A little snow and cold weather could not slow down the Class 3-2-1A State Wrestling Tournament on Saturday. With snow on the ground and temperatures in the single digits, the show simply went on at Fort Hays State University’s Gross Coliseum.
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Norton cruised to its second-straight team title with 127 points. The Bluejays have now won state four of the last five years. This year, they did it despite losing three key wrestlers, including two returning state medalists, in the last month.
“Most people who are seeing what we did here today don’t realize that my 106 pounder who took third is a JV kid,” said Norton Coach Bill Johnson. “My 152 pounder was a JV 145 pounder. He almost placed. I’m just tickled.”
Rossville finished second with 81 points, just beating out Beloit by a single point. Atchison County finished fourth with 78 points, and Hoisington rounded-out the top-five with 75 points.
Individually, there were plenty of spectacular accomplishments, including four-year state champions and undefeated wrestlers.
At 152 pounds, Rossville senior Tagen Lambotte entered as a three-time champion with just one loss this season. He pinned two of his first three opponents to reach the finals where he edged out Centralia senior Andrew Beck 4-3.
“It was on the bucket list,” said Lambotte, who will wrestle at NCAA powerhouse Iowa next year. “I’ve been wanting to be four-time since I was in junior high. I can check that off but I’m by no means done. I’m moving on to the next step.”
Not that it was easy. Beck, ranked No. 2, neutralized Lambotte through two periods as the pair entered the final two minutes scoreless. Lambotte was able to get to his feet in the third period and that’s how he won his fourth title.
“ That’s where I’m good and that’s where I can get to my offense,” he said. “I don’t want to be underneath someone like I was. That wasn’t good.”
At 138 points, Fredonia senior Brogan Humphrey also won his fourth-straight title. He went up against Norton senior Alec Hager, ranked No. 2 after finishing second at 126 pounds last year. Humphrey was never in trouble, leading 13-4 after two periods en route to a 15-6 win.
“It was probably one of the biggest wins of my life,” Humphrey said. “I’ve been working on it since I was six years old. It felt worth it knowing I’d won it.”
Hoisington’s Brandon Ball put together another undefeated season (43-0) to claim his third-straight title at 132 pounds. Ball, who has one more year of eligibility, has not lost since his first year with Hoisington, posting a 127-2 record in that span.
Ball won a regional title with a win against Bennington sophomore T.J Ragnoni. Ranked No. 3 in the state, Ragnoni worked his way to the finals with a 9-7 overtime win against No. 2 Logan Bowen. Ragnoni was able to avoid the pin in his regional meeting with Ball. Saturday, Ball struck quick with a pin early in the first period.
In one of the premiere match-ups of the night, Sacred Heart senior Nick Wuthnow completed a second-straight undefeated season with an 11-4 decision against Riley County senior Gavin Grater. Grater, ranked No. 2 and a now four-time medalist, won state at 182 pounds last year. Wuthnow won at 170 pounds last year, and also earned his fourth state medal. Wuthnow ends his prep career with a win-streak of 78 matches.
“It’s an awesome feeling-indescribable,” he said. “Hard work and working out all season really does pay off.”
He had wrestled Grater, but knew what not to do. A takedown in the second period gave Wuthnow a 9-3 lead and he was able to ride the lead to the finish line.
“From what I’d heard and looking him on the internet, I saw he was an upper body type of guy and a thrower,” Wuthnow said. “I was going into that match thinking I would go in and stay low and keep my elbows in.”
At 120 pounds, Hoxie freshman Tristan Porsch has made an immediate impact. As the top-ranked wrestler in the state, Porsch pinned his first two opponents. In the finals, he cruised to a 13-7 decision against Smith Center freshman David Hileman, ranked No. 6. Porsch finishes the year at 39-0 and likes the bar set high for the remainder of his career.
“The future is always going to be the same: keep winning state championships and keep going undefeated,” he said.
Beloit senior Bowe Behymer completed a perfect season at 160 pounds with a 12-8 win against Doniphan West sophomore Garret Dunlap, ranked No. 3. Behymer (39-0) nearly gave himself up for the team trying a move for extra points despite an 11-6 lead late in the match. He ended up on his back but only for a moment.
“I was trying to throw a lateral drop,” Behymer explained. “We’re in the team race and I was up by three so I was trying to get the major decision and get a five-point win. I knew if I did fall to my back I could easily get off of it so I was going for it.”
St. Mary’s junior Greg Tooley also completed a perfect season, beating second-ranked Michael Dusin of Phillipsburg 12-5 in the 145-pound finals. Tooley, now a two-time medalist, led the three-time medalist Dusin 8-2 after a takedown late in the second period. Humphrey finished second at state last year as Brogan Humphrey’s final victim of 2013. The move to 145 pounds from 138 worked.
