Weather made for an interesting weekend but another wrestling season wrapped-up with championship tournaments
Eureka head coach Mike Davison stood in the center of Fort Hays State University’s Gross Memorial Coliseum after the 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament concluded Saturday afternoon. Davison and the Tornadoes lined up for picture after picture, first in the stands and then on the mats with the team and individuals.
The celebration marked a historic moment, savored by Davison, his squad and Eureka – and one the school had never enjoyed before. The Tornadoes captured the state title with an impressive 113 points. Colby, ranked first after regionals, took second with 95, and Hoxie was third with 86.
The Tornadoes captured the first athletic state crown in any sport in school annals. The only previous championship for Eureka was a 1988 Scholar’s Bowl on the scholastic side. Eureka became the first eastern school to win 3-2-1A since 2001.
“Pretty cool deal,” Davison, who has spent a decade with the program, said. “Pretty cool for our kids. Pretty cool for our school. Great for our community. Pretty exciting time. Great day to be a Tornado.”
As expected, Eureka won titles at 113 and 120 pounds with senior twins Kendall and Kolby Beitz. The two combined for five state crowns in their career and a cumulative 68-3 mark this year. However, Eureka had two others in the finals with sophomore 138-pounder Brennan Lowe (38-4) and sophomore 152-pounder Brent Escareno.
Lowe won the 138 final against Minneapolis senior Tristan Hauck, and Escareno defeated Wellsville’s Anthony Signs in the semifinals. Lowe and Escareno had lost to those wrestlers earlier this year. All the Eureka wrestlers scored, and Davison said the team “wrestled above my expectations.”
“We won the regional title and didn’t feel any pressure, so don’t put any pressure on yourself,” Davison said. “It’s just another tournament, go wrestle, go have fun. We preach a lot of times about positioning and points. Wrestling is all about keeping good position and trying to score points in every position you’re in.”
Eureka’s performance encapsulated the weekend’s state wrestling tournaments. Class 6A and 5A were in Park City, while 4A was in Salina. Three of the team champions made history for their school, and the classifications saw a mix of favorites and upsets.
In 3-2-1A, Hoxie senior Dayton Porsch won his fourth state championship and pinned his way through the bracket for the second straight year. Porsch and Hoisington 195-pound junior Wyatt Pedigo were the only competitors with a crown and four pins in Hays.
Porsch became the 33rd wrestler in state history and ninth in 3-2-1A to capture four state championships. A Northern Iowa commit, Porsch finished his career with a record of 145-2, the best winning percentage in 3-2-1A state history, going 41-1 this winter.
As well, 3-2-1A featured undefeated seasons and state titles from Riley County senior 145-pounder Luke Richard (43-0), Mankato-Rock Hills 152-pound senior Zane Colson (39-0), Ell-Saline 220-pound senior Nick Davenport (40-0) and Lakin 285-pound junior Hadley Panzer (39-0). Colson was also a rare co-op champion; he drives everyday to Beloit.
“Of course you want to win every match that you can, but to me, it was about this match right here, it didn’t matter if I was 0-32 or 45-0,” Colson said. “I just wanted to come to this match. I wanted to be in this finals match, doing what I love the most.”
Marysville wins 4A
In Class 4A, Marysville captured the first wrestling crown in state history after back-to-back third place finishes in 3-2-1A in ’16 and ’17. Marysville had 112.5 points, while Winfield was second at 100 and Scott City finished third with 92. Marysville accomplished a rare feat of winning a title without an individual champion.
The Bulldogs had seven state placers, led by runner-ups from two juniors: Storm Slupianek and Garron Champoux at 170 and 195, respectively. Like Eureka, Marysville was ranked second entering state. Slupianek was ranked fifth individually before he took second to Scott City’s Wyatt Hayes (36-2).
For Winfield, Braden Ledford (36-9) won at 113, and Owen Braungardt (37-3) delivered the title at 182. Scott City had two champions with Hayes and Justus McDaniel at 132. SC had five of six qualifiers place.
Tonganoxie and Frontenac both made history with its first ever state champions. For Tonganoxie, senior Korbin Riedel went 42-0 at 152, and Connor Searcy (28-2) also won at 195. Frontenac’s Riley McDaniel earned a 39-0 record at 138.
At 106, Pratt’s Devon Weber completed a 41-0 season with a championship. El Dorado’s Braden Morgan, ranked No. 18 in the country, earned the 220-pound crown with a 32-2 mark. At 285, Miege’s Sean Ryan finished 32-2 and captured the Stags’ first individual wrestling title since 1987.
Goddard dominates 5A
In 5A, Goddard, the heavy favorite, rolled to the crown with 225 points. Arkansas City was second at 151, and Blue Valley Southwest took third at 125.
Goddard junior Jason Henschel has earned second, first and first in his three years and went 32-4 at 113 this year. At 170, Troy Fisher, ranked No. 12 nationally, and a Northwestern signee, went second, second, first and first in his four seasons. Fisher collected a 29-3 record and won his first matches by fall and had a technical fall in the finals.
Arkansas City enjoyed eight placers with two champions, Gabe Buckbee (27-4) at 132, and Montez Robinson (43-5) at 152. Newton senior Wyatt Hendrickson, who has been ranked third nationally and has signed with Air Force, finished 37-0 with a title at 220. He beat St. James junior Cade Lautt, ranked No. 17 nationally, for the second time this winter.
At 195, Kansas City-Turner senior Cameron Bates (46-0) defeated Salina Central senior Taylon Peters (35-3) by sudden victory, 3-1, for the championship. At 285, Wichita Northwest’s Marcus Hicks also won in a 3-1 sudden victory and went 36-1.
Great Bend finished sixth with seven placers, which tied the school record set in 1999.
Derby wins long-awaited title
In Class 6A, Derby held off Manhattan, 200-197, for a long-awaited Class 6A title. Derby has consistently been a top-three team but has not won a crown since 1986. Derby held the edge entering the 220-pound final, the last match for either the Panthers or Manhattan.
Mill Valley sophomore Ethan Kremer defeated Manhattan’s Christian Schlepp, 5-1, to secure the state title for Derby. The Panthers had champions with Crew Squires (21-2) at 152 and Triston Wills (33-5) at 182. It marked Wills’ second state crown.
Derby had a big upset loss Friday when 170-pounder Cade Lindsey, the top-ranked wrestler and an Oklahoma State signee, lost to Wichita West freshman Quentin Saunders, 3-1, in overtime sudden victory. Saunders went on to win the state championship and finished 41-2. Lindsey came back to take third.
However, the Panthers received a big upset at 106 when sophomore Cody Woods pinned Washburn Rural sophomore Bishop Murray, the heavy favorite, in the quarterfinals. It marked Murray’s first loss of the season.
Manhattan led the tournament with 27 pins, and 160-pounder Bubba Wilson won his second straight state title. Wilson, a Nebraska signee, finished with 150 career wins. Dodge City and Garden City both captured three individual championships.
Conor Nicholl is a veteran sportswriter from western Kansas who covers teams from across the state for multiple outlets.