The history-making season for the Midlothian Panthers wrestling team concluded in historical fashion on day two of the 5A state championships in Houston.
And it was all capped by Jackson Carter jumping into the arms of Midlothian head wrestling coach Kevin Reed to celebrate.
Carter, a junior wrestler who competes in the 138-pound class, became the first-ever UIL state champion in Midlothian High School history when he defeated top-seeded Precious Essien, of Frisco Liberty, on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 24 at the Berry Center.
"He's only a junior, but this was his second time to go to the state tournament," said Midlothian head wrestling coach Kevin Reed of Carter, who finished second in the 5A Region II tournament after being the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class for the majority of the season. "He has been a great wrestler for three years and has been 'Mr. Consistent' for us."
Midlothian sent seven Panthers and one Lady Panther to the 5A state championships. Those student-athletes included Marshall Hodges, Felix Saunders, Brandon Bostwick, Jeremiah Boldon, Carter, Kaleb Tompkins, Santino Saunders and Jetta Pearl.
The Panthers entered day two in fourth place with 42 points and remained in that position to finish fourth in the 5A boys' wrestling standings with 78 points — just one-point behind third-place Highland Park.
The Scots took six wrestlers to the boys' state tournament, one fewer than the Panthers, and had four place-winners and one champion. Midlothian, on the other hand, had one state champion and three place-winners —Bostwick (4th, 160-pound class), Hodges (5th, 285-pound) and Tompkins (3rd, 220-pound).
Canyon Randall won its fourth team-state title with 156 points despite not having a state champion. The Raiders did advance four wrestlers to the finals and had nine of their 10 competitors stand on the place-winners' podium.
Dumas, who had won the previous two 5A state championships, finished third in the standings with 129 team points after taking 11 wrestlers to the tournament.
"If you finish top-five as a program, you are a pretty legit program," said Reed, who was named the 5A Coach of the Year following the showing by the Panthers. "It's a good way to put an exclamation point on a good year."
On their road to the state tournament, the Panthers first won the District 6-5A championship and followed two weeks later by claiming the program's first-ever 5A Region II championship.
Bostwick and Boldon were the lone seniors among the Panthers who competed at the state tournament.
"They have been with me for three years and have really shown some good leadership and shown the young guys how to compete every day," Reed said. "They have always been those steady guys who have always been around and help lead a program and they know how to compete for championships."
Bostick, who entered the state tournament as the second seed, finished in fourth place of the 160-pound class after he fell to eighth-seeded Thomas Tolbert, of Leander, in the third-place match. Tolbert also placed third in 2018.
Boldon fell in the blood round on day one of the 120-pound tournament.
Tompkins entered the championships as the 10th seed in the 220-pound class. He opened the tournament by defeating third-seeded Daniel Kim, of Carrollton Creekview, in the first round and No. 4 Jeff Jackson, of Amarillo, in the quarterfinals before falling to the eventual state champion, Jacob Munoz, in the semifinals.
Tompkins bounced back nicely with wins against No. 6 Austin Thornton (Dumas) in the consolation semis and then top-seeded Alex Torres (Lamar Fulshear) in the consolation championship to finish third in the 220-pound class.
Hodges finished fifth in the 285-pound class, which was won by top-seeded Chidozie Nwankwo, of Richmond Foster, over No. 2 Aidan Conner of Highland Park.
It was not the first taste of success for either Midlothian wrestler this school year, either.
Hodges starts on the offensive line for the Panthers football team, while Tompkins starts at defensive end. Both were instrumental in the Panthers advancing to the second round of the 5A football playoffs.
Reed noted the two have been "big contributors" for the wrestling team as well. He also said their successes on the wrestling mats will "absolutely" carry over to the football field next fall.
"Colleges now, when they recruit offensive and defensive lineman, they love guys with a wrestling background," the head coach explained. "It just so happens that both of these guys are really good at wrestling and great football players and they use that to their strengths in both sports. They are only sophomores and I think [wrestling] is going to help them be highly recruited over the next couple of years."
Reed added, "It's really hard to go out there in your sophomore year and compete, much less put yourself in a position to make a run at a state championship. I am really happy for both of those guys."
Reed noted that his team is typically comprised largely of wrestling-only student-athletes, though he does strongly encourage high school athletes to participate in as many sports as possible.
"For most of these kids, wrestling is just something that has stuck after they have tried other sports," Reed explained. "[...] I think it's probably about 30-35 percent of our team is usually multi-sport athletes. A lot of our team, not all but a lot, will have a youth wrestling background and Midlothian now has middle school wrestling. I have already gotten a couple from that program."
The remaining three Midlothian wrestlers all valiantly battled but fell on day one of the 5A state tournament.
Jetta Pearl secured the lone girls' state spot for Midlothian after she placed fourth in the 102-pound class of the regional tournament. She bowed out of the girls' tournament in the first round.
Santino Saunders placed fourth in the 106-pound class during the regional tournament.
Felix Saunders, who Reed described as a "really talented kid" who has had a lot of success at the youth level, ultimately fell on day one in the blood round of the 113-pound class. Reed added that Saunders has learned how to compete at the high school level and that he is excited to have all of the wrestlers return next season with the experiences gained from this year's historic run.