BHS wrestlers stack up well
If there was any doubt how far the Baldwin High School wrestling program has come in the last two years, last week's action provided proof positive.
BHS, which has been the doormat of the Frontier League in wrestling for more than a decade, finished fourth in the league standings and fifth in Saturday's league tournament. The league standings had Paola first, Spring Hill second, Eudora third and BHS fourth, easily the Bulldog's best finish in a long while.
At the league tourney, Paola again easily won the title with 182 points, followed by Spring Hill (128.5), Anderson County (124.5), Osawatomie (11.5), BHS (99), Eudora (83), Prairie View (60.5), Louisburg (37), Wellsville (33) and Gardner (16).
"We did real well at league," said coach Kit Harris, who has guided the Bulldogs those last two seasons. "I am real proud of the kids. They are wrestling hard and that is truly all I really care about.
"Almost all of us finished above our seeds, which is a credit to our schedule strength, and we looked strong late in the day while many other wrestlers did not," said Harris.
None of the Bulldogs finished stronger than heavyweight Witt Hinton. The junior finished first, beating Prairie View's Dennis Kimzey in the final round to take the league individual title.
"It feels great," Hinton said of winning the championship. "I have never managed to win a first at a varsity tournament until league. I have always been second or third. I still made a few mistakes and I hope to fix those before regionals."
BHS also had a second-place finisher with senior Andy Breedlove at 215 pounds; two third-place finishers with junior Adam Halford at 152 and freshman Kyle Flory at 160; and three fourth-place finishers with senior Matt Westgate at 119, junior Adam Turk at 135 and freshman Derek Lang at 140. The team finish and those individual finishes sent a message to the rest of the league.
"The Baldwin Bulldogs are for real this year," said Turk. "We aren't a pushover. We are a team to be reckoned with and we proved it."
BHS also had a shot prior to the league tourney to do even better. The Bulldogs played host to Paola and Eudora Thursday with a chance to tie for the regular-season title with a pair of victories. However, they fell 51-24 to Paola and 40-30 to Eudora to wind up fourth.
Individual winners against Paola were: Westgate, who won by fall (119); Turk, by forfeit (135); Chris Hirschmann, by fall (145); and Hinton, by fall (275). Against Eudora, winners were: Wayne Sage, by fall (103); Joe Brown, by fall (152); Halford, by fall (160); Flory, by fall (171); Breedlove, 7-5 decision (215); and Hinton, 11-10 decision (275).
Now, all thoughts turn to the Class 4A Regional at Anderson County. It's a tough regional, with seven teams having been ranked in Class 4A this season. Those teams, and the top ranking received where available, are: Abilene, No. 3; Anderson County, defending regional champs and have been ranked this season; Chapman, has been ranked; Eudora, has been ranked; Osawatomie, No. 10; Santa Fe Trail, finished third at state last year and has been ranked as high as No. 2; and Spring Hill, league runner-up and ranked No. 10.
Other teams in the regional are: BHS, Council Grove, DeSoto, Kansas City Ward, Louisburg, Mill Valley, Ottawa and Prairie View. Top finishers from the regional advance to the Class 4A State Tournament in Wichita Feb. 23-24. The Bulldogs know it will be tough competition to get there.
"I think regionals are going to be a lot harder this year since they changed team assignments," said Hinton. "But, it is going to be fun. I hope we can have several people qualify for state and I think we can do it."
"We plan to take the momentum of league and carry it over to regionals and see what happens," said Turk.
Harris just wants to see the same style of wrestling at regionals that the Bulldogs showcased at league.
"As far as regionals, I'm not sure how many we'll have make it through and to be honest I still really don't care as long as we can walk out of the gym with heads high knowing we competed like champions true champions in every aspect of the word," said Harris.
"Things will take care of themselves. We just need to worry about the things we can control, like our techniques, our aggressive wrestling, winning the scramble situations, having tough counters, getting our bottom points, riding tough on top and look for turns, competing strong in the third period ... that stuff we will worry about and let the chips fall where they may," he said.