Pratt girls bounce back from rare losses, win regionals

Pratt took home the regional team title Saturday in WaKeeney
Pratt took home the regional team title Saturday in WaKeeney(Conor Nicholl)
Published: Feb. 14, 2021 at 12:55 AM CST
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WaKEENEY, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Tate Thompson has coached the Pratt wrestling program for 12 years. Since 2013-14, Thompson started to significantly focus on the mental side of wrestling when he noticed Pratt struggled some in big matches. Thompson, a Garden City graduate who competed for Hall of Fame coach Rocky Welton, has acquired a wealth of knowledge on mindset throughout his life.

Thompson and his staff provide wrestlers with a packet, and they individualize the information for each Greenback. The mental concepts include positive sayings, breathing techniques, focusing on the present and not getting overly nervous or anxious. Plus, Pratt has looked to not use any excuses, including sickness, as a reason for lower performance.

On Saturday, Pratt’s ingrained mentality helped the Greenbacks capture the girls’ Division II regional at WaKeeney-Trego Community High School. Pratt won with 122 points. Ellis took second at 93, and Hoisington was third at 80. Pratt ranks first in the latest Division II rankings from the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association. Ellis is third and Hoisington seventh.

“Girls are so easy to coach, because they listen, they are moldable,” coach Thompson said. “They have no ego, and it makes it just a lot of fun all the way around.”

Pratt collected three regional titles and all seven Greenbacks qualified for state. Sophomore Jadyn Thompson (30-1) captured the 115-pound championship with a 5-0 finals win against Lakin junior Isabell Ortiz.

Junior Livia Swift (27-1) earned the 143-pound title. She won by fall in 4 minutes, 22 seconds in the championship versus Ellis freshman Kaydawn Haag. The match was tied at seven entering the third period. Freshman Keimarla Thompson, Jadyn’s sister, improved to 23-10 with a 155-pound title.

Pratt junior Livia Swift took first at the 143 weight class
Pratt junior Livia Swift took first at the 143 weight class(Conor Nicholl)

Ortiz and Haag are both 24-3 and are the lone wrestlers to beat Jadyn and Swift, respectively.

“Today I was looking for revenge, and I feel good that I got it,” Swift said. “She’s a good wrestler.”

Entering the tournament, Thompson ranked second at 115, Ortiz third. At 143, Haag stood first, WaKeeney-Trego senior Sydney Boyle second and Swift third. Keimarla Thompson is ranked third. Swift and Keimarla are wrestling partners.

“She has got to be one of the strongest girls that I have ever wrestled, which I think you can see when she wrestles other people,” Swift said. “She works really hard. She is really tough.”

Swift, a defending state champion, earned WaKeeney regional wrestler of the year. In the semifinals, Swift pinned Boyle, who finished third. Thompson, the father of Jadyn and Keimarla, was regional coach of the year. Sixteen wrestlers per weight class remain in Division II.

Additionally, Hoisington sophomore Tally Wikum (25-2) defeated Rawlins County senior Kaileigh Morrison, 10-8, in the 138-pound final. Wikum was ranked first at 138 for several weeks, though lost to Morrison last week. Morrison was ranked third, Wikum fourth.

Hoisington sophomore Tally Wikum won the 138 pound weight class
Hoisington sophomore Tally Wikum won the 138 pound weight class(Conor Nicholl)

Hoisington coach Dan Schmidt labeled Morrison an “unbelievable” wrestler who was maybe overlooked a little because of few matches. Wikum worked all season and last week with Hoisington assistant Jonathan Ball, a former Cardinal state champion. Wikum called the loss “truly motivational” and knew she would receive a rematch.

“He reminded me how I really needed to focus on my mind game, because that’s what’s wrestling is truly about,” Wikum said of Ball.

Wikum had a key move that yielded the Cardinals’ lone regional titlist. All six Cardinals finished in the top-three. Wikum/Morrison was the closest of all the finals matches.

“We were mentally ready to go three periods, and we knew that it was going to be tough, and we had told them sometimes the match hangs on one move at the right time,” Schmidt said. “And for us today, hitting that big move – we had a big throw – that brought us back and put us up one when it looks like we are a little bit buried. And that got us going, and I think that was important for us in winning that match.”

In all other years, the top-16 would compete at the state meet next week. This year, the 16 wrestlers are considered state qualifiers. However, COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing measures brought four rounds of postseason, including next week’s sub-state that will trim the field from 16 to a final eight for state Feb. 26. It’s possible all of the key matches, such as Thompson/Ortiz and Swift/Haag, could again occur next Friday at sub-state in Ellis, and again at state.

Two years ago, Pratt had six girls and Swift was the lone Greenback to finish the winter. Last season, KSHSAA sanctioned girls’ wrestling for the first time. Jadyn elected to continue the sport. Pratt tied for fourth with 41 points with Swift and Jadyn as the lone state qualifiers in the all-classes state tournament.

Jadyn finished 30-8 and took fifth at 109. Swift went 33-3 at 143 and captured an exciting 3-2 championship match versus Mulvane’s Kammie Schanz. This winter, girls’ wrestling split into the two divisions. Jadyn and Swift recruited the middle school and Pratt has greatly jumped in numbers. Jadyn called the increase “so heartwarming.”

“They are really ready to learn, and they want to do good, because they want to see the same success,” Jadyn said.

Pratt took home the regional team title Saturday in WaKeeney
Pratt took home the regional team title Saturday in WaKeeney(Conor Nicholl)

In addition to the Greenback titlists, sophomore Lilly Herrman (21-12) finished third at 101. Senior Payton Woody (25-10) took third at 126. Freshman Emmaline Primrose (17-14) earned fourth at 132. Freshman Gloria Smith (17-9) finished third at 138. Pratt’s seven wrestlers were the most of any team in the field. All the girls are in weightlifting class at school.

“Everybody on the Pratt team has the passion for the sport, and we all love winning,” Swift said.

On Jan. 22, Swift was at the peak of sickness when she lost to Haag at the Cimarron Invitational by fall in 1:12. Earlier in the tournament, Swift had to face Keimarla in the round robin competition. She won by fall in 3:34. Swift fought a cold and had never wrestled sick before. Unbeknownst to Swift at the time, her parents wanted to pull her from the tournament. However, Swift was happy to wrestle Haag, an excellent multi-sport athlete.

“I am glad I got to wrestle that match,” Swift said. “It lit a fire inside of me that I didn’t quite have before.”

Last week at districts, Thompson fell, 7-2, to Ortiz.

“That was a big stepping point, because I was getting a little too comfortable with winning, and I think that just pushed me to want to drive more, and now I always want to win,” Jadyn said.

Thompson and Ortiz were scoreless after the first period.

“She just focused on being positive,” coach Thompson said.

Thompson would not let Ortiz escape at the end of the second period and controlled the match.

“Really just a big mental game for me, so I just tell myself ‘No one is stronger than me,’ and I wasn’t going to let that happen, because I knew I wanted that match so bad,” Jadyn said.

Thompson let out exuberance after the match ended. Ortiz was a third-place finisher at state last season.

“She wasn’t very mentally tough the first time she wrestled her,” Swift said. “Her switch didn’t flip, but this time it did I think before the match even started. She was just ready like me to get revenge.”

A few minutes later, Swift faced Haag, who took a 3-2 lead midway through the second and led 7-4 later in the period. Swift eventually tied up the match, and then won by fall early third.

“She just kept her head and stayed calm,” coach Thompson said. “…That girl is tough, and we have to be on her game to beat somebody like that.”

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