“It felt good,” Tooley laughed. “It’s the best day of my life.”
Troy junior Tristan Speer was the other wrestler to complete a perfect season. At 195 pounds, top-ranked Speer cruised to a 6-0 win against Cimarron junior A.J. Cooper, ranked No. 4 in the state. Speer finishes his season at 42-0.
Ellsworth senior Ty Nienke had the opportunity to end a decorated career with a bang. The now three-time medalist has been ranked No. 1 most of the season and was 36-0 entering the finals against Norton’s Branson Addington, the No. 2 wrestler in the state and a returning medalist. Addington was able to take Nienke out of his game to edge out a 3-2 championship. Nienke had beat Addington 9-2 just a month ago.
“I just tried to be as relaxed as possible going out there,” the senior Addington said. “He was tense and nervous it looked like to me so that gave me some confidence.”
The final two matches of the night proved to be the most exciting. At 285 pounds, the final match of the year, Sylvan-Lucas senior Fritz Berger, ranked No. 1, made a late move to take down and pin Beloit senior Bryce Brack, ranked No. 3, with 13 seconds left in the match for the title. The match had only had one point prior to that.
“I was just trying to maintain or trying to get one more,” Berger said. “It was just kind of hectic there at the end.”
The 220-pound match had a wild finish. Marion junior Kyle Palic entered the finals as the No. 3 wrestler in the state. Oakley junior Dylan Gassman entered unranked. Gassman used a late take down to gain a 3-1 lead, but a hand lock gave Palic a point. In the final two seconds of the match, with Gassman still ahead 3-2, Palic escaped Gassman’s grasp for a possible escape point or two reversal point. After discussion, Palic was awarded zero points and the title went to Gassman.
“I was just trying everything I could think of to hold him down, anything and everything,” Gassman said.
“It feels amazing. This is what I’ve worked for since middle school.”
The first championship of the day also featured some drama. Rossville freshman Bryce Gfeller, ranked No. 3, seemed to be in cruise control with a 13-5 lead after two periods. Late in the third, he barely escaped a pin by Atchison County freshman Hunter Ostertag, ranked No. 4. Gfeller went on to win 13-10.
“The key there was a good warm-up,” Gfeller said. “My practice partner and I went into the wrestling room and warmed up so I was really loose in the beginning. I just wanted it really bad.”
Plainville senior Dylan Weisner also gave credit to his warm-up partner for a state title at 170 pounds. As the top-ranked wrestler, Weisner was leading Rossville’s Isaac Luellen 11-2 before pinning the second-ranked sophomore in the third period.
“It feels really good,” said Weisner, who finished second a year ago. “My coaches have helped me a lot and I have a really good practice partner who pushed me every day.”
At 126 pounds, Silver Lake junior Haegan Schaefer defeated Rawlins County junior Macrae Migchelbrink 10-4. Schafer won the battle of returning medalists and top-two wrestlers to improve on a fifth-place finish a year ago at 120 pounds.
“I came here to dominate and I think I succeeded,” Schaefer said. “It was exactly what I thought it would be – my whole crowd cheering for me and my dad at the side of the mat coaching me and telling me what to do.”
Prior to the finals, Norton’s head coach was awarded a very prestigious honor as the National Federation of High School National Coach of the Year.
“It’s huge,” Johnson said of the recognition. “We’re talking about all the scholastic high schools in the United States of America. When they told me this, I was really, really shocked.” Johnson has been a head coach in Kansas for 25 years, including the past 23 years at Norton.
Other medalists include:
Norton sophomore Skylar Johnson entered the state tournament as the No. 1 wrestler in the state with just two losses. He had to settle for the bronze, defeating Wellsville sophomore Dylan Leckner 10-1 for that prize. Johnson controlled the match early on, leading 6-0 after two periods and holding an 8-0 advantage in the third period.
In the fifth-place match, Fredonia senior Trevor Haun, ranked No. 2 in the state, defeated Hoxie sophomore Bryce Bacon 8-2. Haun controlled that from the start leading 2-0 after one period and leading by as many as seven points later in the match.
In the third-place match, Silver Lake freshman Dalton Dultmeier, ranked No. 4 in the state, defeated Marysville sophomore Chris Deters, ranked third. The match was knotted at two at the end of the second period. Dultmeier picked up an escape point to open the third period and never trailed again, scoring two more points later in the match to secure a 5-2 win.
Points were had to come by in the fifth-place match. Fredonia junior Gavin Burgess scored the only two points in the second period to down TMP Tucker Rhoades 2-0. Rhoades had entered state as the No. 6 wrestler in 3-2-1A.
Fredonia junior Sam Aylor, ranked No. 5, wrestled from behind most of the way against No. 4 Cody Salazar, the No. 4 ranked-wrestler from Sterling. Salazar led 5-2 after two periods, and was still ahead 5-3 after an Aylor escape 11 seconds into the third period. Aylor had the final say, pinning Salazar in the closing moments of the match to capture third place.
