Girls State Wrestling Preview: Pratt, Smoky Valley, Oakley among D2 contenders
WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - McPherson coach Doug Kretzer has served at the forefront of the girls’ wrestling movement in Kansas. Kretzer, honored at the state and national level for his work in promoting the sport, notably helped McPherson host the unofficial girls’ state tournament in ’18 and ’19.
He and his daughter, Mya, spurred change to sanction girls’ wrestling for the 2019-20 school year. Last season, Kansas had the first inaugural state girls’ all-classes wrestling tournament in Salina.
“This is a sport for every girl,” coach Kretzer said last Friday. “We need girls that weigh 90 pounds, and we need girls that weigh 240 pounds and everywhere in between. No matter who you are walking in the hallways at my school, we have got a place for you and we need you. I am not sure some other sports out there are the same way.”
This winter, in part because of an increase in numbers and the COVID-19 social distancing measures, girls’ wrestling split into two classes. Division I has Classes 6-5A, and Division II features Classes 4-1A. Last winter, Kretzer said girls’ wrestling had officially between 600-700 participants and just under 1,000 this winter.
“It’s just very, very, very fulfilling,” Kretzer said.
The pandemic significantly changed the wrestling postseason to feature districts, regionals and sub-state. In other years, the top-16 would go to state. This winter, the top-16 in each weight class advanced out of regionals. The top-eight moved on from sub-state last Friday to state this week.
This winter, Division I girls’ state is Thursday at Park City’s Hartman Arena, and Division II is Friday at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina. Kretzer was happy to see the split to two classes, especially in the middle eight weights that generally featured more depth. Girls’ wrestling has 12 total weights.
“It’s hard for me to tell a girl that has paid the price and is a dang tough wrestler that if you are not in the top-16 in the whole state that you are not a state level athlete, that’s ridiculous, so we needed to split,” Kretzer said. “Maybe we are a little thin this year. Those 16 that make it to this weekend, they all deserve to be here for the most part … If you are 115 through (155), man, there’s definitely the girls there.”
On Friday, Kretzer took his team to the Division II Ellis sub-state. On the 144-mile drive, the Bullpup girls, like many other teams, discussed which girls they needed to recruit for wrestling next year. Multiple squads have seen a significant jump in numbers this winter, changes that will significantly affect this weekend’s state competition.
Kretzer had great satisfaction when he pulled into the Ellis horeshoe-shaped parking lot. He saw vehicles parked all along the horseshoe, packed in the main lot, and in the grass – all the way down one backside of the school to the stop sign leading out to the street.
“You can tell the coaches that are investing in the girls’ program, that they are out hustling, recruiting, telling girls that they want them to be on their team,” Kretzer said. “Pratt today, they have really invested into their girls’ team. Yes, Ellis has done the same thing. Great Bend. Up in the Kansas area, Basehor-Linwood, I like their numbers. Obviously, Washburn Rural.”
Defending champion Washburn Rural paces D1 contenders
Last year, 6A Washburn Rural edged 5A Great Bend, 84-80, for the team crown. A quartet of 4A schools, Paola, Nickerson, Pratt and Abilene, finished with 44, 41, 41 and 38 points, respectively, for the next four placers.
This season, Washburn Rural, ranked first throughout the year, led Division I with eight qualifiers. Wichita North, Garden City and Dodge City each have seven. Emporia six, Gardner-Edgerton five and GB three. Two of Great Bend’s wrestlers, 101-senior Breckyn Elliott (17-4) and 126-pound junior Breanna Ridgeway (33-0), are significant state title favorites.
Last winter, North, DC and G-E combined for just four state qualifiers. Emporia had three. Garden City had one placer, senior Anjelina Serrano, 16-3 and a strong 132-pound contender this year.
Rural remains the favorite with its experienced upper weights: 155-pound senior Rebekah Smith (17-1), junior 170-pound Jaliah Johnson (29-5) and senior 191-pounder Dajia Anderson (27-4). Anderson is a defending state champion. WR could sweep the boys’ and girls’ crowns after each collected regional titles.
“The kids accomplished their goals that we had for the week, and they were a little bit different for both squads, but we don’t look at full season goals,” Rural coach Damon Parker said Monday afternoon. “We never say the word ‘state championship’ until the week of state. So, we try to break it down into daily micro goals, and then a little bit bigger weekly goals, and they accomplished those.”
Pratt’s bevy of athletes lead in D2; Knecht, Rose with undefeated seasons
Two years ago, Livia Swift was the lone Pratt girl to finish the season. Last winter, Swift won a state championship, and Jadyn Thompson, coach Tate Thompson’s daughter, earned fifth. Baldwin had one state qualifier, Emma Grossoehme. She didn’t place.
