John Gilbertson is becoming “The Closer.”
He feels the pressure of the role. When the situation gets tight, someone has to seal the deal. Inevitably, in wrestling, that spot defaults to the heavyweight.
“Right before when I'm warming up, I feel the pressure,” Northwest's Gilbertson said. “I'm watching everybody else, cheering them on, and I have to go out there. Once I go out there, I just go in my zone.”
Wichita Northwest held a 33-30 lead over Kapaun Mt. Carmel heading into the 285-pound match. Simply protecting was not really an option for Gilbertson – a loss would send the contest to tiebreakers. Worse, getting pinned could give Kapaun victory.
It took overtime, but Gilbertson scored the decision that fended off Kapaun and sent Northwest to a 36-30 triumph.
This is Gilbertson's identity now. A week ago, he picked up a victory in the final match to swing the Grizzlies past Wichita Heights and preserve an undefeated dual record in the City League.
“It feels fantastic, but it's a team effort,” Gilbertson said. “I couldn't do it without these guys. They all pitched in with points.”
Before Gilbertson's punctuation, Northwest found critical points when Kyle Jackson earned a 5-4 decision win over Ethon Harp at 195 pounds.
To say it was new terrain for Jackson does not really give the moment its due. Earlier this week, he was wrestling junior varsity.
“He finally made the team on Tuesday,” said Northwest head coach Eric Prichard. “That was a big win, because we didn't really know what was going to happen. They had never seen him wrestle varsity before.”
Like Heights, Kapaun tested Northwest's composure, but also its resiliency to improve in a short amount of time.
“They beat us last weekend at the Junction City tournament,” Prichard said. “They took second and we took fourth, so we knew they were going to be tough.”
Northwest pummeled Wichita Southeast in the nightcap, 76-6. The dual was, again, closed out with a pin from Gilbertson.
That result puts the Grizzlies at 7-0 in GWAL duals, with a rumble with Wichita South standing in the way of an unblemished run through the regular season.
“We feel fantastic,” Gilbertson said. “We're just going to the city tournament and see if we can clean up. We have a great team here.”
Kapaun bounced back from its loss to the Grizzlies with a 68-12 romp of Southeast.