Last February, marked the third unofficial girls’ state wrestling state tournament. The competition featured 78 Kansas teams that scored at least one point. McPherson won with 113 points, ahead of Fort Scott and Spring Hill. Great Bend took fourth at 76. Garden City finished in 52nd place at 14.5.
Great Bend’s Breanna Ridgeway went 16-1 and captured the championship at 132 pounds. Destiny Lewis (5-5) and Kyeal Mogbo (8-7) scored points at 152 and 170, respectively. For Garden City, Anjelina Serrano earned fourth at 126 with a 4-1 record and tallied all of the Buff team points.
A year later, Ridgeway and Serrano have anchored their squads in the first year that KSHSAA has sponsored girls’ wrestling. Lewis and Mogbo have returned for the Panthers. Both teams have significantly grown in numbers, notably with several new upperclassmen and multiple talented freshmen.
Great Bend edged Garden City, 123-122, for the West regional championship held at McPherson two weekends ago. Garden City qualified six wrestlers for state, tied with Washburn Rural for the most. Great Bend will have five at state, including two first-year wrestlers. Top-six in each regional weight class reached state. Broeckelman earned West Regional Coach of the Year.
On Thursday, the two Western Athletic Conference rivals are among the favorites for a team title at the first annual KSHSAA girls’ state wrestling tournament. Competition starts at 9 a.m. on Thursday at the Tony’s Pizza Event Center in Salina.
Each bracket has 12 wrestlers with the top-two regional qualifiers earning byes in the first round. Top-six individuals medal, and the top-three teams earn a trophy. While the boys’ state tournament is contested Friday and Saturday, the girls’ competition is just Thursday.
“It’s nice seeing all the hard work that all the girls have put in, so that it pays off for them really,” Broeckelman said. “They have been working. We’ve wrestled a lot. We did a full girls’ schedule this year, and I think that was part of the reason we won some of those matches in the third period was a lot of our girls had 30, 35 matches compared to some of those girls only have 10 to 15 matches. It’s just a great feeling. We recruited pretty hard, and got them out here.”
Notably, Serrano and Ridgeway are in the same weight class at 130. Ridgeway (32-1) had been ranked first all year and bested Serrano three times. However, Serrano, a junior, trailed Ridgeway before a win by fall at the 5 minute, 31 second mark in the regional finale.
Serrano is 32-6 and moved to second behind Lawrence Free State sophomore Madyson Gray (31-0) in the pre-state rankings. Ridgeway, a sophomore, is ranked third. However, Broeckelman still considers Ridgeway the top girl in her class.
In the team rankings, Washburn Rural is first, followed by Great Bend, Osawatomie, Paola, Nickerson, Pratt, Abilene, Lakin, Junction City and Onaga. Garden City was not ranked entering regionals. Serrano continues to be the Buffs’ only ranked wrestler.
Broeckelman is on the ranking committee and noted Garden City’s performance in the blood round, or state-qualifying round. The Buffs had multiple fifth and sixth place qualifiers. He called Washburn Rural, which easily won the east regional, the favorite in an expected close team race.
“They have got some tough girls,” Broeckelman said. “Their girls never give up, and they just keep battling, and that’s kind of what got a lot of their girls in position to get into that placing round. I saw matches in the blood round where their girl might have been down a couple points, and late in the third period, they pick up a pin to get qualified, so their girls wrestled tough.”
Overall, the state girls’ numbers went from 376 last winter to nearly 1,000 at the regionals this year. In addition to Ridgeway, Great Bend freshman Breckyn Elliott is ranked third at 101. Perez stands fourth at 155. Mogbo, a junior, is fifth at 235. The higher weights have had consistent flux throughout the year, notably at 170 and 235.
“They are just competitors and they just wanted to get there,” Broeckelman said. “You can’t really teach the competition side of things, but you can teach them the moves to try to get them there.”
Class 191 is controlled by Junction City senior Elisa Robinson, ranked first nationally at 27-0, but the class also features two ranked freshmen, including Douglass’ Payton Sholander. Nickerson freshmen Maddi Miller is fourth at 235, and Wichita South freshman Marissa Murray is second at 155.
The field features five nationally ranked wrestlers by industry leader Flo Wrestling. In addition to Robinson, Osawatomie senior Amanda Newcomb is tenth at 100. Nickerson senior Nichole Moore is third at 117. Moore was named the top wrestler at the West regional. Marysville junior Elise Rose is No. 11 at 122. Onaga senior Morgan Mayginnes is sixth at 152.
Robinson, Moore, Mayginnes, Rose and Paola junior Jordyn Knecht are arguably the state’s most recognizable names and has helped the sport grow in the last several years. The first four all won championships at McPherson last winter. Knecht, who has been nationally ranked in the past, has returned from a knee injury that cost her last winter.
From the CIK area, other top wrestlers include Concordia senior Kassidy Leiszler, Wellington freshmen Anna Cullens and Rose Hill senior Anayka Besco. They are ranked second at 101, 109 and 116, respectively.
In addition to 130 with Gray, Serrano and Ridgeway, a key weight class is 143. Labette County senior Abbie Jones was ranked first most of the year. However, she fell to third.
After regionals, Pratt sophomore Livia Swift (30-3) is first, Mulvane freshman Kammie Schanz (28-2) is second and WaKeeney-Trego junior Sydney Boyle is fifth at 32-4. Boyle earned Most Outstanding Wrestler at Atwood earlier this winter.
At regionals, Swift defeated Boyle, 10-2, one of two regional matches in the class that went the full time. In the final, Swift won by fall against Schanz in 4:53. Swift is 3-0 against Boyle, though one of the matches went to overtime. Schanz owns a decision against Jones from the regular season.