Rested Bulldogs ready for league tournament
With five straight years of winning or taking second, Baldwin High School wrestling coach Kit Harris hopes for another solid performance from his team Saturday.
The Bulldogs travel to Louisburg to compete in the 13-team Frontier League wrestling championships.
"You always shoot for the top," Harris said. "I think we have a chance to be up there. There are a couple of other teams that we will be tight with. It could be similar to last year, where it was a tight three-team race."
The league tournament will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in Louisburg.
"I am really looking forward to it and I think we have a good shot as a team to win it if everybody competes at their level," junior Kevin Callahan said. "I am really looking forward to seeing how everybody does."
In 2006, Baldwin placed runner-up in the tournament to Paola (175.5 points). BHS lost by three points after the Paola heavyweight won his championship match. However, BHS (172.5) held off Gardner-Edgerton (172) by 0.5 points.
"We've had success, but I think it will be a little bit tougher this year to make it that high, because we don't have the high level wrestlers that everybody else has," Callahan said. "We have a lot of solid wrestlers. If everybody comes out and competes their hardest, I think we have a chance at being at the top."
This year's team-to-beat seems to be Eudora, in Harris' mind.
"I think Eudora is probably the favorite," Harris said. "They have a really strong senior class and they are going to get a lot of placers. They are going to get a lot of support points."
Callahan agreed that the Cardinals are one of the few teams that will be fighting for the league championship.
"There are quite a few tough teams," Callahan said. "Eudora is a tough tournament team. We've got a good shot. There are a lot of good teams. Whatever team comes out and competes at the highest level Saturday will win."
Although the team placing is important, Harris is truly focused on his wrestlers competing hard Saturday.
"Most importantly, we want to wrestle well, but we also want to focus on performance and not so much outcome," Harris said.
BHS will rely heavily on its lightweights at the league tournament. Freshman Josh Hanson (103 pounds), sophomore Alan Callahan (112), junior Nick Rockhold (119), K. Callahan (130) and senior Michael Thurlow (135) have a combined record of 131-38.
"We have quite a few kids that have a chance to finish high," Harris said. "The lightweights have been strong for us all year."
Although the lightweights will be the highlight of the meet for the Bulldogs, the heavyweights just might be the difference in team placing.
"You get your big guns to score big points, but you also have to have support points," Harris said. "In a tournament like this, I think every kid in our line up can score support points. That's really going to help us."
Harris said several wrestlers could provide the points necessary to win the team title. One of those Bulldogs is sophomore Colin Busby (145).
"Colin Busby has been improving every week," Harris said. "He is getting better and better. He really thinks through things he isn't doing well and he works hard on them. He has been very competitive lately."
Baldwin didn't wrestle last weekend, but will host a dual against Osawatomie at 4 p.m. tonight in the South gym, located at the corner of Eighth and Chapel streets. BHS will only wrestle part of its team, in order to keep the rest fresh for Saturday.
"We relaxed this week a bit, because I wanted kids to get over some illnesses and injuries that we were nursing," Harris said. "We are hoping to come in strong mentally and physically and push the final three weeks of our season."
Saturday's meet will be the first of the final three for the 2006 season, with the Class 4A regional and state tournaments to follow.
The Bulldogs understand the importance of these next three meets.
"It's kind of winding down in a way, but it's also picking up in a way," K. Callahan said. "The toughest competitions are coming up and you've got to be ready to go."
The Bulldogs have struggled to find the perfect line up all season. Injuries and illness have caused several problems, but Harris hopes all of that is finished.
"It's been an exciting season," Harris said. "It's been full of ups and downs. We've had a lot of things happen that has forced kids to miss competitions, but we've been able to put a good, strong line up out there for every meet. That's a tribute to our depth. We are just starting to get our line up back together and I think we will be at full strength for the first time since the beginning of the year."