Monthly Archives: February 2015

Wrestling’s last hurrah

The final day of the 2014-15 Kansas high school wrestling season is upon us. By 8 p.m. tonight, 56 state champions across the four divisions will be crowned, and four teams will have large new trophies to add to their collections. For most wrestlers at the smaller schools, track and field or golf is next. Some will move on to baseball at the larger schools. And some might well just not do anything until it’s time for summer conditioning for football.

Norton fell to third in the team standings at the end of the first night of the Class 3-2-1A tournament, but the Bluejays, who are going for their third consecutive title, fifth in the last six years and eighth since 2004, are only 11.5 points behind Hoisington for the top spot. The big problem for Norton is that it only has one finalist, 106-pounder Ryan Johnson, while Hoisington and Rossville have three finalists apiece.

Johnson is one of four finalists from the Mid-Continent League. The others are Ellis’ Bryce Younger (113), Smith Center’s David Hileman (126) and Phillipsburg’s Lucas Jacobs (220). Jacobs is the Panthers only wrestler in the state tournament, making Phillipsburg one of four schools with only one wrestler at the state tournament who is in a final. The others are Hoxie’s Tristan Porsch (132), Greeley County’s Caleb Austin (138) and Troy’s Tristan Speer (195). Speer will be defending his 195-pound title tonight against Oberlin’s Rex Diederich.

Russell’s bid for its first state champion since 1969 will have to wait another year. Dalton Brand lost a 6-4 heartbreaker in the 182-pound semifinal to Rossville’s Isaac Luellen. Sadly, Luellen will not have the best competition for the title bout.

Norton’s Gavin Lively was disqualified from the quarterfinals after he was called for an illegal slam against Kody Collins of Doniphan West. Collins could not continue after the injury period ended, and since Livley’s slam was determined to have caused Collins’ injury, Collins was declared the victor.

It wasn’t the first time I’ve witnessed this.

At the 1999 Louisiana Division I state tournament, Kris Louvierre from Lafayette was called for a slam in the 125-pound championship bout. Louvierre was ahead on points, but since his opponent from Brother Martin, Richard Dixon, could not continue, the Crusader was awarded the state championship. The six points Brother Martin earned (four from the win, two more for the DQ) was enough to push the Crusaders five points past Jesuit for Brother Martin’s first state championship since 1987. It would be the first of five in a row for my alma mater.

Tomorrow will be a day to catch up on paperwork before sub-state basketball starts Monday. Russell’s girls are slated to host Norton at 6 p.m., and the boys go to Scott City Tuesday at 6. This will be a hectic week, because I have an appointment Wednesday morning at 8 with Crista Geyer in Hays, and then there will be sub-state games Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Butt the March break is in sight.

Almost halfway home

We are into the semifinals at the Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament, which means the first day is almost over. I only have two more matches to worry about, and then I can get back to Russell after I stop for some things before leaving Hays. 

Tomorrow figures to be torture, both in the arena and on the road. It should not be a problem getting to Hays, but getting back might be impossible. I hope not, but I’m expectingt the worst. 

Just think–after tomorrow night, I don’t have to worry about this for another year. 

One round down, many to go

The first round of the 2015 Kansas State High School Activities Association Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament is on the books. One hundred twelve bouts were wrestled (14 weight classes, 8 bouts per weight class), and for 112 young men, their dreams of a state championship are over.

The championship quarterfinals are set for 2 p.m. The 56 winners of these matches will assure themselves of taking home a medal. The losers will have to win their first two bouts tomorrow to get onto the podium.

Norton is off to a good start in quest of its fifth state championship in the past six years. The Bluejays went 8-2 in the first round and lead the team standings with 28 points. Hoisington is second at 22.5, followed by Rossville with 19, Marion with 17 and Silver Lake with 14.

The Bluejays just received a large ovation as their eight wrestlers for the quarterfinals emerged onto the mats to warm up. We’re down to under 12 minutes to go before wrestling resumes.

