HAYS, Kan. - As expected, the 220-pound championship featured Brookville-Ell-Saline senior Nick Davenport against Norton senior Hayden Wiltfong. The two had been ranked first and second all year.
Entering the finals, Wiltfong had easily been the most dominating wrestler at the Class 3-2-1A state tournament, held Friday and Saturday at Fort Hays State University’s Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Wiltfong won his first three matches by fall in a combined time of 2 minutes, 1 second, by far the best in the field. The 6-foot-6 Wiltfong has great advantages over other wrestlers because of his length, leverage and ability to pin with his cradle.
However, Davenport, who gave up five inches, kept Wiltfong at bay and delivered a 4-0 victory Saturday. Davenport completed his season 40-0 and joined former standout Tate Omli as the only state champion wrestlers from Ell-Saline High School.
Davenport’s victory encapsulated a theme from this year’s 3-2-1A tournament: undefeated wrestlers winning crowns and breaking long wrestling title droughts for their respective schools.
“I like to be more of an offensive guy than maybe I was in that match, but I was trying to look for the right spot with a guy like him,” Davenport said. “You have to defend his length pretty well, so things like picks and cradles you have got to watch out for, but my game plan was to work my escape, and then try to get something going in neutral.”
Wiltfong finished his season 31-3 and captured his third state medal. Wiltfong only lost to Newton’s Wyatt Hendrickson, ranked third nationally, and to Davenport twice. Both wrestlers recorded perfect seasons.
Earlier this month, Davenport defeated Wiltfong, 3-1, at the Panther Classic in Phillipsburg. Last season, Davenport beat Wiltfong at state for third place. Davenport did a great job of keeping Wiltfong lower and not letting him create offense.
“I might have had a little more strength and leverage against him in some areas, because I am little shorter than him,” Davenport said. “But when he gets taller, he has got more leverage than I am, but I think when it came down to getting off the bottom I might have a little more strength than him.”
Omli captured his last title in 2011 when the Cardinals had a co-operative agreement with Minneapolis. Now Ell-Saline has started its own program under coach John Ludes, Davenport’s uncle. In addition, Seth Schneider qualified for Ell-Saline at 113 pounds and finished 20-14 overall, 0-2 at state. Like Omli, Davenport was an all-state quarterback and is also headed to Butler County.
“Kind of cool there,” Davenport said. “For sure, Seth Schneider, he worked really hard to get to state, too, and the more people we can keep getting to state with our new program, I am excited for it, proud of everyone.”
Mankato-Rock Hills’ Zane Colson wins
Mankato-Rock Hill 152-pound senior Zane Colson comes from one of the state’s smallest schools and has long formed a co-operative agreement with Beloit. Colson reached the state tournament as a freshman and sophomore with 29-16 and 34-9 records, respectively. He finished 2-2 at state both years. Last winter, he went 39-7 and took fourth.
This year, Colson enjoyed a perfect 39-0 season. He became the second Mankato/Rock Hills wrestler to ever win a state title, first since the early 2000s.
Colson was the Grizzlies’ lone state qualifier all four years. He won his first two matches by fall in 47 seconds and 5:03, then had an 11-6 victory against Ellis’ Konnor Pfeifer. In the finals, he defeated Eureka’s Brent Escareno by fall in 5:16.
“Four years of sweat and blood and tears, and getting my (butt) kicked, got to where I wanted finally, and that’s all what I asked for, that’s all I prayed to God for, I just can’t be happy enough,” Colson said. “It’s a great experience, and just that moment right after you get that hands raised, it’s all there, all four years, all four years of memories, sweat and every match is right there, you just see it, and everything was worth it.”
Panzer wins title for Lakin
At 285, Lakin junior Hadley Panzer was the heavy favorite to win a state title after his big double-overtime championship semifinals victory against Sabetha senior Elliott Strahm on Friday. Panzer, the lone qualifier for Lakin, easily defeated Belleville-Republic County’s Eyann Zimmerman by technical fall in the championship.
“It was a little hard to get up for that finals, because of all that energy from last night,” Panzer said. “That felt like the finals match.”
Panzer had a 39-0 record. He is the first Bronc to win a state title since Dalton Davis won at 112 in 2008.
“A long ways since we’ve had a state champ and a lot heavier I guess state champ, too,” Panzer said.
Johnson wins for Holcomb
Holcomb 182-pound senior Tanner Johnson suffered just one loss this season, a defeat at the prestigious Garden City Rocky Welton tournament where he took third place. Johnson used the high showing as confidence to propel him to Holcomb’s first-ever state wrestling title.
Johnson, also Holcomb’s only state qualifier, went 31-1. Like Panzer, he defeated the No. 1 wrestler in his weight class in the semifinals with an 8-3 decision against Minneapolis’ Tyson Villalpando. In the championship, he beat Colby’s Kory Finley, 9-4. Last week, Johnson also defeated Finley to win the regional title.
“I am just so happy to be a state champion from Holcomb, especially the first one,” Johnson said.
Pedigo dominates competition
Two wrestlers pinned their way through the bracket and led the tournament with 30 points: Hoxie’s Dayton Porsch at 160, and Hoisington junior Wyatt Pedigo at 195. Porsch captured his fourth state title, and Pedigo his second.
Pedigo went 39-1 with the only loss to Salina Central senior Taylon Peters at the Hays tournament in January. Peters went 35-3 and took second in 5A with an overtime championship loss in sudden victory Saturday.
“It drove me to push myself even harder,” Pedigo said of the loss.
Pedigo was one of three placers for the Cardinals as Joshua Ball (40-7) and Riley Philbern (31-13) each took fifth at 170 and 285, respectively. Pedigo won by fall in 1:02, 1:26, 5:44 and then in 1:39 against Colby sophomore Hagan Booi in the championship.
“My quickness,” Pedigo said of his strength. “A lot of people just kind of wrestle like heavyweights, and I am out there trying to wrestle like a (1)52-pounder.”
As well, Plainville junior Jordan Finnesy, a runner-up last season, won the state title at 170 with a 10-3 victory against Norton junior Cole Amlong.
Finnesy ended at 38-2, and Amlong went 28-7. Finnesy was the first Cardinal to win a crown since since Dylan Wiesner at 170 pounds in 2014.