Cardinals wrestlers confident about future

Elizabeth High senior Gavril Houston, practicing with Cardinals teammates on Nov. 26, is one of the preseason favorites in the 120-pound weight class.
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Elizabeth’s Gavril Houston has his eyes virtually set on winning an individual state wrestling championship this season. And, a title in the Class 4A tournament in 2014 is certainly not out of reach.

Houston, an agile senior, was able to finish third in last season’s tournament, culminating with a 44-8 record at 120 pounds. As the season gets underway he will be at 126 pounds with plans to drop to 120 after the end of the year.

“I’m confident that it’s going to be a good season, not only for myself but for our team,” Houston said. “Last year was a good year for me and I’m looking forward to a successful one this season. I thought I improved a lot last year and I want that effort to carry over.

“The key is to work hard every time out at practice in our room and at meets,” Houston said. “We’re going to be stronger than last year, for sure. I’m looking for the season to get off with a bang. Guys like Rob and John Leonard, Josh Lee, Dallas Reins will be keys, too, but we’ve got a good lineup overall.”

Not only is Houston confident it’s going to be a good season, but so is Elizabeth coach Gary Martin.

“We certainly have a good group this season,” Martin said. “Right now, I think Gav has the best chance of being a state champion, but we would certainly hope to have more than one. Gav is headed for the Air Force Academy and he should be able to wrestle there, as well. He’s one of the smartest kids that I’ve ever coached and just an outstanding leader for us. I’m excited and we’ll just have to see how the season works out. All the kids are ready to go, that’s for sure.”

Tyler Erzen, at 106, is also a strong wrestler and good things should come from the Leonards, Reins and Kevin Pardes. Erzen and John Leonard are also returning state qualifiers, Erzen at 106 and John Leonard at 152. Both hope to improve as they both failed to place.  

“Rob Leonard had a concussion right before Christmas last season and he was just one match short of qualifying for state,” Martin said. “Overall, we didn’t lose much in terms of quality. It’s my 10th year here and as a team, this is probably the strongest I’ve been able to welcome back.”

Reins fashioned a pretty solid season a year ago and he, too, feels more success is just around the corner.

“I think we’re going to be pretty strong this season,” Reins said. “I was 27-9 last year and would certainly like a better record as well as having a chance to win a state title. I’ll be at 285 this season. I have some fine teammates and I do think we can send a large contingent to state.”

John Leonard, who will be wrestling at 160 as the season gets underway, feels the team is first and foremost on his mind.

“I want to do all I can to help make this a successful season,” Leonard said. “I think we can place among the top three with our team and I hope to make it back to state, too. I feel strong, confident. We all just want to make our coach feel proud.

“The key is not to have a big head and to keep calm, do the right things and not make a lot of mistakes,” continued Leonard. “I’m looking forward to also having my brother at state with me. That would make it 10 times more fun. We’ve got a good group and coach is certainly behind all of us.”

And, it’s a group that Martin feels can make for a great season.

“Overall, we didn’t lose much in terms of quality,” Martin said. “It’s my 10th year here and as a team, this is probably the strongest I’ve been able to welcome back. We have the kids that are ready to make the trip downtown (tradition in Denver).”