Coming off of a year in which they finished second as a team at the state tournament, the Flower Mound wrestling squad is looking to pick up right where it left off last season.
The Jaguars wrestling team finished 39 points behind Allen at state earlier this year and knows it will be a challenge to dethrone the Eagles at the competition in 2012— but they still have the best shot of doing so.
Flower Mound qualified seven wrestlers and an alternate for the state competition last season, and coach Steven Davis said, in spite of losing a lot of wrestlers from last year’s program, he is feeling optimistic about how things are shaping up this year.
“My best team in 25 seasons graduated last year,” Davis said. “This year’s team will be very competitive, but lacks the seasoning that comes with experience. We have some big events on our schedule, including a tournament at Allen, and a dual tournament at LSU. Both are during the holiday break, and both will include top-notch competition from multiple states.
“We will be tested to the limit at both events. More important than wins or losses will be the experience we gain at these events. Hopefully, by the time we reach the Texas State Duals, we will be battle tested and ready.”
Two of the big returners for the Jaguars this coming season are Dylan Akers and Drake Dudley, both of whom captured a state championship last season.
Davis said he expects big things from them both again this year.
“It’s a real blessing to have state placers in the room,” Davis said. “These guys know exactly what it takes to reach that level, and they can certainly relate to their teammates better than I can. If I tell the team that we need to increase the intensity, I’m just being a grouchy coach.
“But if Drake or Dylan tell someone they need to pick it up, the message becomes much more powerful. It’s like having a couple of additional assistant coaches in the room.”
Both wrestlers finished last season with more than 40 wins a piece, and Davis said it is quite a luxury to have two returning state champions in his lineup.
“I still believe that the team concept is most important aspect necessary to build a program,” Davis said. “I see the two state champs as a normal progression in developing a powerhouse program. Hopefully, in a few years, it will become the norm to have state champions in the room every season. To me, the most exciting thing about having champs in the room is that I know there are other kids in the room that will now have an accelerated opportunity to reach the ‘elite’ level.
“Imagine that you are the workout partner of a state champion. Just to survive practice each day, you will have to up your game to a whole other level. For some in our room, practices are now tougher than our competitions. They’ve got to get tough quick or take a beat down every day in practice.”
Akers, who won state in the 103 pound weight division last season, said the goals this year are pretty much the same as always for him and his teammates.
“We want to take first at state, but it is going to be a long shot with Allen,” Akers said. “But I think top three can be done easily, if everybody keeps working hard as they have been. I think we’ve got a shot at a state title, but the key is for everybody to put in the effort. I would also like to defend my state championship as well this year.”
As a defending state champ, Akers said he does feel more of an impetus to be one of the team leaders this season.
“I feel like I have a lot of responsibility to take on a leadership role,” Akers said. “We lost a lot of seniors last year, and I feel that I have done well with it. I’ve tried to step up and take on that role.”
Akers will likely wrestle in the 120 pound weight division in 2011-2012, and said he sees Nick Herrmann of Amarillo Tascosa as his biggest obstacle to repeating as state champ.
For Dudley, a state championship in the 160 pound weight class last season was a tremendous accomplishment, and the Flower Mound junior said he has been impressed with what he has seen from his team so far this season.
“Things are going well,” Dudley said. “Everyone is working hard right now, and we are gearing up for some big meets this week. Right now, we are taking it slow, because we don’t really know where everyone is going to go in terms of weight class.”
Dudley said his goal is to get back to state this year, and said that he also feels an obligation to provide leadership to the team this season.
“A lot of the kids right now are a little inexperienced,” Dudley said. “We’re going to try to get them as much experience as possible, and that’s definitely a big thing that I have to keep thinking about. It’s easy to follow a good example when someone else is doing it.”
Dudley said he will wrestle at 160 again this year, and said he anticipates his most difficult opponent this season to be Oliver Pierce out of Allen.
Flower Mound has emerged as a legitimate powerhouse in the sport of wrestling in Texas, and Davis said a state championship has become the objective every year, but the Flower Mound coach wants to take the necessary steps to put his team into a position to accomplish that goal at the same time.
“UT plans to win a national championship every season,” Davis said. “The Rangers plan to win the World Series every season. The Dallas Cowboys plan to win a Superbowl every season, and the Jaguar Wrestling team plans to win state every season. Is it realistic? Probably not. But if your reach does not exceed your grasp, then how will you ever know if you have reached your full potential?
“A state title is just one of our many goals for the season. We want to win a sixth consecutive district title. We want to defend our Region II title, and we want to finish in the mythical top 40 teams in the nation. Goals drive the program.”