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Hoxie boys looking for history entering state wrestling

Boys State Wrestling
Boys State Wrestling(cik)
Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 2:14 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Last winter, Hoxie boys’ wrestling was a slight Class 3-2-1A state favorite over Norton. The Indians took second with 113 points, seven behind the Bluejays. Hoxie captured three individual state titles, two from non-seniors. Drew Bell went 41-2 at 126, and Derek Johnson was 38-3 at 132.

Bell and Johnson have dominated this winter with undefeated records. Bell is 41-0 at 132 and Johnson stands 40-0 at 145. However, many of the Indians’ other top wrestlers have significantly improved from last season – or even during this winter. Coach Mike Porsch labeled last year’s state tournament “a good lesson.”

“I knew that Norton would have a lot of power at the state tournament,” Porsch said. “They wrestled really well, and we wrestled a little flat. Didn’t come out the way we wanted it to. So just like individual losses, those losses I think the kids remember that, and they are going to work really hard to hopefully not let that happen again. That’s the way we are approaching it – that we’ve just got to keep trying to beat everybody.”

Hoxie qualified nine for Saturday’s Class 3-2-1A boys’ state tournament at Gross Memorial Coliseum in Hays. The Indians, ranked No. 1 throughout the winter, have the most state qualifiers in the eight-player brackets. This year, state was cut from 16 wrestlers and two days to eight and one because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with Drew Bell and Johnson, Sophomore Tate Weimer (34-9) is at 106, and sophomore Wayne Shepard (36-8) qualified at 113. Freshman Carson Ochs (35-7) reached at 120. Sophomore Dayton Bell (34-7) qualified at 126.

Sophomore Drew Bretz (40-3) qualified at 138. Senior Aidan Baalman is 43-0 at 160, and junior Brandon Baker stands at 29-5 at 285.

Weimer lost to Ellis freshman Mason Younger twice. Weimer, a JV wrestler as a freshman, came back to defeat Younger in close matches at regional and sub-state. Ochs has bounced back from early season losses.

“The improvement from the start of the season to this point shows the amount of work they are doing and just making those adjustments and coming back and beating guys that had beaten them earlier in the season,” Porsch said. “…You can improve in the offseason, but you can also improve a lot during the season. I think we have done a pretty job of that.”

Hoxie has enjoyed 11 straight years of at least one individual champion. At state, The Indians have three second place finishes and three thirds as a team since ’11, according to KSHSAA archives. One of the state’s longtime powers, Hoxie has a strong chance to capture its first championship since ’02 and ’03. Hoxie has 10 overall titles. Porsch was an assistant on Hoxie’s championships in ’98, ’99, ’02 and ’03.

“I would say on paper it is probably ours to lose,” Porsch said. “But just means that we’ve got to go out and win it.”

As well, according to KSHSAA archives, and research done by CIK and Porsch, Hoxie would become the first wrestling team to win a state championship – and play eight-man football in the same season. Many of the Indian players helped football to a state semifinal finish in the fall. Second-ranked Hill City also plays eight-man football. HC’s all-time best finish is second in ’85, per KSHSAA archives. Hill City’s last top-10 finish in wrestling was a fifth place showing in ’96.

Class 5/6A is held Friday at Hartman Arena in Wichita, and Class 4A is Saturday at Tony’s Pizza Event Center in Salina. In 5A, Goddard looks for its seventh straight title. Washburn Rural is the 6A boys favorite after it won the Girls’ Division I (6-5A) crown on Thursday. Chanute is the defending 4A champion. The Blue Comets and Andale are the top 4A contenders.

Last season, Dayton Bell had a rough regional and didn’t qualify for state.

“Dayton Bell has really stepped up,” Porsch said. “He’s really disappointed not making it last year.”

Shepard went 24-21, Baker 24-17 and Bretz 36-11 last winter. Shepard and Baker finished a combined 1-4 at state, and Bretz finished sixth, below his goals.

Baalman earned third. However, he still found state lacking. Beloit’s Hunter Prochaska won state in his weight class. Baalman had defeated Prochaska several times during the winter, including multiple wins by wide margins.

“Maintaining mental composure out there,” Porsch said. “Not getting too high or too low in matches and trying to go that way with some of those guys is a big, big improvement.”

Weimer, Shepard, Ochs, Drew Bell, Johnson, and Baalman all captured sub-state titles at Minneapolis last week. Shepard had notably lost, 8-4, to Republic County’s A.J. Polansky at the midseason Beloit Invitational. He fell, 3-2, to Hoisington’s Josiah Ball at the WaKeeney regional final.

Last week at sub-state, Shepard defeated Polansky, 9-5, in the semifinals and beat Ball, 6-3, in the championship. Porsch had focused with Shepard on not losing focus in matches. Against Polansky and Ball earlier in the year, Porsch said Shepard wrestled all but a few seconds which hurt him.

“Sometimes he got going so fast that the wheels were kind of like coming off the bus and trying to slow him down a little bit and wrestle a little bit tighter technique and just wrestling 360 seconds of those matches,” Porsch said.

At the start of the year, Porsch sat down with Bretz and Drew Bell. Porsch wanted to make sure he had both 132 and 138 covered. At the time, Bretz was almost the same size as Bell, if not a little smaller. Bretz, though, was growing. He wanted to stay at 138, and Bell thought he was fine at 132. From the second week of December to current, Porsch said Bretz has “grown a bunch.” Bretz wrestled at 120 last winter.

“He’s a good size ’38-pounder now,” Porsch said. “Not necessarily a small ’38 pounder, so that’s good to see.”

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