State pins quick losses on wrestlers
Bill DeWitt sat with his hands under his chin staring out over the nine mats of the Kansas Coliseum. His wrestlers looked ahead with stoic gazes, while heading back to the hotel to get some rest.
First-round losses by all four Tonganoxie state qualifiers left the Chieftain contingent glum early Friday afternoon.
DeWitt had one word for how the wrestlers performed in the first round pathetic. He spelled it out slowly, like a word parents don't want their young children to hear so they revert to an alphabetic rendition.
That was the frustration DeWitt, Tony Miller, Chris Calovich, Mike Andrews and Bruce Walker felt all weekend.
"My expectations going into state are always high," DeWitt said.
It was also an indication, DeWitt said, of how much more work the Tonganoxie wrestling program needs to improve to reach the level of teams such the Santa Fe Trail team that finished second at state.
After the first-round losses, only Mike Andrews won. He then lost again, ending his season but not his interest in wrestling.
DeWitt said Andrews' state experience had motivated him to continue with the kids wrestling program and with freestyle wrestling during the summer in order to prepare for next season.
"I expect Mike, Tony and Bruce to come back almost like new wrestlers," DeWitt said.
Chris Calovich, the lone senior among the qualifiers, showed improved practice habits and intensity all season after qualifying for state last year, DeWitt said.
His second-round loss was especially heartbreaking.
The wrestlers were tied, 1-1, after three regulation periods and one overtime period. Calovich began the second overtime period down. The wrestler who is down in the second overtime period has to score to win. Calovich nearly escaped, but did not score and the match was awarded to his opponent.
Walker finished the season 23-14. Andrews was 20-14. Calovich was 24-5. Miller was 19-14.
"I'm looking for a learning experience," Miller said after qualifying for state at regionals.
He and his teammates got that experience, and reflected on it during the trip back, DeWitt said.
The atmosphere in the Coliseum nine mats of wrestling in front of a packed arena, the pomp and circumstance of the finals it was something all three of the returners said they want to see again next spring.
Santa Fe Trail was the only team Tonganoxie regularly wrestles among the top teams in state. Other top teams were mostly from western Kansas.
"The level of wrestling in western Kansas just seems to be a step ahead of what we have in eastern Kansas," DeWitt said.