113 pounders through one round

Results from the 113-pound first round at the 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament:

Austin Constable, Minneapolis d. John Kuhn, Trego 7-2

Michael Marsh, Silver Lake won by major decision over Dallas Parker, West Elk 15-5

Bryce Younger, Ellis pinned Caden Emmot, Beloit 1:07

Jarrett Johnson, Marion d. Justin Skerce, Council Grove 4-3

Bryce Gfeller, Rossville pinned Colton Byram, Jayhawk Linn 3:24

Tanner Cassity, Hoisington pinned Alex Depperschmidt, Sublette 2:55

Gavin Burgess, Fredonia d. Seth Harrell, Sabetha 5-4

Skylar Johnson, Norton pinned Oscar Jaime, Lyons :50

Little guys done

The 106-pound weight class is finished with its first round. Here are the results:

Zane Stnaton, Caney Valley pinned Zeb Turner, SE Saline 2:30

Estin Slack, Oakley d. Holden Butler, Council Grove 4-2 OT

Blayne Harris, Beloit pinned Jonathan Bownes, Jayhawk Linn :13

Zachary Tucker, Scott City won by major decision over Dylan Leckner, Wellsville 10-2

Jordan Priddy, Silver Lake d. Kel Grafel, Oberlin 4-2

Ashteen Dodson, Douglass pinned Cordon Rowley, Lyons 4:45

Ryan Johnson, Norton pinned Karl Scholz, Atchison County 1:10

Maximilian Gerlach, Marion d. Jacen Spargg, Halstead 5-3

Countdown to…something

I was out of the house at 5:40 this morning. I figured the longer I dawled around the basement, the better the chance was I would fall asleep and then something would go terribly wrong. But nope, I was out of the house, despite having to take a little longer than usual to get ready. My contacts were irritating me, so I took them out for 20 minutes while I got in the shower. If they keep bothering me, I guess I’ll have to change them out tonight or tomorrow morning.

I got to Gross Memorial Coliseum at 6:10. Had to stop on Vine Street to fuel the car. I tried to lay down, but after a few minutes, I decided I might as well get inside and get set up on press row. I’ve got a good seat, between KQMA radio of Phillipsburg and KQNK radio of Norton. I can be the referee if Jesse Rhea (Phillipsburg) and Fig Millan (Norton) want to go at it.

Weigh-ins are scheduled to start at 7. This is the only tournament for Class 3-2-1A schools in which they must weigh in at the tournament site, unless they wrestle out of state. In Kansas, schools have the option to weigh-in the morning of competition at their own school before departing. The exception is the state tournament, which makes it fair for everyone. Also, many schools come in the night before, so it isn’t practical to do the home weigh-in.

In Classes 5A and 6A, there is no home weigh-in option for the regional. Everyone must do it at the site. Since there are only eight schools per regional, it’s pretty easy.

The states bordering Kansas–Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma–do not have the home weigh-in option, nor do most states, Louisiana included. In those states, you MUST weigh in at the site, starting no more than two hours before competition. I’ll never forget the bigger tournaments in Louisiana where hundreds of boys were in underwear waiting to be weighed in. There are 224 competitors to weigh in for each of the four state tournaments (448 total at Park City since 6A and 5A are together).

This is my 10th state tournament in Kansas. Here’s what I can remember going back:

2006–Norton runs away with their third consecutive state championship, a present for retiring principal Lary Stull. Clay Madden wins his fourth consecutive state championship at 119 pounds. Smith Center’s Travis Warner becomes the Redmen’s first state champion since 1987, and Smith Center finishes second in the team standings.

2007–The big news on the mat was Smith Center and Beloit tied for the team championship in a most controversial fashion. In the 145-pound title match, Smith Center’s Justin York led Beloit’s Brad Esterl 5-4 late in the third period when he was called for stalling by referee Jeremy Streumph, despite the fact York appeared to be engaged with Esterl and was doing nothing that remotely resembled stalling. The call gave Esterl the point he needed to tie, and he would win 7-5 in overtime. Neither team had another wrestler in the finals, so it was a 116.5-116.5 deadlock, with Norton third by 1.5 points.

Off the mat, I was presented the 2006-07 KSHSAA Oscar Stauffer Award as outstanding sportswriter. I was totally floored when I found out two and a half weeks before the tournament. I had been in Kansas less than 18 months, but here I was receiving an award most can only dream of winning. My parents couldn’t make it because a snowstorm made travel treacherous, but they watched the ceremony on television.

Jack drove me home due to the snowpacked roads. My dad drove me to Hays the next day to retrieve my Pontiac.

2008–Smith Center won a close race for the team championship, edging Phillipsburg by 1.5 points. The Redmen’s Colt Rogers won his second state championship in as many years. It snowed again on Saturday, and Jack and I had to take old US 40 home because the Kansas Highway Patrol closed I-70. Brilliant. Turns out I-70 was clear.

