Northwest’s wrestling team won’t forget the end of last season. The Grizzlies went into the City League tournament undefeated in duals, but placed behind Bishop Carroll and shared the overall league title.
“We remember some of the quotes that the Carroll kids said in the paper last year, we haven’t forgotten it,” Northwest coach Eric Prichard said. “It left a sour taste in our mouth, because we thought we were going to win that tournament last year.”
Northwest now faces the same scenario. The team is undefeated in duals again, while Carroll has lost only to Northwest. But if Carroll takes the tournament again on Saturday and Northwest finishes second, it’s a championship tie.
“Our main goal is to finish above Carroll and that will give us the City League title,” Prichard said. “We just don’t want to tie again.”
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But Carroll and Northwest share the same goal.
“I’d like to think that we are that team that can beat (Northwest) in the tournament,” Carroll coach Mark Stovall said.
Carroll’s light weights are strong, while Northwest’s heavier weights are its strength. When the two met earlier this season, Carroll’s wrestlers were competing up in weight classes to fill holes left by injured and sick teammates. Northwest won 30-27.
The rivalry between Carroll and Northwest will add an extra competitive element.
“I don’t think I’d be an effective coach if I didn’t try to sell that rivalry and get those competitive juices flowing,” Stovall said. “Athletes respond to that.”
Don’t count Kapaun Mount Carmel out. The Crusaders fell to Carroll by four points, and to Northwest by one point, and have a group of strong competitors sprinkled through its lineup.
“I think the big three this year would probably be Kapaun, Carroll and Northwest, not in any order,” Southeast coach Mike Atlee said. “Those three are the upper echelon.”
The level of competition in the City League has steadily increased, and will be evident at the tournament. The league has added well-known coaches such as Atlee, who took over the Southeast program this year. Kenny Taylor returned to his alma mater, West, to coach this year as well, while Stovall returned last season.
“I think everybody’s doing a good job,” Atlee said. “I’ve been pretty successful everywhere else I’ve been. I think we’re right around the corner at Southeast to do the same thing.”
Potential matchups — The 132-pound weight class could be interesting, with Kapaun’s Patrick Burrus giving West’s Marcus Phillips his only loss on the season when the two met earlier in a league dual. Northwest’s Shane Brock defeated Burrus Monday by one point, but did not face Phillips this season.
At 160, Northwest’s Saul Ortiz remains undefeated, but could potentially see West’s Kalin Collins — last year’s 6A state runnerup—in the final. Both are ranked second in the state in their classifications.
East first-year wrestler Carlos Brown is undefeated in the City League at 220 but could have tough opponents in Northwest’s Jordan Bell, who is ranked fourth in 6A, Kapaun’s Sam LaFleur, and Carroll’s Nick Nolting.
West’s Jesse Oliver is ranked second in the state at 170, and could find a tough matchup with Northwest’s Micquille Robinson.
Carroll’s Tommy Marquez is ranked fourth at 182 and has had a solid season; his biggest competition could come from Northwest’s Andre Turner.
Still undefeated — North’s Caleb Franklin is undefeated at 195 heading into the tournament Saturday, but could see a tough opponent in Carroll’s Chris Dugan.
West’s Idris Elias has been tearing through his opponents this season at 106, and owning his weight class in the City League. Kapaun and Carroll have strong lighter weights, and could be where Elias’ biggest competition will come from.
Heights’ Sean Deshazer has cruised through his City League duals at 126.