The Grapevine wrestling team will have a big hole to fill this fall. 220-pound state champion Blake Andrews and 170-pound state runner-up Gabe Cabrera will graduate in a few short days and both have committed to wrestle at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas.
“It will be hard to replace Blake and Gabe,” said head coach Kent Hall. “We actually have about half of the team graduating, so we will have seven more kids that will have to step up and try to find a place.”
After the state tournament, Andrews and Cabrera competed in the Senior Nationals in Virginia Beach, where Andrews took third.
“After that, a lot more colleges started talking to Blake,” Hall said.
Despite the increased attention, Andrews ultimately settled on Ouachita, where his older brother Jacob already holds a spot on the wrestling team.
“I am excited about going to Ouachita. The coaches there are really fun. They act like us when we are all just hanging out, but when it is time to go, they get serious and get down to business,” he said. “The team chemistry is great too. They knew I was Jacob’s brother and they really welcomed me when I went there.”
It helps to have another familiar face around a new school. Cabrera had not settled any college plans before his state appearance, but soon decided to join his friend.
“Making it to the state finals opened my eyes to the opportunity to wrestle in college,” he said. “I didn’t know what I wanted at the time, but after finals I saw that the sky was the limit. I know how hard it will be to wrestle in college, much different than in high school, but I am ready for the challenge.”
Both Andrews and Cabrera plan to wrestle close to their current weight classes, with Cabrera targeting 165 or 174 pounds and Andrews bumping up to wrestle in the heavyweight class.
“In college they jump from 197 to heavyweight. There is no 220-pound weight class like I wrestled in high school,” Andrews said. “I’m going to gain weight and get bigger and stronger so I can wrestle heavy in the fall.”
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Helping him reach that goal is his new teammate, older brother and daily training partner Jacob, who is home for the summer. Jacob has definitely been an inspiration to the younger wrestlers.
“This summer I am going to just be wrestling, lifting, eating, resting, and working on my technique,” Cabrera said. “I haven’t experienced a year of college yet, but seeing how Jacob changed his technique and got faster and better over his first year of college has given me something to look forward to.”
Hall wishes the two well as they move to the next level.
“It is a whole different world and it is a big step. I hope they are ready,” he said. “I told them that I would like to start a College All-American wall and that hopefully one of them will be the first on that wall.”
The plan sounds good to Andrews, who has great collegiate ambitions.
“I am going to strive to win the national title,” he said. “Four NCAA titles are what I’ve got my eyes on.”
Cabrera agrees, hoping to take Ouachita even further than they went this year.
“This year they were fourth in the nation, but we have a good recruiting class and we really have a good chance to win a national title as a team if we put in the hard work,” he said.
Whether or not that dream comes true, Hall just hopes the two remember what they learned as Mustangs.
“Hopefully they will have a good work ethic and they will get in there and get after it and be coachable,” he said. “I hope they work hard and make Grapevine proud.”