2009–Smith Center runs away with the team championship. The Redmen have three state champions in Colt Rogers (125), Marshall McCall (145) and Travis Rempe (160). Plainville’s Dan Weigel wins the 119-pound crown after medaling each of his first three years.

2010–Norton returns to the top, with Smith Center second.

2011–Norton wins it again.

2012–The tournament is moved up one day, going on Thursday and Friday so Fort Hays State can host an NCAA Division II regional Friday and Saturday. Scott City knocks Norton off its perch–temporarily. I wish the tournament could be held Thursday and Friday every year. Would be nice to have a Saturday with nothing to do before sub-state basketball starts up.

2013–The year from hell. If I could zap this from my memory bank, I would. I will never recall the 2013 tournament fondly. In fact, it may have been the worst state event I’ve covered in Kansas.

I went to Kansas City for the week, figuring I would return Thursday. Instead, it snowed hard in western Kansas Wednesday, and then eastern Kansas Thursday. I could not get out of Kasnas City until 7 a.m. Friday morning.

The good news: the tournament wasn’t starting until 4 p.m. due to the snow. The bad news: the roads were beyond awful. The drive from Abilene to Salina was hellish. I could not go faster than 30 miles per hour, and there were a few times I wsa scared I would slide off the road. I-70 cleared up for a while, but got terrible at the Russell County line again. I somehow made it to the Coliseum by 12:30.

The day inside the arena was horrendous. I wanted to strangle a reporter for telling me not to use my flash. That’s not his job.

The first day didn’t get done until almost midnight. The second day was longer because the semifinals had to be moved from the end of day one to the beginning of day two. When I got home to Russell very late that night, I was so happy. Relieved.

2014–Another bad tournament. The first day had to end early due to Fort Hays having a basketball game. It snowed again on Saturday, so I stayed home until Jack and I went over for the finals.

What will 2015 bring? It can’t be any worse than the last two years, I can tell you that much. .

Two trying days

I really should be sleeping right now. Tomorrow, however, is one oft he two days of the year which are among the most stressful for me.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament begins at 10 a.m. at Gross Memorial Coliseum at the western edge of the Fort Hays State University. This will be my 10th time covering this event, and I have to admit, my enthusiasm for this event has waned considerably from my early days in Kansas.

There’s too much going on and it’s too damn loud in that arena. By time the first day is over, my ears are ringing and all I want do is sleep, but i know I can’t sleep for long, because I have to do it all again the next day.

The good news? By 8 p.m. Saturday, it will be all over. I will not have to worry about wrestling again until December, and I wont’ have to set foot inside Gross Coliseum until at least the end of October–if one of our local teams makes the Class 1A state volleyball tournaments–or longer.

Then again, the tournament may or may not end Saturday evening. The forecast for Saturday is grim. Snow is expected, and a lot of it. There is a chance, however, that I could have all I need done tomorrow and I may be able to pass on Saturday. However, if someone makes the finals, I may be stuck going back.

I have not had the best week.

Sunday, I slept nearly the entire day. That’s right, I slept 22 hours out of 24. I was awake only long enough to eat lunch wiht my parents upstairs. I just could not get myself going at all.

Monday was just as bad. I couldn’t get going until 10, and then I had to hurry to get Osborne done. Plus I had a hell of a lot to write for the other papers.

Tuesday dragged on. I couldn’t get done until 3:30, so I had to scramble to get out and drive to Minneapolis for Russell’s basketball games. I made it in time to watch Russell lose twice.

Wednesday was about the best day of the week. And I didn’t go anywhere.

Today was the fear and loathing of what’s to come tomorrow. I am not looking forward to it. I’m going to have to leave my house before 6 a.m. to make sure I can get a parking place that isn’t too far away. I alos have to get there early enough to get set up on press row so I’m not stuck somewhere far away. Not a fun time.

Home ahead of schedule

I have returned to Russell a little earlier than expected. With the forecast looking iffy tonight and tomorrow, I figured it was time to get out of Norton. Not because I was upset with anyone, but to just get home safely, and save a night’s hotel bill.

I left Norton just before 11, and the drive south on 283 and east on I-70 was uneventful. I arrived at Russell High a few minutes ago, and we are now in a break before the consolation semifinals, the most important round of the tournament. The winners of these matches go to the state tournament, the losers go home.

The other good thing about getting home ahead of the snow: my mother is cooking a pork loin roast tomorrow for lunch. Beats the alternative.

Late start to a late day

So much for bringing the programs for the wrestling regional to Norton Community High School early.

