Caney Creek wrestling coach Jacob Ferguson was on the ground floor of the beginning of the program as a volunteer assistant in 2016 before becoming head coach a year later. So he’s seen first hand the growth of the program.
The Panthers have seen successes in recent history, including multiple wrestlers making it to the state tournament.
But on Wednesday, Caney Creek wrestling did something it had never done before.
The Panther boys had a great day on the mats at Houston ISD Pavilion and it resulted in the District 12-5A championship, a first for the program in its fifth year of existence.
Ferguson, who was selected Coach of the Year for the district at the meet, chalked it up as Caney Creek as a whole is moving in the right direction as an athletic program.
“It’s remarkable for us,” Ferguson said in a phone interview Thursday morning. “There’s a lot of good things coming.”
Caney Creek totaled 204 points, ahead of Friendswood’s 175 and Kingwood Park’s 100. Houston Waltrip was fourth with 96 points.
“I kind of always thought that this area had the potential to become a good wrestling program,” Ferguson said when asked about the uprising of the program over the years. “We have some gritty kids over here. As long as the kids put in the work…it’s just day in and day out process. Constantly tweaking stuff.”
The Panthers racked up the medals too and qualified 13 total wrestlers — 11 boys and 2 girls — to move on to the Region III-5A meet next Friday and Saturday at Anna ISD.
“We talked to them all week that this was the expectation,” Ferguson said. “We were going to go out there and our goal is to be one of the top teams in the region. Once I saw our district, I didn’t think we were going to have a problem. They wrestled well, but there were a few finals matches that kind of rubbed us wrong where kids got a little defensive. But that was about it. Besides that, I can’t complain too much. It’s over and we’ll just work towards next weekend.”
The Caney Creek girls team had four competitors at the district tournament and finished eighth with 14 points. Friendswood won the team title with 115 points while Houston Milby followed with 88 points and Kingwood Park totaled 70.
All 11 regional qualifiers for the Caney Creek boys came out of championship matches. This year, only the top three (instead of four) from each weight class advanced to the regional tournament due to COVID-19 protocols.
Emmanuel VillaGomez, a state qualifier last year and a third-place finisher at the regional meet, advanced in the 113-pound bracket with a gold medal. Joshua Thomas (152), who also won gold Thursday, is the other Panther to return to the regional meet after placing sixth there a year ago.
James Vera won gold at 195 while Jaxon Lawhorn (145) and Jacob Nance (170) exceeded expectations by winning district championship matches as No. 2 seeds, respectively.
“I think everybody performed,” Ferguson said. “We had two guys that were seeded lower than they finished. They were just seeded second because of the short season and not seeing the other opponents and not having too much to go off of. Besides that, a lot of guys finished where I expected them.”
Taking silver medals to advance to the regional meet were Jordan Nance (126), James Ochoa (132), Jaden Mackinnon (138), Mickio Lopez (160), Joshua Phillips (182), Clayton Redd (220).
For the Lady Panthers, junior Skyla Fedick (102) and sophomore teammate Rubi Gonzales (110) each fell in their respective semifinal matches. But due to the fact that there were only three competitors in each bracket, both Fedick and Gonzales advance to the regional tournament after winning third place by default.
“They wrestled well in the matches they did have,” Ferguson said. “They are two first-year girls that get the opportunity to wrestle at the region tournament. They’ll definitely get a good experience out of it.”
In five years, Ferguson has been building his program starting with youth teams that will eventually feed into the high school.
“Any good wrestling programs that you’ve seen up north and other areas of Texas, I’ve been able to get that going around here,” Ferguson said. “That’s what we’re working towards.”