This weekend brings a milestone in Kansas high school sports history as athletes from 143 different high schools, representing all six classifications in Kansas, will compete in the first KSHSAA girls Regional Wrestling Tournaments in McPherson and Paola. Regionals will kick off on Valentine’s Day, Friday, Feb. 14, at 1 p.m. and continue into Saturday. The first KSHSAA sanctioned girls’ State Championship will take place Feb. 27 at Tony’s Pizza Event Center in Salina.
These regional tournaments were originally scheduled to be one-day events, but due to the participation of nearly 1,000 female wrestlers in this inaugural season the two tournaments will now cover two days.
In McPherson, day one will take place at McPherson College with day two at the high school. McPherson High School basketball hosts Winfield on Friday, which factored into McPherson College hosting the first day.
“We will be moving four wrestling mats and all the equipment over to McPherson College Thursday afternoon, but will not be able to set up for the tournament until 10 p.m., Thursday evening, once their gyms are open,” McPherson athletic director Shane Backhus said. “In addition, we will be borrowing a wrestling mat from Smoky Valley High School and their wrestling club, one from McPherson Middle School, an extra score clock from Central Christian College, and have had to secure extra workers/volunteers for Friday's rounds. Following Friday's rounds we must break it all down, and move equipment back to MHS so we can be ready for Saturday morning.”
“It is quite an undertaking that requires a lot of manpower from our wrestling team, maintenance staff and volunteers,” Backhus added.
Led by wrestling coach Doug Kretzer, McPherson High School was a leader in the push to sanction girls wrestling at the high school level in Kansas. McPherson hosted an unofficial state championship three years in a row - all won by the Bullpups.
It is only fitting that McPherson was selected as one of the two sites to host a regional.
“There has been a lot of work put in over many years, by many people across the state, especially Doug Kretzer, and it will be great to see it all come to fruition,” Backhus said of the KSHSAA sanction Regional. “It will be even more exciting to watch the 12 girls from each weight class get the opportunity to win a KSHSAA state championship on February 27th. McPherson High will be assisting at the state tournament by providing staff for one of the four mats at state.”
Paola High School athletic director Darin Gagnebin says there are many responsibilities that come with hosting any type of event, but especially the first-ever girls wrestling regional.
“I am blessed to have some of the best people to work with here at Paola that will ensure this historic event in girls athletics in the state of Kansas will run smoothly,” Gagnebin said. “In my opinion, hosting any type of KSHSAA post-season event is a huge responsibility. Hosting the ‘first ever’ of anything is even bigger and one that we here at Paola High School have not taken lightly.”
Gagnebin knows how this regional is run will set a precedent for future regionals.
“An event of this type is a learning experience, not only for us, but for those watching who will be hosting in the future. What works, what doesn't work, and what can be improved in the future will all be up for discussion following this Saturday,” Gagnebin said. “Schools should and will offer feedback to Mr. [Mark] Lentz at KSHSAA following Saturday, so this event can continue to be improved and evolve so our Kansas wrestling females may have the best postseason experience as possible.”
Each regional will qualify the top six wrestlers from the 11 weight classes.
Currently there are five individual wrestlers in the top 13 of the USA Wrestling’s National Girls High School Rankings that are sure to garner plenty of attention this postseason. Junction City senior 180 pounder Elisa Robinson is ranked first in her weight class while fellow seniors Nichole Moore of Nickerson and Morgan Mayginnes of Onaga currently sit at third and fifth at 117 and 152 pounds respectively.
Osawatomie senior Amanda Newcomb is ninth at 100 pounds in the national high school rankings while Marysville junior Elise Rose is 13th at 122 pounds. Paola junior Jordyn Knecht is actually ranked just ahead of Rose in the KWCA rankings as the top-ranked wrestler at 122.
The other four girls enter regionals as the top-ranked wrestler in their respective classification in the KWCA rankings.
This is how the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association’s all classification final rankings stand heading into regionals, sorted according to the Regional each top-10 team will attend.
#3 Great Bend
#8 Junction City
#2 Fort Scott
#5 Washburn Rural