After winning the regional competition in the Hardin-Simmons Lineman Challenge, the Navarro Panthers linemen were hoping to take the state title in Abilene on June 22.

While they came up a little short of that goal, Navarro fared well, finishing fourth out of a dozen teams in Division II, just three-and-a-half points shy of second.

“We struggled in some events that we’re normally pretty good in,” Navarro defensive line coach Jacob Hudspeth said. “We set the state record in the farmer’s carry a couple of weeks before that at regionals, but we had some kids fall down and things like that.

“We got fourth, but we weren’t very far from first.” 

Argyle High School won the Division II title with 72 points to outdistance Gonzales with 57, Snyder with 54 and Navarro with 53.5.

The linemen competed in several different events including the 225-pound bench press, the power drive, dumbbell stack relay, farmer’s carry, tire-flip relay, obstacle course and a team tug-of-war, among others.

Ten of Navarro’s men in the trenches competed at the state meet, including seniors David Reyna, Grayson Hayes, Brett Butler and Troy Howard, along with juniors Carter Holtkamp, Brian Holmes, John Gilbert, Cole Booker, Cooper Syzdek and Leonardo Ocura.

Reyna won the bench press with 21 reps at 225 pounds, while the team finished in the top four of several of the other events.

“David won the event, and as a school we beat everybody in the bench press (with the most reps),” Hudspeth said. “We had no competitor that was under 16 reps.”

While they ran into trouble in the farmer’s carry, the Panthers finished high in several of the other events.

“We did pretty well in the other events, I believe we finished second or third in the tire-flip relay, and did well in the power drive and sled relay,” Hudspeth said.

Navarro was making its first trip to the state championship in Abilene.

“We had a lot of kids that had never competed in it before, so I thought the kids competed well,” Hudspeth said. “I’m hopeful that it will translate to the football season, which is coming up pretty quickly.”

The offense this fall will benefit from the competition by prepping what will be a young group, Hudspeth said.

“We’re going to be young up front, with a bunch of guys starting that may not have that much experience,” he said. “This kind of event is good for those kids, to compete as a unit and work together.

“This event is good for the big guys to go out and compete and build that team bond.”

Hudspeth gave strength and conditioning coach Jeff Harvey  credit to Harvey for his program at the school.

“Coach Harvey’s program that he put together has been incredible,” Hudspeth said. “We’re not going to have a single lineman that doesn’t squat more than 500 pounds.

“It showed in this competition especially. If you just look at the bench press alone, for us to compete against some of these bigger 4A schools, and to not only compete but beat them in those strength events, is impressive.”

Hudspeth said that if not for the stumbles in a couple of the relays, the Panthers could have finished higher.

“Realistically, we probably should have gotten second,” he said. “For our kids being so young and having never been there before, we were very proud of them.”

Navarro defeated two-time defending state champ Liberty Hill at the regional meet and also beat Cuero. Cuero won the state championship in 2018 and were the team responsible for knocking the Panthers out of the 4A Division II state playoffs

Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at sports@seguingazette.com.

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