BHS grapplers state bound
GARNETT Mark up another one for the Baldwin High School wrestling team. The Bulldogs qualified five wrestlers for the Class 4A State Wrestling Tournament and took fourth place as a team during regional competition here Friday and Saturday.
Those are more in a long line of accomplishments for the Bulldog grapplers this year. It's the most state qualifiers for BHS since 1989 and the best regional team finish since 1994. And, there was a champion. BHS 275-pounder Witt Hinton, a junior, won his weight class to lead the Bulldogs.
Other BHS qualifiers for state are: senior Andy Breedlove, who finished second at 215 pounds; sophomore Wayne Sage at 103 and freshman Kyle Flory at 160, who finished third; and sophomore Nathan Deel, who was fourth at 112. They all made it through to Saturday's final rounds and had BHS coach Kit Harris bubbling.
"It was an exciting day of wrestling for all the Bulldogs," said Harris. "Nearly everyone out wrestled their seeds and we even put quite a scare into some of the top-ranked kids in the state. If we weren't winning, we were going down swinging, so to speak.
"We competed real hard and that is all I ever ask of these kids," he said. "And, more often than not, we will get positive results simply by taking on that competitor's mentality."
As for the team finish, BHS finished with 118 points. Abilene was first with 186 points, followed by Spring Hill (154), Santa Fe Trail (132), BHS (118), Eudora (112), Chapman (109.5), Anderson County (109), Osawatomie (104), Prairie View (92.5), Bishop Ward (45), Mill Valley (38.5), Ottawa (31), Council Grove (25.5), Louisburg (19) and DeSoto (14).
Harris wasn't sure which of his wrestlers pleased him most Hinton, Breedlove, Sage, Deel or Flory.
"Andy and Witt got me real fired up with a couple of great wins in the semis," said Harris. "I guess I tackled coach (Steve) Pierce I was so excited. He made the mistake of being the closest one to me when I get that fired up. What made me so happy was that Andy and Witt absolutely dominated their matches against tough kids and left no question marks about the fact they wanted to be in the finals and qualify for state.
"Then Wayne Sage and Nathan Deel had a couple of back-to-back exciting wins in the consolation finals to qualify," he said. "They both were low seeds and had to knock off several higher seeds along the way. I am so dang proud of those two little guys. They are competitors. Deel got revenge on the Eudora kid who beat him 16-11 in the dual."
But, then there was Flory, the first freshman to qualify for the state tournament since Duke Andrews back in 1993.
"Kyle Flory doesn't compete like a freshman," said Harris. "He is tough as nails. I think he was holding back some and was a little timid, probably nerves causing most of that. But he still won his matches and that is the important thing. He nearly made the finals, losing a tight 10-8 match to a tough senior from Abilene. He is going to open back up this week at state and attack more. He is the only freshman to qualify at his weight. That is quite an honor."
But, there was more to the Bulldog finish than just the state qualifiers.
"Our whole team performed outstanding, every single Bulldog," he said. "I am proud of them if they compete, never quit and act like winners. And they all did just that. We had three kids miss qualifying by one match (juniors Adam Halford, Adam Turk and freshman Derek Lang) and two others finished in the top eight of their brackets (senior Matt Westgate and junior Chris Hirschmann). Everyone helped us finish where we did in the team standings."
But, most of all, Harris is looking for the state trip to Wichita.
"State will be a whole lot of fun," he said. "I have been to very few athletic events that can create the kind of excitement that the state wrestling tournament can. Kids are laying it on the line, striving for goals. Whether they experience the joy of a win or the sorrow of a tough defeat, they all come out winners in this sport.
"It is the first trip there for all these kids and they will have a great time," said Harris. "But, we are not content. We want to keep competing like the winners we are and see just how far that takes us."
The Class 4A State Wrestling Tournament will be Friday and Saturday in Wichita.