I ate breakfast way too early–I overindulged and almost paid for it–and I did not get up until 11:15. Lucky for me, (a) I’m five minutes from the school, (b) it doesn’t take me long to get ready, and (c) fans won’t begin arriving until 12:45 anyway. I’m in good shape.

It’s going to be hectic inside the gym today. It’s going to be non-stop for at least six hours, probably seven. All I know is I’ve got a job to do and I can’t let my focus slip. I’ve had that problem in the past, but I can’t control everything, so I just have to roll with the punches.

Peggy Cox promised we’d eat after wrestling is done today. That’s something to really look forward to.

Okay, the high school beckons. Time to scoot.

Norton again

I got to Norton right at 11 p.m. No deer on US 283 between WaKeeney and my destination. This is my fifth time staying at the Sleep Inn this winter.

There was a slight problem when I pulled into the Sleep Inn: the elevator was not working. However, it was easily taken care of. First, two very nice people offered to help bring my bags up to my room on the third floor. Second, I 50 percent off my rate for tonight. At least the elevator broke tonight, and not tomorrow, when the hotel is fully booked. I can see some of those grandparents who have third floor rooms bitching and griping if the elevator doesn’t work.

Norton’s girls won at Ellis for the first time since 2006. The date was February 17, 2006, when the Bluejays defeated the Lady Railers 46-31. It was a big win for Norton, which improved to 18-1 at that time. The Bluejays’ only loss to that point was a 50-37 setback to Ellis in the Mid-Continent League tournament championship game Jan. 21 of that year.

Caitlyn Cox’s oldest sister, and the eldest child of Peggy and Clark Cox, Chelsea, was a senior on the 2005-06 Lady Bluejays. Chelsea was an All-State volleyball player who had signed a letter of intent with the University of Tulsa, but after one season with the Golden Hurricane, she would transfer to Kansas State, where she’d play the rest of her career.

Norton had five senior starters that year, in fact. In addition to Chelsea, there was Whitney Newell, Karlie Jones, Rebecca Ebert and Klaire Mann, the daughter of Norton superintendent Greg Mann. The key reserves off the bench were two freshmen, Laura Lee Baird and Hayli Bozarth.

I can recall four of Ellis’ five starters. One was a sensational freshman, Whitney Taylor, who would go on to lead Ellis to back-to-back state tournament appearances in 2008 and 2009, and she went on to perform for the Fort Hays State track and field team. Whitney is completing her studies at the University of Kansas medical school. i knew she was going to hit it big. Really big.

The other starters I recall for Ellis were Courtney Waldschmidt, a superb point guard; and two underrated post players, Jennifer Jacques and Jaymi Riedel. I’m sure if I looked at a roster, that fifth starter would come back to me, but for the life of me, I can’t remember off hand.

Why can I recall that game so well? Many things.

First, it was bitterly cold outside. It was a whopping 9 degrees when I left Russell that afternoon, driving Jack’s Buick LeSabre instead of my own Pontiac Grand Prix. I had four layers on going into the Ellis gym, and I was still freezing my butt off for a few minutes both coming and going.

Second, I drove immediately after the game to Colby. I had to cover a regional wrestling tournament at Oberlin the next day. At that time, Colby, 60 miles southeast of Oberlin, was the closest locale with a decent hotel (Norton’s Sleep Inn was still six-plus years off).

By time I pulled in to the hotel in Colby, it was 5 below. It was 8 below the next morning when I started the Buick. I foolishly left a case of pop in the trunk, and sure enough, it was frozen solid in the morning. I drove north on Kansas Highway 25 to Atwood, then east on US 36 to Oberlin.

At this time, the semifinals of the regional wrestling tournament were wrestled on Saturday morning, not Friday night as it is now. Wrestling started at 10 a.m. that day and lasted until a little after 6. The championship finals (1st and 2nd) and consolation finals (3rd and 4th) were wrestled at the same time.

Third, Greg Mann was in attendance at a basketball game. Since Klaire was playing, he went to Ellis, and then-athletic diretor Larry Mills went with the wrestling team to Norton. Larry’s oldest daughter, Hannah, was a cheerleader for the Bluejays, and she wasn’t too happy she had to go to basketball, because it meant she couldn’t see her boyfriend, Nathan Broeckelman, wrestle. Hannah and Nathan are now married and living in Tribune, where he coaches four sports at Greeley County High School, including wrestling, of course.

Okay, time for me to stop blogging. For now. Have a good night. And a pleasant tomorrow.