SALINA, Kan.—Newton’s wrestling team earlier this season held No. 1 ranking in Class 5A for several weeks, but the Railers slipped all the way to No. 4 heading into the regional wrestling tournament.
On Saturday, the Railers stated their case as a threat for the Class 5A team championship next week by dominating the Salina South Regional Wrestling Tournament with 192 points. That total easily beat the Class 5A defending champion Andover Central Jaguars and their 154-point output. Click Here to see complete results.
Newton junior Quinton Harrison got things going right off at 120 pounds with a 3-2 decision win over Great Bend’s Chris Burley. Harrison scored an early takedown and forced Burley to play catch up the rest of the match.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Harrison said. “He is a good kid and I was just going to try and keep him on his defense because I am better when I am offensive.”
Hays’ Derek Stiles scored an upset at 126 pounds with a 5-3 win over Kapaun’s Lukas Maki in overtime. Stiles was on his heels early as Maki jumped out to a lead, but Stiles gained more confidence as the match wore on.
“He is a pretty good kid. I knew I would have to go really hard. I didn’t think I could hang with him at first, but after I pushed the pace I noticed I could,” Stiles said.
Stiles came into the tournament unranked, but he knocked off the No. 6 and No. 3 ranked wrestlers on his way to the regional championship as he proved rankings aren’t everything in the championship meets.
“They (rankings) don’t mean that much around this time because different kids go harder when they are facing a better opponent,” Stiles said. “You never know who is going to win just based on rankings.”
Great Bend’s Greg Burley took down Andover Central’s Luke Lee 6-4 at 132 pounds for the title. At 138 pounds, John McNabb needed overtime to beat Garrett McEachern of Newton 4-2.
Miles Johns made it two titles for the Newton Railers with an easy 11-4 win over Leroy Franco of Hays at 145 pounds.
Defending champion Alex Bontz dispatched Hays’ Ethan Deterding in quick fashion with a pin at the 1:48 mark of the first period.
Hays’ Kyler Meyers took a three-point win at 4-1 over Tyler McGaha of Salina South. Preston Weigel made it two in a row for Hays with a 15-0 tech fall of Newton’s Jared Langley at 170 pounds.
Hunter Weddington of Andover met a familiar face it the 189-pound final with crosstown rival Dalton Rodd of Andover Central. The two had wrestled twice previously this season and split those matches.
“Every time I wrestle him he gets a little bit better, so my strategy was to make sure that I had improved myself enough to take the win here,” Weddington said.
The Andover grappler got an early lead and then held on from there trying to avoid Rodd’s signature move.
“He has a head lock and I know that,” Weddington said. “My coach wanted me to be on top and finish on top in the last couple minutes of the match and that is when his headlock is most deadly.”
Weddington locked up a 3-1 win in a match that was not necessarily more of a personal victory just because of his familiarity with Rodd.
“Wrestling is a personal sport anyway,” Weddington said. “It is only you and one other guy out there, so it is always personal for me.”
Weddington will have a solitary week of training after being the only Trojan to make it to state.
“It is a lonely road. It kind of sucks to be the only guy out there warming up and to be the only guy having to get ready next week,”Weddington said. “It would be fun to have a little bit of companionship because we consider our team our family.”
The final five matches of the night were all decided in relatively dominating fashion.
Dillon Archer of Newton pinned Preston Solomon of Andover Central at 1:51 of the first period at 195 pounds.
At 220 pounds, No. 1 Luke Bean of Kapaun handled No. 2 Cash Drylie of Hays with a 13-5 win. Bean came out strong from the outset of the match to set a tone.
“I like to set a fast pace right off the bat (and) see if they can keep up with my style,” Bean said. “And he did. He did a good job in the first and second period.”
The second period was a bit slower for Bean, but he was able to increase the pace in the third for the big win.
“I felt a little slow through the second period; just finals jitters,” Bean said. “I picked it up quite a bit in the third period and found a way to pull out the major decision.”
Now Bean is focused on taking home a state title next weekend after losing to Liberal’s Justin McPhail in overtime in the state semifinals last year.
“It is tough to lose one in overtime like that especially when you are one of the top favored guys going in there,” Bean said. “I would like to get a little revenge this year and put myself back on top of the medal stand my senior year.”
Bean is not getting too confident even though he appears to have a clear path to the state title after dominating the No. 2 wrestler in his class on Saturday.
“I don’t pay much attention to the rankings,” Bean said. “You never know who you are going to step up against. Any guy on any given day can be just as good as you are if you are having an off day. You have to prepare mentally going in that you are going to face the toughest guy every time you step on the mat.”
Andover Central senior Matt Hendrickson only needed 48 seconds to pin Salina South’s Grant Flemming at 285 pounds.
The easy wins continued as the weights turned over to the little guys.
Kapaun’s Parker Howell turned Salina South’s Tyler Irwin to his back in just 39 seconds for the win at 106 pounds.
The night culminated with a rematch of the last two Class 5A 103-pound finals between Andover Central’s Zac Gentzler and Salina South’s Javier Vieyra.
To say Gentzler and Vieyra are familiar with each other would be a major understatement.
“We’ve wrestled all our lives. If I had to take an estimate it would probably be 100 matches we have wrestled,” Gentzler said. “We know each other. We’re really good friends in the summer.”
Gentzler beat Vieyra by just one point in a defensive battle for the state championship last year, but he was not going to sit back and play it safe on Saturday.
“The last couple in the state finals I tended to be really defensive,” Gentzler said. “This match I wanted to push myself and see how far I could go. I got on my offense and looked really good. It felt good too.”
Gentzler pushed the issue to an easy 11-4 win that has his confidence at an all-time high.
“I have all the confidence in the world right now,” Gentzler said. “Nobody can beat me right now.”
The Railers claimed the day as a team with 13 total entries heading to state next weekend at Hartman Arena in Wichita. Even Newton head coach Jude Wilson was a bit surprised by the dominating win.
“You don’t really know what to expect. You hope the kids are ready to go and for the most part they were,” Wilson said. “I knew that if they were ready and the wrestled up to potential they could do something like this.”
Wilson is not pegging his team as a favorite next week, but knows they are capable of competing well.
“We have some confident kids here. They know that if they wrestle tough next week that they could do something,” Wilson said. “They also know that this isn’t any ordinary tournament next week. When you throw everybody in the mix and you have 16 tough kids it is hard to say how things will play out.”