For Baldwin wrestlers, League title is within grasp
Baldwin High School's wrestling team has a chance to do something that hasn't happened in a very long time, if ever, Thursday win a Frontier League title.
The Bulldogs will play host to defending league champion Paola and Eudora Thursday. Paola is 7-0 in league duals and ranked No. 2 in Class 5A. Eudora has a 6-1 league mark, as does Baldwin High. Spring Hill has completed the league season with an 8-1 record.
If BHS wins both of Thursday's duals, the Bulldogs would share a piece of the league title with Paola and Spring Hill. But, it won't be easy. Paola easily won the league tournament last year by a 100-plus point margin. The Panthers only lost two wrestlers from that team.
However, in wrestling, anything can happen and BHS coach Kit Harris is pleased to be posed for a share of the league crown.
"It is exciting to be in a position to win a share of the league title," said Harris. "My junior year (1989), we were in a similar position but lost to Spring Hill and finished 12-1. I don't ever recall BHS winning a league title in wrestling in the 1980s or 1990s.
"It would be nice to accomplish ... but to be honest, I care much less about us winning as I do about us wrestling smart and tough," he said. "That is all I really want to see."
The chance at a league title has the Bulldog wrestlers barking.
"The key to winning this is beating Paola," said Andy Breedlove, BHS's 215-pounder who has the team's second-best record at 22-10 and leads in falls with 15. "We can't give up pins and we need to wrestle intense. It's crazy that we are in this position that we have never been in before. I am proud to be a part of and a leader of this team. It should be some good wrestling."
There's also that matter of history.
"I am excited to be in a position to wrestle for a title because titles cannot be forgotten," said Adam Turk, BHS's 135-pounder.
The wrestling gets under way at 5 p.m. in the BHS gym and the coaches and wrestlers are hoping for a good crowd.
"I would like to see another big crowd," said Harris. "We have had tremendous support and we are going to wrestle hard and put on a good show as a way of saying thanks to all our supporters. The crowd makes the meet exciting and allows the kids to showcase the hard work they have put in."
The program has come a long way since Harris took over two years ago. Thursday will be a display of that.
"I think we have improved quite a bit and this Thursday is going to be a test of how tough we have become and how hard we have worked," said Witt Hinton, the Bulldog's 275-pounder who owns the team's best record and is ranked among the best in Class 4A.
Thursday's action will also be senior night, honoring Breedlove, Jerrad Goodell, Clint Hornberger, Matt Westgate and Chase Wood, as well as managers Sara Johnson and Chelsea Wilson.
To tune up for Thursday's all-important duals, BHS destroyed one league opponent and thumped another last week. The Bulldogs easily dispatched Osawatomie 71-3, and then came up with two big wins in the final matches for a 51-24 victory over Prairie View.
Behind wins by Wayne Sage (119 pounds), Nathan Deel (112), Nathan Worley (130), Derek Lang (140), Chris Hirschmann (145), Josh Haeffner (152) and Kyle Flory (160), BHS had a 39-12 lead against Prairie View. The Buffaloes won the next two matches to make it interesting at 39-24. Then came the big guys.
Breedlove, at 215, fell behind 5-0 but then pinned his opponent. Hinton came out at 275 and threw another pin at the Buffaloes and BHS had its 51-24 win.
The Osawatomie match was never in doubt as the Trojans could only manage one decision in BHS's 71-3 rout.
"Osawatomie had most of their starters out, but that shouldn't take away from our win," said Harris. "We had kids in Washington, D.C. (on a school trip), sick and nursing injuries as well ... but we dealt with it.
"We put our best lineup on the mat and some kids wrestled despite not feeling 100 percent. That is just sports. That win is an attribute to our depth and tough junior varsity wrestlers we have, as well as our team toughness and mentality of wrestling through the aches and pains," he said.
Thursday will be the test that counts. Two wins means a share of the title. A split means a third-place finish. An 0-2 night translates to fourth. Hello, wrestling fans.