It is February. Every second, every point, every match counts a little bit more right now. State is coming.
Derby showed it when it roared through the backside of the bracket to walk away with the team trophy at the Rose Hill Invitational – a feat accomplished without any individual champions.
“We always preach, 'You wrestle on the front side for yourself. You wrestle on the back side for your team,'” said Derby head coach Bill Ross. “The great thing about this sport is you have an opportunity to be a champion two times – you can be an individual champion, and you can be a team champion.”
The Panthers put two wrestlers in the championship match. Ben Becker lost a tight 4-2 struggle at 152 pounds to Pine Creek, Colo.'s Alex Smith. That marked Becker's second loss this season, both coming to out-of-state opponents. Garrett Xanders dropped a 6-2 decision to El Dorado's Bryce Morgan at 126.
But as far as the team went, those results did not matter. Derby locked up the title in the first match of the finals, when Augusta's Jake Goldenstein defeated Valley Center's Ryan Delforge 12-3. At that point, no other squad could catch the Panthers. Derby had already made its waves, placing six wrestlers in the consolation rounds.
“We have quite a bit of depth,” Ross said. “When you bring those points through the back door, it's going to help you be a good tournament team.”
Mulvane's Kolby Fennewald showed every second matters in the 170-pound contest. Augusta's Jacob Hill shoved on Fennewald's head, keeping him from hitting the shot he wanted. It led to Hill scoring a surprising 3-1 lead late in the third period.
“There was about 20 seconds left when it happened,” Fennewald said. “I knew that I'm good on bottom and can hit something really fast. I said, 'It's not over until the final horn blows.'”
A flurry of action saw Fennewald land an escape and a quick switch, pulling a 4-3 victory from the skin of his teeth.
Salina Central's Kade True (220 pounds) showed every point counts. He rode Valley Center's Luke Weldon in the second period. In the third, he earned an escape point. It was all True needed. His 1-0 triumph branded Weldon (40-1) with his first loss of the year.
“I'm really excited, but I'm trying to be humble about it,” True said. “He's a good wrestler. I'll see him again at regionals.”
Andover Central's Zac Gentlzer (120) continued his march toward perfection. He scored his 33rd win of the year in a 3-0 victory with a first period takedown of Andale's Tyler Mies.
Gentzler said being aggressive early is crucial when up against the state's best.
“Tyler is a stud,” Gentzler said. “In those big matches like that, it's really important to get that first takedown.”
Gentzler helped the Jaguars to third place, one-half point behind Valley Center, who placed second with 138. Derby finished with 148-1/2.
Three Andale wrestlers captured individual crowns – Hunter Furnish (113), Kyle Armstrong (160) and Levi Eck (182). Fort Scott found champions in Jacob Durossette (145) and John Metcalf (195). Geordan Martinez (138) joined Smith in giving Pine Creek two titles.
Valley Center's Zac Sander (285) won an overtime thriller over Winfield's Josh Horn, 3-2. Rose Hill's Jake Wilson made the home crowd happy with a 3-1 decision win at 132 pounds.