State tournament full of highs, lows for BHS
It was an up-and-down weekend for the Baldwin High School wrestling team, as it had four wrestlers place in the top six and finished 11th as team, but it also suffered one serious injury at the Class 4A state meet in Salina.
Freshman Alan Callahan fractured his fibula 30 seconds into his semifinal match Friday. Callahan finished the match, but lost and had to injury default the rest of the weekend. He finished sixth in the 103-pound weight class.
"It was pretty disappointing, because I missed out on the finals," Callahan said. "It was also disappointing because I got sixth and couldn't place higher."
Callahan said he knew something was wrong when his leg popped early in the match.
"It got caught and it popped really bad, then I went down," Callahan said. "I thought it was broke, because it popped and it was moving around."
Coach Kit Harris felt bad for Callahan, because he was ready to place higher at the state meet.
"It was really sad for Alan, because he was on a roll," Harris said. "He was mentally focused. He was physically prepared. Everything was going great for him and he had it all together. Then that happened in the first 30 seconds of that match, which was sad for him. He had a great freshman season though."
Despite Callahan's injury, three other Bulldogs managed to place at the meet, including Callahan's older brother, sophomore Kevin Callahan.
K. Callahan (125) marched through his weight class Friday and found himself in the finals Saturday.
"I was watching him wrestle and I saw him got hurt," K. Callahan said of A. Callahan. "When I made the finals, it just wasn't as great, because I knew my little brother got hurt and should have been in the finals. It helped me wrestle, because I was wrestling for him."
Harris said K. Callahan wrestled very smart in his semifinal match and stuck with his game plan.
"I knew he was going to have a tough match in the semifinals, but he wrestled extremely smart," Harris said. "We talked about basic wrestling and staying in position. He did that perfectly."
In his championship match, K. Callahan fell just short as he lost to Blake Fisher from Andale 5-2.
"Kevin making the finals was really exciting," Harris said. "In the finals, he ran into a two-time state champ from Andale, who is really just a better wrestler at this point. Kevin wrestled hard, but he just fell short. He made a really great run at a state title."
K. Callahan would have liked to have taken first, but he was content with runner-up.
"I was pretty pleased with how I performed," K. Callahan said. "In the finals, I wrestled pretty good, but I could have done better. That's just the way it goes sometimes. I was kind of satisfied with second place, but the only place that makes the whole thing worth while is that first place."
The next highest Bulldog finisher was senior Josiah Mason (152), who placed fourth at his first state meet since 2004.
"Josiah had an awesome tournament and it was really exciting to see him get his wins," Harris said. "He had a couple wins over some tough opponents. His last win was over a guy that placed third at state last year and Josiah didn't even qualify last year. He was really a new name in that mix and it was exciting to see him end his senior year like that."
Mason was happy with his placing, but wishes he could have done better.
"I was pretty pleased," Mason said. "I wish I wouldn't have gotten pinned in my last match, but that's the way things turned out."
Mason won his first two matches with ease Friday with a technical fall 18-2 and a pin in the first minute. Then he was defeated in the semifinal round Friday night.
"It was tough, because I was close to getting back in the match at the end, but I couldn't get it done," Mason said of his semifinal match.
Mason came back and won his next match to get into the third-place match. He lost that match and placed fourth at the meet. He was happy with his tournament, though.
"I was pretty pleased with my overall performance," Mason said. "I went in just thinking it was just another tournament and it's not the end of the world if I lose. That kind of helped me stay calm for my matches. It showed in my wrestling, because I wasn't nervous."
The other placer was junior Michael Thurlow (119), who finished sixth at his first state meet.
Thurlow won his first match, then lost his quarterfinal match 13-11. He won his next two matches with a quick pin and a 5-4 decision. He lost his final two matches to place sixth for the Bulldogs.
"Michael was also a big surprise to a lot of people, because he wasn't in the state rankings," Harris said. "To us, who have been watching him every week. We have seen him getting better and better. It was exciting for him. He just wrestles hard, no matter what the situation."
The other three wrestlers that qualified for state were sophomore Nick Rockhold (112), senior Matt James (130) and sophomore Gabe Mason (160). Rockhold and James went 0-2 at the meet while Mason went 1-2.
"Everyone had their heart set on getting to the medal round, and four of the seven were able to accomplish that," Harris said. "The ones that didn't, it was certainly not a lack of effort."
Harris said he was pleased with the team's placing (11th), but he knows they still have room for improvement.
"We had hopes of finishing higher as a team, but the teams above us were really close," Harris said. "We were right there in the mix of things. We are definitely making strides, but we still have a little ways to go."
Harris was very proud of the effort everybody gave at the meet.
"Everybody wrestled hard," Harris said. "We had our good times and our frustrating times, but overall it was a great effort by all of the kids.
"We had more state placers than we have ever had," Harris said. "We are starting to get more and more kids in the medal hunt and that is exciting. A lot of this group comes back next year."
K. Callahan said watching other wrestlers that he knows is the best part about the state meet.
"That's what makes it all fun, is just watching everybody else wrestle," Callahan said. "Not only the kids on your team, but kids you know around the state, but watching them wrestle at that level is fun."
The Bulldogs had a successful season as they finished second in the Frontier League and won their regional meet. Harris enjoyed the season and loved this year's wrestlers.
"Overall, it was a really exciting season," Harris said. "We tried a lot of new stuff in our training this year. I think it all worked out really well. The kids really bought into a lot of that stuff. I don't ever want to coach a team that is successful, unless they are good people along the way. I really appreciate the kids' effort to make that a priority."
A. Callahan also enjoyed his season, despite the tough ending.
"I was pretty happy with the season, just not the end result," A. Callahan said. "Throughout the year I wrestled pretty good, but I've got more improvement to do for next year."
J. Mason and James were the only senior Bulldogs that went to state. But each of them left their mark at BHS. Mason moved up to fourth on the all-time wins list with 106, which passed Harris's 100 wins. James ended his career with 91 wins, tying him for ninth place on the list.
K. Callahan and G. Mason are also moving up on the all-time wins list with 89 and 74 wins, respectively.
"We've got a lot of this group coming back," Harris said. "Our senior leadership kept some of our winning traditions going. I think leadership helped us take a few more steps higher this year."
The Bulldogs also broke six school records this year, five of which were broken by K. Callahan. James recorded 28 falls this year, breaking the old record of 27.
K. Callahan set new school records in team points (260), nearfalls-3 (57), technical falls (15), total nearfalls (100) and match points (452).
Class 4A State Tournament
1. Andale 134
2. Abilene 83
3. Rose Hill 76.5
4. Santa Fe Trail 72.5
5. Colby 71.5
6. Clay Center 70.5
7. Columbus 70
8. Andover-Central 63
9. Scott City 60
10. Goodland 59
11. Baldwin 56.5
All results can be found at www.kshsaa.org.