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Ellis’ Haag holds off defending champ Swift of Pratt

Ellis freshman Kaydawn Haag topped Pratt's Livia Swift for the sub-state championship
Ellis freshman Kaydawn Haag topped Pratt's Livia Swift for the sub-state championship(Conor Nicholl)
Published: Feb. 20, 2021 at 12:11 PM CST
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ELLIS, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Freshman Kaydawn Haag is long known for multi-sport success and athleticism in Ellis. She played football when she was younger. Haag participated in dance through Becky’s School of Dance in Hays, which she called “a tremendous difference” for balance and flexibility.

Haag has been involved in high-level softball for years and started as a freshman on Ellis varsity volleyball this fall. Haag’s father, Ron, is currently the Railroaders’ assistant wrestling coach after more than two decades as a wrestling official.

Kaydawn is the middle of three siblings with a pair of brothers. Wrestling has been a major part of her life for many years, but she didn’t start the sport until recently. Last winter, KSHSAA sanctioned girls’ wrestling for the first time.

“I have definitely warmed my brothers up on cement floors since I was three,” Haag said. “But I have never been able to wrestle, because I never wanted to wrestle boys. I didn’t feel comfortable with it, but when girls got sanctioned, I was like ‘OK, I am going to do it.’”

Pratt junior Livia Swift, like Haag, participated in youth football. She wrestled in junior high and was highly excited when wrestling became sanctioned. A multi-sport athlete, Swift played in all but six sets for volleyball this fall.

The highly athletic duo has separated themselves in the 143-pound Division II weight class. On Friday, Haag won an exciting 11-8 championship against Swift at Ellis High School in the Division II West sub-state. The match received by far the loudest cheers all evening and a standing ovation from a sizable portion of the crowd once it ended. Haag ran over and jumped into her dad’s arm for a bear hug after the win and received multiple congratulations.

“It was awesome,” Haag said. “There’s people that hugged me that I don’t even know. I went down to the locker room and all the girls were so supportive down there. All of them were very surprised to find I am a freshman. So it’s great. I loved it.”

Following the medal presentation, a coach from another team walked over to Haag and told her “congratulations warrior” and “awesome match.” Haag stands at 27-3, and Swift is 29-2. She is 1-2 against Haag.

Swift, a defending state champion, is ranked first, and Haag second.  They have both been ranked first at some point this year. Haag said she “definitely” plans to see Swift next Friday in Salina at the Division II state tournament, highly likely for the state title.

Swift’s performance helped top-ranked Pratt easily capture the team crown with 92 points. Top-four in each weight class qualified for state. Oakley was second with 64. Wellington took third at 61. Mulvane fourth at 53, and Smoky Valley fifth with 51. Pratt, Baldwin and Paola are the favorites to win the Division II crown.

In a battle of undefeated wrestlers at 109, Lakin sophomore Josiah Ortiz beat Wellington sophomore Anna Cullens, 4-2, in a comeback win. Ortiz is ranked third, Cullens first. Ortiz improved to 24-0, and Cullens dropped to 28-1.

“I didn’t really know what to expect since I never wrestled her before, so I’m just like, ‘I am just going to go out there, and just see what happens,’” Josiah said. “And just being down and coming back up made me really happy and just surprised.”

At 126, Winfield junior Mikayla Konrade improved to 20-0 with a fall in 1:05 in the final. An excellent match occurred at 170. Council Grove’s Jolie Ziegler, the ’20 defending state champion, beat Larned junior Ava Mull, in ultimate tiebreaker. Mull (27-1) won the unofficial state title in ’19 and was disqualified at regionals last winter. Ziegler improved to 11-1.

At 191, Smoky Valley junior Madi Tolle bumped to 14-0 with a win in 70 seconds in the championship. Tolle and SV senior Belle Peters (third at 138) played the same position on SV’s 3A state runner-up volleyball team this fall. Peters has signed with Pittsburg State track. The 5-foot-11 Tolle, a strong volleyball blocker, elected to switch from basketball to wrestling this winter.

“It’s been really fun to see the team aspect of this sport,” Tolle said. “We are all first-year wrestlers, so it’s been fun to be so welcomed by the boys. I came in with low expectations, but high hopes.”

For Pratt, sophomore Lily Herrman (23-14) took fourth at 101. Sophomore Jadyn Thompson (33-1) won the 115-pound title. She defeated Lakin’s Isabell Ortiz, 9-2. Thompson’s only loss came earlier versus Ortiz. Thompson defeated Ortiz at regionals. Senior Payton Woody (28-11) qualified third at 126. Freshman Keimarla Thompson (26-11) finished third at 155.

Haag beat Swift at the Cimarron Invitational on Jan. 22. However, Swift was ill during the meet. Last week in the WaKeeney regional final, both girls led in the match before Swift won by fall in 4:22. Haag was visibly upset post-match when she walked off with her father. This week, Haag said she “did a lot more” practice with her head position and shots.

“I was frustrated that I got pinned, and I knew I could have done better,” Haag said. “I knew I didn’t wrestle my match, so that’s another thing we were trying to practice is wrestling for me - not worrying about what she wants to do. But wrestling how I want to wrestle.”

WaKeeney-Trego senior Sydney Boyle, currently third in the rankings behind Swift and Haag, is a returning state placer. Boyle did beat Haag at league, though Haag has won the other three occasions. Haag held on to win 6-4 in a highly close match. Swift captured her first two matches by fall in a combined 1:55. In between matches, Haag drank Gatorade and ate Snickers to keep her energy.

The match was scoreless through the first period. Haag immediately took a 2-0 lead early in the second and extended to 5-0. She bumped to 10-2 late in the second.

“Just make sure I start out on top, and she has to work back to me,” Haag said.

Crowds on both sides were on their feet, and Swift’s Greenback teammates were loudly cheering mat side. Haag is close with Ellis senior Konnor Pfeifer, a regional champion.

“A little bit - I am oddly really, really good at blocking pretty much everybody out,” Haag said. “I hear my dad, Brandon Pfeifer, my other coach, and Konnor Pfeifer, his son. He is like my brother, so those are the only three people I hear.”

Last week, Swift was able to pin Haag early third period. This time, Swift came back to 11-6 and 11-8. Haag held on. Haag and Baldwin’s Hayleigh Wempe (No. 1 170) are the lone Division II freshmen ranked in the top-two in a weight class.

“Definitely just knew what she was going to do,” Haag said. “Knew she was going to get my arm back behind my back, and I knew if she got that, that was going to be tough for me to come back from, so just keeping my arms in good position.”

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