Great Bend finishes as runner-up at first Girls State Wrestling Tourney

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SALINA, Kan. - Great Bend coach Nathan Broeckelman leaned against a railing and held a notepad and pen before the final round of the girls’ state tournament. The matches for first, third and fifth place were wrestled simultaneously. At that point, Great Bend held a slight lead over Washburn Rural in the team title race.

Broeckelman worked through scenarios for GB and WR to capture the championship. Both teams had four wrestlers in the placing round. However, if Washburn Rural earned three falls from senior 155-pounder Halley Robinett, junior 170-pounder Rebekah Smith and junior Dajia Anderson at 235, it would significantly help the Junior Blues.

That occurred as Robinett earned fifth, Smith took third, and Anderson won a title, a victory that clinched the first-ever KSHSAA sanctioned girls’ championship for the Junior Blues. Washburn Rural earned 84 points, while Great Bend was second at 80 in the one-day competition Thursday at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina. Paola was third at 44.

“I feel like we had a good shot,” Broeckelman said. “I knew that they had to get three pins, and that’s exactly what they did, and that was the only way they were going to beat us is if they got three pins. Their girls stepped up to the challenge, and did what they had to do there.”

Great Bend tied for the best wrestling finish in school history. Entering the competition, Washburn Rural was first, and GB second in the coaches’ poll. Great Bend has zero seniors among its state qualifiers. Around mid-year, the Panthers discussed earning hardware for the school trophy case.

“We did great,” Broeckelman said. “We definitely just wrestled to the best of our abilities, and unfortunately we just came up a little bit short there, but there’s no doubt in my mind that we are right there for the next year.”

Overall, GB’s junior Breckyn Elliott finished 36-6 and took third at 101. Sophomore Breanna Ridgeway completed a 35-2 season with a third-place showing at 130.

Junior Lexi Deines (27-11) went 0-2 at 136. Junior Briana Perez (31-12) earned third at 155. Junior Kyeal Mogbo (19-13) was fourth at 235. Entering state, Elliott and Ridgeway were ranked third. Perez was ranked fourth, and Mogbo fifth. Mogbo pinned four opponents, tied for the most in the field, in a collective 3:07.

“She was definitely wrestling here way better these last two weeks,” Broeckelman said of Mogbo. “She’s just a confidence girl, and we finally got her some confidence in her moves and different things, and that’s what was definitely the difference.”

Great Bend led all teams with 11 pins, two more than Washburn Rural. As well, GB had a collective plus-27 seed-place difference, easily the largest in the field. However, Washburn Rural had six qualifiers, tied with Garden City for the most.

“Wrestled great,” Broeckelman said. “We had a lot of girls finish higher than where they were supposed to, and I don’t think anyone finished lower than what they were supposed to. So we had girls peaking at the right time, and ultimately that’s what you want.”

Broeckelman said Perez “almost quit” at the end of January because she was “frustrated.” Perez was unranked before regionals.

“We just kept pushing her and pushing her,” Broeckelman said. “And we picked up a lot of big-time wins these last two weeks with her, and I think she has bought back into it.”

Perez won her first two matches by fall in 5 minutes, 55 seconds and 5:08. In the semifinals, she lost by technical fall to Onaga senior Morgan Mayginnes, atop the Kansas poll and ranked nationally. Mayginnes finished 13-0.

“We might have been the only girl that Mayginnes didn’t pin all year,” Broeckelman said. “Which it was a tech fall, but still she fought off her back, didn’t give up a pin there.”

Ridgeway captured an unofficial state championship at McPherson last winter. This year, she was ranked first until after regionals. In the semifinals, she lost by fall in 3:31 to Lawrence Free State’s Madyson Gray, a member of Team Kansas. Gray won the title and finished 34-0.

“Bre did great,” Broeckelman said. “She’s a nervous girl, and nerves got the best of her a little bit, I think. Bre is a great wrestler. That’s the first time we have wrestled her this year. I think maybe even ever. She wrestled a great match.”