BHS’s Flory, Lang place at state
Derek Lang and Kyle Flory have stood by each other since before kindergarten. Now, as their schooling comes to a close, the two best friends can stand by each other once more, on the award stand.
The two seniors each pulled in state medaling performances for Baldwin High School at the Class 4A State Wrestling Championships in Wichita Saturday. Lang, wrestling at 160 pounds, finished third while Flory, competing at 171 pounds, placed second at the tournament held Friday and Saturday in Wichita.
"These two kids established themselves as two of the best wrestlers in Baldwin history," coach Kit Harris said.
The numbers don't lie. Flory is No. 1 in Baldwin history with 150 career wins, while Lang is second with 138. Lang has the most wins ever in a season for a Baldwin wrestler with 46, while Flory is right behind him with 42 victories. Both marks came this year. Of the 13 statistical records posted on the wall, they have their names on eight of them.
Although their similar seasons might have seemed fitting for a duo that has so much in common, each had higher expectations going into the weekend.
Flory, the defending state champion from 2003 and runner-up in 2002, looked to make history as the only Bulldog wrestler ever to win two state titles. It looked as if Flory would do just that as he dominated on Friday, winning three matches that secured him a place in Saturday's final.
In the championship, Flory ran into second-ranked Kyle Davis of Rose Hill and his 35-1 record.
"There was some pressure (to repeat)," Flory said. "I tried to not let it get to me."
Davis had an early takedown and was up 2-0 at the end of the first period. Flory managed to record an escape point in the second period and went into the third trailing by one.
If the match wasn't intense enough for the fans at the Kansas Coliseum up to that point, they would soon be pleased. Flory scored a takedown with 50 seconds remaining to take a 3-2 lead. After a blood time-out, Davis countered with an escape to tie. Then, with seconds remaining, Davis scored an improbable takedown to seal the victory, 5-3.
"Sports are full of elation and heartbreaks. That's part of what makes it such a great emotional experience," Harris said. "Kyle has nothing to be ashamed of. A lot of kids would love to have the kind of success he has had."
Count Lang as one of them. The sixth-place finisher in 2002 would have liked to have his shot in the finals. Unfortunately for Lang, an All-American stood in his way in defending state champion Ross Taplin from Abilene. Lang won his first two matches, including a tough 6-5 decision over Ben Kersting of Douglass in the second round. In the semifinals, Lang faced off with Taplin.
Despite a strong game plan and a tremendous effort, Lang faltered 1-0.
"We almost had the upset of the tournament," Harris said. "Derek wrestled him tough. I was real proud of him."
That wasn't enough to comfort Lang, however.
"It hurts," he said. "I still lost."
"Anytime you care, there is a risk of pain involved, and that is an okay thing," Harris said. "To be able to care is an important quality."
The disappointment on Friday didn't carry over into Saturday's matches as Lang went back to work, picking up two wins, including a 8-6 thriller over defending state runner-up Nick Zahm from Columbus, and another close victory over Kersting, this time for third place and by a 4-2 score.
"For Derek to be able to go out on a win is a good feeling," Harris said. "I know he wanted more, but he had a big year, setting three school records and I just found out he set a state record, too, with his 46 wins. The old record was 44."
Flory and Lang weren't the only two Bulldogs to compete at the state championships. Sophomore Mark Jehle, at 103 pounds, and Josiah Mason, at 145 pounds, experienced their first-ever state tournament. They each went 0-2. And 275-pound senior Adam Canterbury, also competing for his first time at state, went 1-2, as did junior and second-time state wrestler Joe Bonner, who competed in the 119-pound class. Canterbury's one win was by fall, which added to his new school record of 27.
"Adam had an exciting year," said Harris. "He's probably our most improved wrestler. I am happy he was able to leave his mark on the record board."
As a team, Baldwin finished 18th out of 64 teams, the fourth year in a row the Bulldogs have finished in the top 20. The tournament brought an end to a season that had the Bulldogs seeing their first-ever outright Frontier League dual title. They also finished third in the 10 team league tournament and placed third out of 15 teams at regionals.
"We had a great year team wise," Harris said. "We had a lot of kids prove themselves on varsity. It will help them next year. It was a fun group to coach. They worked hard and we had some fun times."
Harris will know look to the future, and in doing so, say good-bye to the current group of seniors.
"We are definitely going to miss them," Harris said, fighting back emotion. "More so because they are great kids, and not just great wrestlers. I'm proud to have been their coach."
The feeling is mutual for Flory.
"Yea, I'll miss it," he said. "Getting coached by coach Harris and the other guys was great. I wouldn't change it for anything."