This winter, Baldwin has six qualifiers and Pratt five, the most for Division II teams. Pratt has been ranked first, Baldwin second in the last several coaches’ polls. Swift, a junior at 29-2, and Thompson, a sophomore with a 33-1 mark, are significant state favorites at 143 and 115, respectively.
Pratt is known for its athleticism; Jadyn Thompson said the team’s success “starts in the weight room.” Swift was ranked No. 25 nationally by Flo Wrestling in the January rankings. Swift is 1-2 against Ellis freshman Kaydawn Haag. The two high-quality athletes are expected to meet for the final.
“Hats off to (coach) Thompson,” longtime Hoxie coach Mike Porsch said. “Man, he’s done a great job. I would love to have those numbers of girls to coach and practice.”
Paola could factor for the team title or at least another top-three finish. Junior Kailyn Younger, a defending state runner-up, is 24-1 and ranked first in her class. She and Oakley sophomore Mikyah Cain (27-6) are the 120 favorites. Paola senior Americus Harris (14-9) is unranked, though 191 is arguably the most wide-open class.
Plus, Paola has senior Jordyn Knecht, 33-0 at 126. She is the state’s highest-ranked wrestler at No. 16 nationally and posted an undefeated mark last winter. Coach Porsch has seen Knecht compete from sixth grade onward and calls her probably the state’s best girl wrestler.
Additionally, Marysville senior Elise Rose has lost just once to a girl in the last two seasons – against Knecht in last winter’s finale. Rose, ranked first at 132, has wrestled the bulk of this winter against boys. She is 13-0 versus girls.
Rose, nationally ranked in ’19-20, and Hoxie junior Marissa Porsch (40-1) are 132′s top contenders. Marissa, who competed eight years as a gymnast, has only lost to Rose this winter with a 9-0 defeat at the Clay Center tournament in mid-January. Marissa went 28-11 with a fourth-place finish last winter, her first-ever wrestling season.
“Elise Rose is just tougher than nails,” coach Porsch said. “…I don’t want to take anything away from her, but it’s just my opinion that Jordyn is probably the top of the class, and Elise probably isn’t far behind her.”
Ortiz sisters, Ogden/Schanz, Smoky Valley among other contenders
Oakley sophomore Citori Bosserman is 24-1 and ranked first at 101. Bosserman is in her first trip to state. Several weight classes, especially 109, 115, 138 and 170, are very deep. 109 has Lakin sophomore Josiah Ortiz (24-0). She earned the top wrestler award at the Ellis sub-state after she beat Abilene junior Skyleigh Pflaster (11-2) and Wellington sophomore Anna Cullens (28-1).
At 115, Thompson is expected to contend with three others, including Lakin junior Isabell Ortiz. At 170, Baldwin freshman Hayleigh Wempe (31-4) is ranked first. Council Grove sophomore Jolie Ziegler (11-1) is the defending state champion and beat Larned junior Ava Mull in ultimate tiebreaker at Ellis. Ziegler won state in ’20, Mull captured unofficial state in ’19 and is 27-1 this winter.
Class 138 has possibly an undefeated final between Hoyt-Royal Valley senior Maya Ogden (22-0) and Mulvane sophomore Kammie Schanz (16-0). Schanz was a state runner-up last winter. Ogden was second at unofficial state in ’19 and again second in ’20. McPherson junior Holli Giddings is 30-1 at 155.
“At the start of last year, those girls, they didn’t feel a lot of positions and know they were in trouble, and by the end of it, I think it improved a lot,” coach Porsch said. “And then this year, it has just improved that much more. That’s a lot of it – is just experience.”
Smoky Valley finished as 3A state volleyball runner-up in the fall. SV junior Madi Tolle and senior Belle Peters are great friends and key volleyball players. The athletic Tolle is 5-foot-11, taller than virtually all wrestlers. She didn’t want to participate in basketball anymore. Peters has signed with Pittsburg State track and is one of the best pole vaulters in state annals.
“If you can get a high-level athlete, they can get caught up to speed real quick especially if they are athletic and powerful and explosive and things like that,” Kretzer said.
Peters, Tolle and sophomore Noelle Peters elected to try wrestling. All three qualified for state: Noelle (10-6) at 109, Belle (18-4) at 138, and Tolle (14-0) at 191.
“Smoky Valley is a great example,” Kretzer said. “They have a hard time getting their numbers in there, but they get three girls out, and they really invest into them. Well, all three girls are still here.”
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