Wrestlers seeking return to state tournament
The goal is the same each year for the Tonganoxie High wrestling team: Qualify as many wrestlers as possible for the state meet at the Kansas Coliseum in Wichita.
This season, the Chieftains aim to keep wrestlers in the winner's brackets.
Last year, Tonganoxie qualified six wrestlers for state, but only James Hartshorn avoided the consolation in the first round.
The Chieftains did charge back in the consolation bracket as three wrestlers earned victories.
Hartshorn then topped the weekend off with a sixth-place finish in the 215 division, becoming Tonganoxie's fifth wrestler to place at state.
Hartshorn has graduated, as have fellow state qualifiers Chuck Riddle and Andrew Miller.
Tonganoxie, though, returns state qualifiers Ross Starcher, Garrett Palmer and Matt Weyer.
Other top returners include Hunter Samuels, Alan Athon, Aaron Adcox and Chad Starcher, who was a state qualifier his freshman year, but did not return the next two years.
Seniors on this year's squad are Weyer, Chad Starcher, Alan Bauerly, Jerry Hartshorn and Brad Nickel.
The Chieftains have been practicing again this fall without their head coach.
Jeremy Goebel, still in the Army Reserves, is awaiting notification that he can come home permanently. Goebel was called up midway through last season, but is expected to be back in Tonganoxie in January.
In the meantime, interim coach Pat Wakeman and assistant coach Scott Underwood are guiding the Chieftains.
Chad Starcher said the transition never has been an issue for the team.
"I don't think so," Starcher said. "I think everybody else feels the same."
Weyer agreed, noting practices haven't been any easier.
"We worked hard under DeWitt when he was here," Weyer said. "But Underwood and Wakeman have been working us harder.
"They've been working us just as hard as Goebel did. We're just doing the same exact stuff."
Perennial power Santa Fe Trail is expected to be the top squad again this season. Tonganoxie, meanwhile, will look to challenge for titles when league, regionals -- and even state -- approach on the schedule.
Weyer said the key to success in the postseason is simple.
"We just have to keep working hard," Weyer said.