Arkansas City head coach Greg Buckbee can travel around the state all he wants. He just can't seem to evade state championship trophies.
After winning a state title coaching Ark City in 2003, Buckbee went to Emporia where he led the Spartans to the first of back-to-back championships in 2009, before coming back to the Bulldogs. Three seasons later, he brings down another championship with Ark City, scoring 153.5 team points, better than second-place Newton with 147.5.
“We have a returning state champion that doesn’t make it to the finals we have a runner-up that doesn’t make it to the finals,” said Buckbee. “The team could have given up and not tried that hard but they came through as a team.”
This championship has a unique feel for the Bulldogs. The giant trophy is the only first-place hardware going back to Ark City, as the Bulldogs won the team title without a single individual champion. With no one leaving with individual hardware, it was the team coming together that resulted in the title shared by all.
“For some of you guys this isn’t the way you wanted it to go but you will remember this for the rest of your life,” Buckbee told his team after wrapping up the team title.
Ark City had three second-place wrestlers in Logan Terrill at 106 pounds, Cody Eastman at 132 pounds, and Tyler McMichael at 152. The Bulldogs had nine total placers in the top six.
After suffering the second loss of his Kansas career to Justin McPhail in overtime of the 215-pound semifinals last year, Kapaun’s Luke Bean was on a mission.
“It was really disappointing losing in overtime in the semi-finals and I came back stronger,” said Bean. “I worked harder than I have in the recent years and it paid off this year big time for me.”
The senior got his redemption, finishing on top with an undefeated state championship season. The unlucky opponent standing in Bean’s way at 220 was Cash Drylie from Hays.
After some feeling out, Bean got the only takedown he needed in the first minute of the match. With about 20 seconds left in the period, Bean turned Drylie and pinned the Indian with 5 seconds left in the first period to get the elusive title.
“It will take me a while to calm down,” said Bean. “I feel like I can go out and wrestle another match right now.”
The End of a 5A Wrestling Trilogy
If it is a 5A state tournament, you can count on seeing Zac Gentzler from Andover Central facing Javier Vieyra from Salina South in the finals. In the two previous years, Gentzler took the title from Vieyra. So this year, Vieyra came into the 113-pound finals looking to get out from under the Jaguar’s paw.
However, from the start, Gentzler looked like a wrestler who had won in the spotlight before. Gentzler took down Vieyra at will, winning his third-straight title with an 11-4 win.
While Vieyra is done wrestling in high school, Gentzler is just a junior with one more title standing in the way of joining the four-time champions’ club.
“It’s great,” said Gentzler. “Not only to have my third straight-state title but I’m now only one step away from achieving my goal. I’m not going to stop until I get there.”
Newton Storms Back onto the State Scene
Ever since John Ravenscroft told wrestling coach Dave Winters that a young freshman who had quit the team named Albert Martinez was going to be the state champion he needed to launch the program in 1960, the Railers have been winners.
It has been awhile since Newton made a run for state, but in 2012 the Railers rebounded. With two state champions and eight state placers, the Railers stormed back onto the scene.
Newton’s first state champion came at 145 pounds, when Miles Johns got over the hump of a second-place finish last season. Johns had the unenviable task of taking on Goddard’s Lincoln Lemon, a third-place finisher last year in the 6A tournament, but was aggressive from the beginning.
Johns looked for takedowns and got one in the first period on the way to a 3-1 lead after two periods. Lemon made one last attempt to get a leg trailing by one in the final seconds, but Johns fended him off to get a 5-4 win.
“It has been bugging me until a few seconds ago,” Johns said of previous state losses. “I wasn’t going to let this one slip and it feels excellent. It’s been eating at me a lot. Not in a bad way but it pushes me and makes me work harder. You know when you lose a match like that and you know you could have done more it really gets to you. It’s pushed me to get me where I am at right now.”
Dillon Archer faced a similar challenge with Preston Solomon from Andover Central at 195 pounds. Archer took Solomon down with 40 seconds left in the match to go up 8-6. Solomon escaped, but couldn’t get a takedown in the final seconds in an 8-7 win for Archer.
“We’re starting a new era of wrestling for Newton and I think it’s going to continue with the strong wrestlers that we have,” said Archer.
Wait, It’s Over? Already?
Maybe the most impressive performance in the finals, on either side of Hartman Arena, was Preston Weigel from Hays taking on Manny Capps from Goddard at 170 pounds.
When you get to the state finals, it is not supposed to be easy. It’s not supposed to be, and it really isn’t. But every once-in-a-while, a wrestler comes along that makes it look that way.
Weigel got his first and only takedown in the first 30 seconds of the match, and then started piling up the near falls. Before the first period could come to an end, the Hays grappler was standing in the center of the mat with his hand raised after a 16-0 tech fall.
Lions Enter the 5A Realm
Before Heights took the 6A title last season, Goddard was 6A wrestling, winners of four titles from 2006 to 2010.
