Livia Swift wins second straight title, Pratt girls take second
SALINA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Pratt head girls’ wrestling coach Tate Thompson stood on the center mat Friday night after the final matches and medal ceremonies. Before team pictures, Thompson took a photo with an assistant coach and the Greenbacks’ two trophies. Thompson had the KSHSAA state runner-up trophy plaque by his feet.
Thompson held another plaque. He was honored with the Sportsmanship Award Coach of the Year. The two awards personified Pratt’s performance and Thompson’s character.
Baldwin, Pratt and Paola were expected to have a close race entering the Division II (Class 4-1A) state girls’ wrestling tournament at Tony Pizza’s Events Center. Baldwin didn’t have a finalist, but recorded four top-five finishes. The Bulldogs won with 54.5 points, just ahead of Pratt’s 49 and Paola’s 46.
Thompson, highly respected by his peers for his work on and off the mat, gave ample credit to Baldwin. While Thompson would have liked to win a title, the state runner-up marked the best finish in Pratt’s wrestling history for boys or girls.
“When you lose to somebody, it’s nice to lose to somebody that’s as humble and gracious and that’s a good team there,” Thompson said.
This marked the second year that KSHSAA sanctioned girls’ wrestling. Last winter, Pratt tied Nickerson for fourth with 41 points in the all-classes state meet. The Greenbacks qualified two wrestlers. Jadyn Thompson took fifth at 109 with a 30-8 record. Livia Swift went 33-3 with the title at 143.
This year, Pratt and Baldwin significantly recruited. Baldwin, which had two state qualifiers last winter, qualified six and Pratt five. They had the most in the field. This marked the first year that girls’ wrestling split into Division I and II.
Swift, a junior, was the lone finalist for the two squads. For the fourth time this year and the third straight weekend, Swift faced Ellis freshman Kaydawn Haag. Swift was 1-2 against Haag, including a loss last week in the Ellis sub-state final.
“I watched the last match when she beat me at sub-state probably 50 times,” Swift said. “Picking out what I can fix, what I can do to get better.”
This time, Swift controlled the match from the start and earned a 4-2 win. Swift collected a 32-2 record, and Haag finished 29-4. Swift worked on her mental game and visualization, a staple of the Pratt program, this week. She planned for every position.
“I consider myself very mentally tough,” Swift said. “I like to have a plan for things. I don’t want to just go out there and be like, ‘Oh, we will see what happens.’”
Swift focused on not giving Haag “too much momentum.” Swift wanted to stay “a little more” composed. Coach Thompson looked at small adjustments and believed Swift needed to correct her position in certain areas.
“To me, that match was never in doubt from the beginning,” coach Thompson said. “We were completely confident. She was completely confident, and when that’s the case, it’s a lot easier to go through that. I didn’t have stress, and that doesn’t happen very often in those type of matches.”
Additionally, Jadyn, 36-2 as a sophomore, took third at 115, a deep weight class with four top wrestlers. Along with Thompson, the class featured Independence’s Alexis Allen, Burlington’s E’owynn Codney, and Lakin’s Isabell Ortiz. Allen, a defending champion, lost to Codney at sub-state. Before the sub-states, the Thompsons wanted to face Allen in the finals.
“When Jadyn works her way through tournaments, she usually gets better as she goes,” coach Thompson said.
Thompson was 4-1 against Ortiz this year. Ortiz beat Allen, 5-0, in the state championship. As well, Isabell’s sister, Josiah, earned fifth place at 109. The Lakin girls have both placed in back-to-back years. Isabell captured the third all-time title, first for girls, in Bronc annals. Josiah went 26-2, Isabell 29-4.
“There is not a nicer kid out there than Isabell Ortiz,” coach Thompson said. “Except for maybe Josiah. When someone like that wins, we are happy for them. You just do your best on your end, and you cheer for the people from your region generally. And the Ortiz girls are great kids. So it’s fun to cheer for them. Like I said, they are humble, they are kind, and they are tough.”
Jadyn’s sister, freshman Keimarla, posted a 28-13 record and took fifth at 155, including a win against Baldwin’s Daniela Kozacova.
Pratt’s other two qualifiers, sophomore 101-pounder Lilly Herman and senior 126-pounder Payton Woody, finished a combined 0-4. All of Pratt’s points came from non-seniors. Swift believes Pratt can continue to increase numbers and certainly win a state title next year. Swift and Jadyn plan to continue recruiting and have a summer camp.
“I am proud of us,” Swift said. “We did have a good chance of getting first. But we just didn’t quite execute in some places, which is OK.”
For Baldwin, sophomore Audrey Darnell (29-7) took third at 138. Darnell lost to Smoky Valley senior Belle Peters in the first round. Then, Darnell captured three backside matches, including a win by fall against Peters for third place.
“That was a big deal,” coach Thompson said.
Senior Emma Grossoehme, Baldwin’s lone returner who scored points at last year’s state meet, was fourth at 143 and lost to Swift by fall in the semifinals. At 170, freshman Hayleigh Wempe finished fifth.
“We had a good day overall,” coach Thompson said. “Some of our younger girls, the pressure got to them a little bit, and it cost us at the end. Baldwin did an excellent job on the back door. Nobody really on the front left, and they came through the back door strong, and we couldn’t match that.”
A key difference came at 235 where Baldwin sophomore Madi Hargett took third. The Ellis sub-state had limited 235-pound wrestlers, and Pratt did not fill the weight class. Before state, Thompson had factored in Baldwin’s points at 235. Baldwin had won the championship before the state finals started. Hargett went 3-1, all wins against wrestlers with losing records.
“It made the tournament more fun to kind of see, watching here and there to see what was going on,” coach Thompson said. “But we don’t have any ill will towards Baldwin. Their coach is an awesome person. Their kids are great kids, so if we are going to lose to somebody, I mean, they are just a great squad. They’re fun, their fans are great.”
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