By ZACH SMITH
Hill Country News
CYPRESS — It’s impossible to imagine the state wrestling championships without Vandegrift.
The Vipers sent a school-record nine athletes to the UIL State Wrestling Championships this weekend in Cypress and finished 13th overall as a team on the final day of competition on February 17.
“Programs go up and down, but the fact that we’re getting (athletes) here every year shows we’re doing something right,” Vandegrift head coach Paul Muck said. “We have an incredibly strong senior group that has pushed the team to this point.”
Two of those seniors advanced to the winners’ bracket after going 2-0 the day prior.
In the 157-pound weight class, Rex Jacops finished in 5th place in the 157-pound weight class, while Zach Hampton closed out his high school career with a bronze medal finish in the 175-pound division.
“This is a family, not just to me but everybody on the team,” Hampton said. “We look out for each other. This is one of the best teams Vandegrift has ever had, which is cool to be a part of. Everybody is trying to pick each other up and focus on the next match.”
Of the five wrestlers to make it to the state tournament last year, only Hampton came away with a podium finish (5th in the 182-pound weight class).
“The end of last year at this tournament, we were a little disappointed,” Muck said. “The (then-juniors) were our leaders last year too. This has been the easiest year of coaching ever for me because of those guys. We haven’t had a bad practice all year.”
On top of a school-record nine state qualifiers, the Vipers also set school records with five regional champions scoring the most points as a team in school history in the district tournament.
Hampton was named the most outstanding wrestler of the district meet and Derek Ruffin was named the most outstanding wrestler of the regional meet.
Muck was inducted into the Texas Wrestling Hall of Fame at the meet as well.
He has 23 years of coaching experience, has been the regional Coach of the Year seven time, was the State Coach of the Year in 2021 and has won 12 district titles, five regional titles with 411 dual wins and five state champions.
Muck has been at Vandegrift for eight seasons. He’s been at the state tournament every year.
It never gets old.
“Every year, there are new kids that are excited to be here,” he said. “But we also preach all week that you shouldn’t just be excited to get here, you should try to get on the podium and be in the top six. It’s always exciting.”
For Hampton, there’s no pressure to keep the success going, because he knows the work the team puts in will help them reach their goals.
The real highlight is the teammates that he’s had and the up-and-coming wrestlers he’s helping to mold.
“My brother joined the team this year,” Hampton said. “He’s a freshman, and watching them learn has been a big thing. It’s cool to see them get better. There are also two other seniors that are team captains, and we’ve been a power team of three since we were in middle school.”
Vandegrift qualifiers, results
Charlie Trujillo, 106 lbs
Derek Ruffin, 113 lbs
Carter Taylor, 120 lbs
Brandon Runhaar, 126 lbs
Logan Silvas, 138 lbs
Rex Jacops, 157 lbs — 5th place
Niklas Alvarenga, 165 lbs
Zachary Hampton, 175 lbs — 3rd place
Rowley Rebtoy, 190 lbs
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