El Dorado set for state wrestling tournament

In their first two years, it’s been a case of close, but no cigar for El Dorado’s wrestling team with regards to having a state champion.

Two years ago, Dunte Maker reached the state finals in the 195-pound weight class, but came up short.

Last year, Sharnesia Tate reached the state finals in the 235-pound division, but was upended.

Today, the Arkansas Activities Association High School Wrestling Tournament gets underway at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock with wrestling to begin at 9 a.m.

The preliminary matches will take place today with the championship and consolation matches set for Saturday.

El Dorado heads to the state tournament with eight participants overall with three being No. 1 seeds.

The Lady Wildcats have a strong contingent at the top with Tate as the No. 1 seed at 235, while Katelyn Hayden and Destinee Smith are the top seeds at 120 and 135, respectively.

Maddie Aguiluz is the No. 2 seed at 100.

For the Wildcats, Evan Criss is the highest seed, checking in as the third seed at 175.

Richard Diaz, Chase Shults and Winston Williams are seeded fourth at 120, 138 and 190, respectively.

“It’s kind of the same thing over the last two weeks,” said El Dorado coach Alex Townsend said of the team’s preparation. “We’ve focused on the people that are going and focused on improving the ones that aren’t to hopefully get them in better form next year. We’re challenging them this week. We’re trying to get them as close to being what their potential is over the next week as possible.”

After coming close in each of the last two years, Tate and Hayden are top seeds with experience, while Smith won the regional in her first year competing in the sport.

Aguiluz got to the regional final before falling to Sylvan Hills’ Emele Siegfried.

The road for the Wildcats will be a tougher one with the trio of four seeds having to face the top seed in their respective classes right out of the gate.

For Townsend, he is expecting EHS to have its first state champion crowned.

“For me there is, and I certainly hope it’s the same for the kids as well,” Townsend said of his expectations of a state champion. “We’ve told a couple of the girls that we expect you that you’re going to win it if you do everything right and do everything we’re asking you to do. 

“It’s yours. Just do what we ask you to do. We expect that you’re going to do it as long as you take care of your business and you’re ready to go. You’re putting your full effort into practice. We’ve told a couple of them that already.”

Given their performance in the regionals over the last two weeks, El Dorado heads into the state tournament with plenty of confidence.

“I think the girls are going in pretty confident, I think the guys will have a little bit of confidence too, but with them being seeded lower, they’re going to have a tougher road,” Townsend said. 

“It starts off quick, so you’re going to have to be ready to go. On the girls side, I think they’re confident. I think our guys are confident of at least doing something in the state tournament. I think that they’re very capable of doing that.”

As he gets ready for his first state tournament as El Dorado’s coach, Townsend is eager to see how everything plays out.

“I’m excited to see how we do this weekend,” Townsend said. “I think our girls are confident and our guys should be confident that they can do something too. You’ve just got to be the best person one time to win.”

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