Lyons senior Marshall Schottler already had two state medals under his belt entering the 2014 tournament. He was an early favorite as the second-ranked wrestler in his bracket. After falling in the semifinals, Schottler again ran into Ellis freshman Dalton Hensley, ranked No. 3 in the state. Schottler defeated Hensley in the second round on Friday but fell to Hensley 3-1 in the fifth-place match.
Pleasant Ridge senior Blake Graham entered state unranked but moved his way through the brackets to finish third on Saturday. In the consolation finals, Graham ran into Smith Center sophomore Cale Rogers, ranked No. 5 in the state. Rogers led most of the way after registering a first-period take down. Rogers still held a 3-0 lead in the third period before Graham made his move to get the win late in the match.
In the fifth-place match, Council Grove senior Austin Schwartz, ranked No. 4, got the shutout in a 7-0 decision against Minneapolis freshman Cannan Smith. Schwartz led 2-0 after two periods before turning it on for some insurance points in the final two minutes.
Atchison County junior Logan Bowen was ranked No. 2 in the state but found himself in the consolation finals where he defeated Silver Lake sophomore Hunter Howerton. Bowen pinned Howerton early in the second period.
In the fifth-place match, Bluestem junior Casey Garner, ranked No. 4, pinned Norton senior Toby Nickell.
The consolation finals featured the No. 3 and 4 wrestlers. Beloit sophomore Carter Wessling pulled off the upset of sorts. Tied 1-1 after two periods against Caney Valley junior Colton Stalford, Wessling used a reversal with 26 seconds to go to get a 3-1 win. Hoisington freshman Jonathan Ball, ranked No. 5, defeated Atchison County junior Willy Dieckmann 5-2 for fifth.
Norton junior Jared Tallent led Decatur Community’s Dayton Dreher 1-0 after two periods. Fourth-ranked Tallent used late points to get a 6-2 win against No. 3 Dreher. St. George senior Marc Reiss had an easier time in the fifth-place match where he blanked Eureka sophomore Chuck Schmidt, ranked. No. 5, 7-0.
An escape point proved to be the difference in the consolation finals. Smith Center senior Clint Rogers, ranked No. 6, got the point just seconds into the third period. That was the only point of his match against Beloit’s Tanner Niemcyzk, ranked No. 4. In the fifth-place match, Atchison County senior Justin Wagner, ranked third, pinned Halstead senior Petter Ekroll.
In a match that was decided in the final half minute, Burden-Central sophomore Lucas McMichael, ranked No. 6, defeated Marysville junior Josh Nelsen 4-2. Nelsen was ranked No. 2 in the state but fell victim to a reversal with 20 seconds remaining. Southeast of Salnie senior Kreal Smith, ranked. No 4. defeated Decatur Community freshman Tabor Erickson 9-2 for fifth place.
Sabetha senior Michael Baumgartner, ranked No. 4, used a second period take down to get by Southeast of Saline senior Keith Short 3-1 for third place. In the fifth-place match, Atchison County senior Scott Birkinsha, ranked No. 3, defeated Marion junior Adam Janzen 9-2. Janzen was No. 5 in the state.
One point separated Wichita County senior Brice Mason and Decatur Community Rex Diederich after two periods. Third-ranked Mason held that slight 3-2 edge and used a late reversal to secure his bronze medal against No. 4 Diederich. Silver Lake senior Braeden Lockhart, ranked No. 5, picked up two points late in the second period and defeated Onaga junior Kyle Ames 3-1 for fifth.
In one of the most exciting consolation finals, Minneapolis junior Quentin Clark defeated Hoisington senior Avery Urban 3-2 in double-overtime. Clark entered state as the No. 2 wrestler in the state, and Urban was No. 3. Phillipsburg senior Seth Boswell won two points late in the third for a 3-1 win against Norton senior Kolton Harting in the fifth-place match.
Norton freshman Jacob Green, ranked No. 2, had already lost to Phillipsburg junior Luke Jacobs three times this season (and beat him once). Green was having none of it on Saturday, need just half a period to pin the top-ranked Jacobs for third place.
“Coach was telling me he wasn’t much of a thrower,” Green said. “I was sore and didn’t want to go all three periods so I went after him early.”
In the fifth-place match, Marysville senior Casey Hilton, ranked No. 5, defeated Ellis senior Skyler Tebo 4-3.
Chaparral junior Jaden Helms also claimed third place with a pin. Helms, ranked No. 4, led South Gray senior Zach Crick, ranked No. 2, 4-0 before getting the pin. Fifth-place was also decided by fall. Eureka senior Quade McCoy pinned Hoisington junior Chance Boor, ranked No. 5, with 32 seconds to go.