But after splitting the district in two with the addition of Goddard Eisenhower, the Lions faced the 5A side of the arena.
Goddard’s Dakota Leach became the first champion crowed at 106 pounds. Leach returned to state after a fourth-place finish at 6A last year.
“Everything,” said Leach about what it means to be a state champion. “It almost brings me to tears sometimes.”
Against Logan Terrill from Ark City, Leach came away with the necessary takedown to take the first-place hardware with a 3-1 win. Leach picked out one of Terrill’s legs in the first minute of the match, and the two traded escapes in the second and third. Needing to avoid a match-tying takedown, Leach defended the final shot to get the wins.
Goddard had three second place finishers with Lemon, Capps, and Topeka Seaman’s Bryant Guillen pinning Tyler Kimple in the 160-pound final.
The Best of the Best Open the Doors for a New Member
The list of wrestlers who have won four state titles in Kansas is not a big one. But after this year’s 132-pound final, the group got one bigger.
Lansing’s Bo Pursel became the 28th person to reach the ultimate high school career pinnacle with a 4-1 win over Cody Eastman of Ark City.
“It feels good,” said Pursel. “It’s been a big goal of mine for a lot of years. Every year that went by and I won. I seem to get closer and closer and the stress seems to get more and more and the pressure seems to get higher and higher. It just feels really good to have that pressure off and be one step closer to my goals.”
Pursel clung to a 2-1 lead after the second period and started the third on the bottom. In desperation mode, Eastman looked to become the first and only high school wrestler to beat Pursel and tried to roll Pursel for back points.
Pursel, however, was much too skilled to let Eastman get away with it and used the Bulldog’s aggression to score a reversal to seal the win.
Seniors Leave with a Pair of Titles
Andover Central’s Alex Bontz capped off last season with an undefeated individual title to go with Central’s team title. This season, Bontz was looking for two in a row.
At 152 pounds, Bontz faced Ark City’s Tyler McMichael in his bid for a pair of championships. Bontz controlled the action, mostly trading takedowns for escapes on his way to taking out McMichael 7-4.
“It is different because he is one of those wrestlers that has been around since we were 5 years old,” said Bontz. “We’ve gone up against one another about 20 times throughout our lives. We know each other’s skills and weaknesses and he’s a tough wrestler overall.”
For Emporia’s Brandon Charbonneau, his bid at 138-pounds wasn’t for a second straight title, but it was for the second of his career, winning at 130-pounds in 2010.
Standing in Charbonneau’s way was Tommy Williams from St. Thomas Aquinas. Charbonneau used all of the first period to set up a takedown in the last 5 seconds. After an escape in the second, Charbonneau had a 3-0 advantage.
In the third, Williams escaped and tried to get a takedown to tie, but Charbonneau’s defense locked up a 3-1 win.
From Sixth to First
Last season, Shawnee Heights grappler Nick Meck left Hartman Arena as the final 171-pound placer at sixth place. This season, Meck wrestled his way into the 182-pound final against Hunter Weddington from Andover.
Weddington struck first with a takedown right off the bat. Meck got back with an escape and a takedown of his own to go up 3-2.
From there, Meck extended the lead to 6-2 before Weddington started to fight back.
Weddington took advantage when Meck got too high on his back. The Andover wrestler slipped out the back to cut the lead to 6-4 with the reversal to end the second period. In the third period, Meck once again found his weight too high on Weddington.
Needing the reversal to tie, Weddington couldn’t slip out the back a second time and Meck held on to a 6-5 win to take a title.
Aquinas Grabs a Pair of Titles
The Saints came into the tournament ranked No. 2 in the state and came up a little short in the team standings. But Aquinas did have a pair of wrestlers grasp individual titles.
Isaac Dulgarian, an Aquinas freshman, ended his first high school season in style at 120-pounds. Dulgarian ripped off the first 2 points of his championship match against Chris Burley from Great Bend with an explosive duck under.
The points were only the beginning for Dulgarian, who ran up the points with ease on the way to a 15-2 win.
The Saints ended the tournament with a championship as well. In the 285-pound final, Aquinas heavyweight Eric Mason faced Mill Valley’s Zach Callahan.
Mason and Callahan traded escapes in the second and third periods to set up a 1-1 tie in the third. After a penalty point was awarded to Mason, Callahan went for a desperation takedown which cost him. Mason used Callahan’s mistake to get a takedown of his own and take a state title with a 4-1.
Michael Olsen from Lansing planted his flag in the state tournament as a sophomore with a second-period pin over Mill Valley’s Tyler Dickman.
The Lansing Sophomore took a 4-2 lead after a takedown with 30 seconds left in the second period. Dickman tried to escape with a granby roll, when Olsen caught him.
As Dickman was rolling, Olsen waited for him to rotate with his back to the mat, and stuck him to get a pin with 7 seconds left in the second.
For complete 5A state brackets, click here.