Wrestlers recognized at banquet
On Monday, Tonganoxie wrestling Coach Bill DeWitt's baby girl, Anna Shae, turned seven months old.
This fact he announced to the more than 60 parents and wrestlers on hand for the team's season-end banquet that evening.
At the banquet, his team also turned 4 years old.
And after four years of building the program, he looked back on this season and considered it the success that comes with hard work.
It was a best season in recent Tonganoxie history maybe ever.
Four years ago the team was in the league basement. Now it's in the penthouse and looking for a better view.
This year, the team took second in the Kaw Valley League Tournament, placed in the top four at all of its tournaments and finished with an 8-3-1 record.
As an indicator of the success the team has found under DeWitt's wing, participation in wrestling has nearly tripled from the 13 on the team when he took over.
Six Tonganoxie wrestlers qualified for the Class 4A State Wrestling Tournament compared to only two last season.
"It was a heck of a season," he said. "It's what I'd call a break-through season for Tonganoxie."
After the crowd had feasted on a dinner of chicken Alfredo and cheese sticks, DeWitt began the awards portion of the banquet by thanking those gathered for their support and his team for its hard work.
He announced a beefed-up schedule for next year, including more junior varsity meets and two varsity meets against some of the best wrestling schools in the state.
"We're getting tired of beating on Immac and Perry," he said.
After a few more comments on the season from Assistant Coach Dean Moss, DeWitt began distributing season awards to his wrestlers. The awards stirred steady outbursts of laughter from the audience.
Winning the Excedrin Award for causing the most headaches for the coaches was Mike Andrews.
Jerry Hartshorn won the Red Cross Award for the biggest bleeder, though the award could easily have gone to Willy Altman because of his frequent nosebleeds during matches.
Courtney King won the Medal of Honor for showing no fear.
"The guy who gets this award could go 0-20, but he doesn't care," DeWitt said. "He loves the sport."
Altman took home the Slim Fast Award for his ability to lose weight rapidly.
Chad Starcher was selected Freshman of the Year.
The Newcomer of the Year award went to Mitch McGinnis who took second place at two junior varsity tournaments this season.
Matt Weyer won the Purple Heart Award for wrestling while injured.
Chuck Riddle was selected as the team's Junior Varsity Wrestler of the Year.
The Five-Pound Orange Award went to Steve Adcox.
"This one is for guys who were on-weight the night before, but come in the next day five pounds over. And you ask them what they had to eat, and they say, 'Just an orange.'"
Altman also won the award for most pins, with 16. Andrews took home the award for most take downs with 59.
After the awards were given, DeWitt gave out 16 letters and two provisional letters. Provisional letters become permanent letters next year if the wrestler continues to improve.
And at end, DeWitt showed a 45-minute video of the team wrestling this season to the beat of early '90s hair band music.
The highlight brought laughter and smiles, and at times, tears and sobs.
For the younger wrestlers in attendance, the video captured their season's development and gave them inspiration for the future.
For the three seniors who have wrestled for DeWitt for four years, the video was a final review of what the four of them with a lot of help from Moss have accomplished so far in Tonganoxie.
"They've been the only three kids who've stuck with me from the beginning," DeWitt said. "They've become almost like children to me."
With typical DeWitt humor, he added, "And I'm sure some of you parents say, 'Here, take them.'"