As The Santillan Family Mafia prepared for the start of wrestling season, Jose, a senior, made an offer to Jose R., a junior – an offer he couldn't refuse.
“When wrestling came into season, we debated on who was going to make 170 and 182,” said Jose Santillan. “I told him the better wrestler was going to get the weight they wanted. I went in there in the wrestling room and took 170, and he went to 182.”
A little friendly fire has worked wonders for Derby. The pair have become the heart and soul of the upperweights for the Panthers.
On Thursday, Jose earned a pin over Salina Central's Jack Helvey. Jose R. followed close behind with a 6-1 decision win over Mike McMullen. Wins come easier for the Santillans after the in-house battles.
“I think it's really good, because believe it or not, we're not soft on each other,” Jose said. “Growing up, we were pretty tough on each other. Whenever we get in the wrestling room, we bump our heads quite a bit.
“If you don't show weakness, not even to family, you're not going to show weakness to your opponents.”
The Santillans showed no weakness, and neither did the Derby roster as it rolled to a 53-15 win on its Senior Night.
Braden Dipman (106), Jeffrey Morrow (120), Garrett Xanders (126) and Tim Metler (132) rolled off falls to post a 27-0 lead for Derby after five matches. Salina Central earned an injury default win and a pin from Dalton Peters to cut the deficit to 27-12, but the Panthers responded with its brick wall in the middle of the lineup.
Ben Becker imposed his will to earn a technical fall in the first period in the 152 match. Chandler Ayer kept the momentum rolling with a 7-2 triumph.
It has been a long time coming for Ayer. The senior leader got back on the mat for the first time for Monday's practice as he recovered from a fractured rib and vertebrae.
“It definitely feels good, getting back in there,” Ayer said. “It was probably good for me to last the whole three periods. I'm a little out of shape, a little rusty. It's coming back, actually, pretty good. In a couple weeks I'll be right back into it.”
The Santillans' followed with their wins to seal up the dual with a 32-point lead. Blake Bradford won the 195-pound contest with a pin in 22 seconds.
“I just went in there confident, trying to do all I could for my team,” Bradford said.
Salina Central's Kade True battled for a 4-1 victory at 220. Derby's Markus Steinocher answered back with a decision win in the 285 finale.
A week ago, the wheels were falling off the Panther parade. Derby was not sharp in a dual with Campus. The lens came into focus this past weekend at the Newton Invitational. Whether Thursday's dual win was more progress or just riding the emotions of a final home match has yet to be determined.
“We're definitely not there yet, but each week we are making progress,” Ayer said. “I think by the end we will definitely be there.”