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. .