Bulldogs dominate in duals
As strengths go, it's pretty obvious that the Baldwin High School wrestling team has its biggest in duals.
The Bulldogs proved that last week with a pair of one-sided home dual victories Thursday and followed that with a second-place showing in the Washburn Rural Championship Duals Saturday.
At home on Thursday for senior recognition night, BHS pounded Gardner 63-12 and Louisburg 57-24. In Saturday's action, against some of the top competition in Class 4A, 5A and 6A, the Bulldogs blasted Blue Valley North 66-13, topped Wichita Kapaun 40-27, beat Santa Fe Trail 50-21 and Shawnee Mission West 50-24. That put them in the finals against a nationally ranked team, Jefferson City (Mo.)-Heilas, where they fell 65-12.
"Duals are definitely our strength as a team," said coach Kit Harris. "That is because we have a real solid lineup top to bottom. We have no weak spots and in a dual format that's crucial."
The victories moved BHS's record to 10-1 in duals as the Bulldogs get ready for a couple of rough ones this week back in Frontier League action.
"We are having an exciting dual season that is for sure, with the 84-0 win, the 62-6 revenge win over Holton and this tournament," said Harris. "We will have a couple of really tough league duals coming up. Spring Hill and Paola were pre-season favorites to win league, but they haven't had to deal with us yet.
"We're going to give them heck and see how things turn out," he said. "BHS has never won a league wrestling title and we would like to try to change that."
Individually at the Washburn tourney, Kyle Flory at 171 pounds and Nathan Deel at 130 led the way with unbeaten records. Flory went 5-0, while Deel went 3-0.
"Kyle just seems to get better and better each competition," said Harris. "He is now 24-3 through a very difficult stretch in our schedule.
"Nate really showed some guts," he said of Deel, who has battled knee injuries all season long. "He has been battling an injury and told us he would do whatever the team needed. He went out and scored 12 big points with pins against some tough kids. I was real proud of his courage."
Other finishes included Derek Lang (140), Dan Hamilton (215), Witt Hinton (275) and Daniel Gammon (125), all at 4-1; Joe Bonner (103), Wayne Sage (119), Luke Halford (145) and Adam Halford (160), all at 3-2.
"We had some exciting dual wins," said Harris. "And the thing is, everybody contributed at some time during the tournament in a huge way."
As for the home duals, BHS won all but two matches against Gardner. Winning by fall were John Kohn (112), Travis Barnes (130), Steve Hamilton (135), Chris Hirschmann (152), Seth Halford (189), D. Hamilton (215) and Hinton. Winning decisions were Bonner (103), Sage (119), Lang (145) and Flory (171).
Picking up pins against Louisburg were Sage, Matt Gammon (140), Lang, A. Halford, Flory, S. Halford, D. Hamilton and Hinton. Winning by decision were Bonner and Hirschmann.
"It was fun," Harris said of the home dual showing. "We wrestled really well and mistake free. We were real physical and looked real sharp with all our techniques.
"It was an exciting way to have the seniors wrestle in their last home dual," he said of senior recognition night. "They are five young men that I'm really going to miss next year. They've all been important to the turnaround of our team in the last several years."
Next up will be duals at Anderson County Thursday against Spring Hill and Anderson County.
"Our toughest dual tests are Spring Hill and Paola," he said. "They beat us last year. It will come down to the last matches."
After that, the wrestlers will make some history Saturday when they play host to the first-ever Baldwin Invitational Tournament. It will be in the junior high gym beginning at 9 a.m. Teams competing will be Council Grove, Kansas City Sumner, Kansas City Ward, Lansing, Marysville, Mill Valley, Olathe North, Royal Valley and Tonganoxie. The finals will start at 5:30 p.m.
"It's going to be real exciting," Harris said of the first wrestling BIT. "A ton of wrestling parents have stepped up and made it happen. It's always great to put on your own tournament, but it's a lot of hard work, too."