Youthful BHS wrestlers ready to begin Saturday
Unlike the past few years, Kit Harris admits there are many questions left unanswered leading up to Saturday’s first tournament.
Harris’ Baldwin High School wrestling team has fewer numbers than it’s had in several years and most of those wrestlers are sophomores and freshmen. It’s not experience on the mat that concerns him; it’s experience at the high school varsity level.
“Everybody on our team has wrestled before, so we have experience,” Harris said. “It’s just that a lot of them will be wrestling varsity for the first time.”
Every year since Harris took over the program in 1999, he has held a scrimmage before the first tournament to decide several varsity spots. The Purple-White Scrimmage took place Wednesday evening.
Those who will compete on the varsity team will head to Gardner for their first meet of the season. The action begins at 9 a.m. Saturday.
“I’m very excited to see how we can do, but there are also a lot of question marks,” Harris said. “We’ve got a lot of kids that will be competing for varsity for the first time. It will be fun to see them wrestle and learn as the season goes along.
“Like any sport, the week leading up to the first event probably has the most anxiety, because you are ready to battle other schools, but you’re still nervous about starting the season,” he said.
While youth will be the primary concern of the Bulldogs, they do return a trio of state qualifiers. Baldwin’s leading wrestler this season looks to be senior Alan Callahan. He is a two-time state placer, who hopes to follow in his older brother’s footsteps from a year ago.
Kevin Callahan won his first state championship last year after placing at state his first three years. Alan is hoping his final state meet will go much better than last year, where he was eliminated before the placing round.
“My goal is to have a good season all the way through, unlike last year where I didn’t have a good last month,” Callahan said. “I just have to go out there and keep working hard at it every day.”
BHS also returns two other state qualifiers in senior Colin Busby and junior Josh Hanson. They both qualified two years ago for the Class 4A state meet in Salina.
Harris is also hoping for good things to come from senior Andy Thurlow, senior Nick Barkley and junior Heath Parmley. Thurlow and Parmley are returning runners-up at the Frontier League meet.
“All of our seniors have been great leaders so far,” Harris said. “They lead us in practice and hopefully they’ll lead us at the meets.”
Despite varied expectations, Harris and Callahan agree the practices are getting better each week.
“It’s going really well,” Harris said. “We’ve thrown in some tough workouts and we’re starting to increase our workload. We’re trying to care of some injury and grade problems, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
Callahan said the younger wrestlers are beginning to train harder each day.
“It’s going good so far,” Callahan said. “Everybody is coming in and we’re starting to get the intensity level up. We’re a young team, but we’re looking pretty tough.”
Saturday’s tournament usually includes around 20 schools, several of which are 5A or 6A schools.
“It’s a big tournament with a lot of big schools,” Harris said. “It’s even tougher this year, because Bishop Carroll is there. It won’t be an easy start, but it’s close to home and we’ll get a lot of matches.”