. “It feels great especially because this is going to be our last time.”
Cerda and Doria were joined by Kenth Hernandez, the third Juarez-Lincoln champion on the afternoon, after he won a tight decision over McAllen Memorial’s Albert Muñoz at 182 pounds. For Hernandez, a star linebacker on the Huskies’ football team, the crown is particularly meaningful given his journey back to the top of the sport.
“I wanted this as revenge. I tore my ACL during football season. I just wanted to come back,” Hernandez said. “I’ve had lots of support from my teammates and support from the coaches. They’ve always believed in me and I needed it.”
Doria and Hernandez both expressed their excitement after clinching the Huskies back-to-back district wrestling titles for the first time in school history.
“It feels great,” Hernandez said. “It means a lot to us. It’s the first time we’re going to repeat as district champions.”
Other highlights of the day included Edinburg Economedes’ Esdras Velez, who claimed the district crown at 195 pounds after handing Juarez-Lincoln’s Willi Bonilla his first loss of the season.
Edinburg Vela senior Humberto Alcala took home first place at 160 and maintained his pristine 19-0 record in the process. Two McHi wrestlers, Robert Delgado and Americo Garza, won district titles at 138 and 170 pounds, respectively, to give the Bulldogs their second and third winners in their home gym.
But the highlight of the late afternoon was Mission High’s Dante Lopez flipped his opponent on his back and trapped his arm to secure the pin and the 285-pound district championship. Lopez, who improved to 30-2 with his victory, overcame an illness that interfered with his preparation for the district meet.
With the victory, he also became the one 15-6A wrestler to earn both a district title on the mat and all-district honors on the gridiron for the Eagles.
“It feels amazing. You work all year and you look forward to this. This is the only tournament that matters; it’s the one people look forward to,” Lopez said. “What happens during the regular season is good, but what matters is that this either sends you to regionals or sends you home.”