Foster girls win 1st regional championship
Richmond Foster wrestling added another layer of program-building Saturday afternoon, as the Falcons won the first girls regional championship in program history at the Region III-5A meet at Anna High School.
For third-year coach Scott Kimball, who was named the Region III-5A Coach of the Year, it’s a huge step in building the culture and winning tradition he expects of Foster wrestling, which has won the last two District 11-5A championships.
“This has been in the works for the last three, four years,” Kimball said. “All these kids are homegrown for us. Building the program when I took over, trusting my abilities and getting the right kids in the program to go win this championship. Them trusting in me and believing in me and all the systems I’m teaching them … it really paid off for us.”
The Falcons girls scored 131.5 points. Carrollton Creekview was second with 98. Princeton was third with 91, and Georgetown was fourth with 85.
Sophomore Madison Canales, who entered the regional tournament 29-0 after going 19-1 last year as a state-semifinalist, won the 128-class regional title. Senior Taylor Rich (185) and junior Kera Akanga (95) each placed second. Sophomore Jeannie Hawkins (102) placed third.
The top four in each weight class advance to the state tournament next week at the Berry Center in Cypress. Sophomore Mia Sands (110) finished fifth and will be an alternate.
“It’s a great feeling,” Kimball said. “The kids are happy, but the biggest thing is a lot of them aren’t happy, either. They know there’s more work to be done. I really think this is going to be the start of a run for us. I’ve got kids who are not happy with how they did, and they want to get back.”
Kimball commended the resilience of sophomore Lydia Patterson, who dislocated her elbow three weeks ago but returned to wrestle last week at the district meet, competing up in weight class (165) to boot, and helped the Falcons score major points to put them in position to do well at regionals.
Throughout the season, Kimball said he had a team that didn’t know how to prepare for matches. So, he put an emphasis on routine, mindset, and blocking out distractions.
When he watched them warm-up during the regional tournament, he saw a focused team that had flipped a switch in its sense of urgency and readiness.
“We were going into matches having already won because our kids were focused,” Kimball said. “They had their goals set. They wanted to meet them. They were going to keep pushing.”
Going into the semifinal round, Foster was only up by a half-point in first place. Coming out of that round, the Falcons were up 30.
Every Falcon wrestling in the semis won: three in the championship semis (Akanga, Canales, Rich) and two in the consolation brackets (Hawkins, Sands).
“We picked it up a notch. Other teams didn’t,” Kimball said. “And I had a senior not make weight, so we were even short one person. If she makes weight, she would’ve placed top six, but even without her, we still hammered it home.”
Canales is 33-0 heading into the state tournament. She has fixed mistakes that cost her last year, like improving at positioning and shooting faster shots.
Canales was down by one in the state semifinal last year with 30 seconds left and took a bad shot that doomed her. A shot she hadn’t taken all year. A shot that led to her opponent scoring, and winning.
Now Canales is ready. Experienced. She knows what to expect and what she has to do to finish the job.
“This girl just does not take breaks. I’m going to have to steal her shoes,” Kimball joked. “She’s constantly working to improve and be better. She’s always been mentally tough. It’s the in-matches that get her, but she’s going to be ready for it. Every time she does something wrong, she learns from it, and we don’t make that mistake again.”
Kimball said he will drill to all his state qualifiers this next week about situational wrestling and what to be prepared for, so the girls know how and when to score those points.
“I don’t care if they win or lose. I care if they give me 100 (percent effort),” Kimball said. “That takes a lot of pressure off kids. You can’t control if you win or lose, but you can control attitudes and approach.”