State wrestling tourney reveals much emotion
State wrestling finally finished Saturday evening, and my inaugural tournament was definitely memorable.
The two-day tournament included 405 matches and so much emotion and excitement.
One fan, in an attempt to show his favorite wrestler a move, nearly gave me a shiner with a nasty left. I don't know if it got the point across to the wrestler, but I inched to my left to watch the rest of the match.
So many more memories were formed on the mats.
Olathe South's Justin Dyer, who took first in 6A's 189-pound division, will wrestle at Oklahoma as a college freshman next year. Free State's Ian Bork took third in 6A's 215 and will wrestle at Stanford.
Lansing's Troy Medill went 37-0 before falling to Columbus' Kurtis Baylor in 4A's 160-pound division. Basehor-Linwood coach Scott Neil put a wrestling move on assistant coach Tim Nedeau after Bobcat senior Matt Dukes won the 4A 145-pound title.
The tournament had every emotion imaginable, from loud cheers to eyes full of tears. But two wrestlers stuck in my mind most of all.
Kapaun-Mount Carmel's Doug Hoover won the 5A 119-pound title as a senior this year. Oh, and he also won it as a junior, a sophomore and a freshman. He set a state record with the feat.
"That's your Michael Jordan of wrestling," Tonganoxie coach Bill DeWitt said. "A lot of it comes from hard work and dedication."
A similar requirement seems appropriate for Coffeyville's Earl Jones. Jones won the 125-pound division in 4A, but he wrestled with one leg. His other leg went down to a knee, and after he moved to the opposing coaches to shake hands, his coaches helped carry him to the scorers' table to sign-out as the winner.
The scene makes one feel good about athletics.
It's hoped next year will be just as impressive.
The season isn't finished for some Tonganoxie wrestlers. Hunter Samuels, Chuck Riddle and James Hartshorn will be in Wichita on Saturday for a state youth tournament.
And THS wrestlers will gather one last time this season for a wrestling banquet.
The event is scheduled for March 8, but THS coach Bill DeWitt said that is subject to change.
DeWitt's wife, Amy, is expecting their second child the next day.
"That date's definitely in limbo," the expectant father said about the banquet.
March Madness is creeping ever so closer.
The Big 12 Conference Tournament will be here March 7, finished March 10, and on the next day Selection Sunday the NCAA Tournament field will be decided.
But what about Kansas high school basketball tournaments?
Wouldn't it be grand to check out the KSHSAA Selection Show? Local fans could tune in and complain about being placed in a regional in Colby, or question why their team didn't receive a No. 1 seed. With 64 teams in classes 4A, 3A and 2A, there would be no bubble teams. But in 1A, which currently has 128 schools, some teams might have to win their conference tournaments in hopes of making the KSHSAA Tournament.
Classes 6A and 5A, meanwhile, have 32 teams each. We might throw them together to make things interesting. Actually, they should be thrown together. A state championship should require winning more than four games in the postseason.
Indiana was famous for its one-class tournament. That would be a fun experiment in Kansas. Perhaps a former college coach from New York would lead the small but mighty McLouth Bulldogs into the State finals in Allen Fieldhouse against 5A big boy Great Bend (sorry, I enjoy "Hoosiers" a great deal).
The KSHSAA would never consider these suggestions, but some changes could be made. It's difficult to move teams too far from their areas, but an interesting situation has occurred in the Tonganoxie girls' sub-state in Hiawatha. Just one team, Jefferson West, has a winning record at 11-8. Tonganoxie, which is 7-13, is a No. 3 seed.
A similar bracket occurred in the Andover sub-state. One team has a winning record there as well, but three teams have four wins among them. On the boys' side, the Garnett sub-state has six of eight teams with winning records, and five have between 12 and 17 wins.
Time and money make distributing teams difficult. It's easier to have sub-states planned before the season, and sending teams on longer road trips costs more money.
Who knows, a team might come out of the Hiawatha tournament on a hot streak and make a great showing at State. Unfortunately it won't be Tonganoxie, as seniors Aimee Eisman, Andrea Korb, Erin Seymour, Alicia Stauch and Keri Walker made their final high school appearances in Monday's loss to Holton.
The thought of a Cinderella winning a state title isn't absolutely unheard of. Wellsville won the 3A State title with a 16-10 record in 1997, meaning the Eagles finished the regular season 10-10. No other team has finished with a worse record and won State.
On the boys' side, Shawnee Heights won the 1983 title with an 11-13 finish, which translates into a 5-13 regular season mark.
Any way it's sliced, the format is still basketball and Kansas' February Frenzy-March Madness should be enjoyable.
After traveling to Wichita, I headed to Lincoln, Neb., for the Kansas-Nebraska game. Somewhere along the way, after being around 20,000 people, I acquired a slight cold. But seeing an amazing Big 12 game and a huge State tournament made it worthwhile.