Ross Starcher hits gold, is now 40-2; Palmer places fourth
Ross Starcher hasn't lost a match since Jan. 17, has won 19 straight matches and has claimed six tournament titles in the 145-pound division.
Oh for lucky No. 7 in the tournament department.
Starcher will take a 40-2 record into the state wrestling tournament Friday after clinching the 4A regional title last Saturday in Hiawatha.
The Tonganoxie junior's losses have come to Lawrence sophomore Nolan Kellerman and Louisburg junior Chad Roberts.
Starcher won't face Kellerman (32-7) again because he is in Class 6A. As for Roberts, Starcher returned the favor Saturday in the regional finals, pinning the LHS grappler midway through the third period. Starcher steadily built a 5-0 before taking Roberts down for good in the final period.
"I was just going out there and getting my revenge from last time," Starcher said.
Roberts scored a 7-6 decision against Starcher at the Tonganoxie Invitational. That was the last time the Chieftain wrestler lost a match.
Only Baldwin's Derek Lang (42-3) in 4A and TMP-Marian's Tait Weatherbee (41-1) in 3-2-1A have more victories than Starcher this season.
Last year, Starcher was 31-6 after regionals, but struggled at state with a 1-2 record. He is 1-4 all-time in state matches, but he expects to buck that trend this weekend.
"This year, I think, is going to be different," Starcher said.
On Friday, Starcher will open the tournament against Buhler junior Andrew Gossett (26-9).
Garrett Palmer will make his second state appearance after nabbing the fourth-place slot in the 135 division. Palmer, who went 0-2 last season at state, will get another crack at Wichita this year.
The junior notched a must-win match last Saturday against Atchison's J.D. Horton in the consolation bracket before facing Spring Hill's Max Hudgins.
Palmer busted out of the gate with a 2-0 lead and then led late, 4-2. The junior, though, would be called for stalling twice in the third period. The violations forced an overtime and Hudgins won in the extra period, 6-4.
"The first one was all right, but with the second one I got kind of aggravated," Palmer said. "I've got to keep wrestling no matter what."
Palmer was in command against Hudgins until late, an improvement from the wrestlers' first meeting at the Eudora Invitational in the second tourney of the year. Hudgins won with a major decision, 17-6, in that match.
Palmer obviously was frustrated after losing the heartbreaker, but the junior later turned his focus to state.
"It's still a great accomplishment to go to state," said Palmer, who also placed fourth at regionals last season.
Now 29-10, Palmer will face Columbus senior Marcus Bowman (30-3) on Friday.
Chad Starcher is the Chieftains' third and final state qualifier. The senior will make his second state appearance with a 20-5 record.
Chad Starcher will take on Wamego senior Scott Pettinger, who boasts a 33-1 record.
The Chieftains sent six wrestlers to state last season, including one placer in James Hartshorn (sixth).
THS coach Jeremy Goebel thinks there's a realistic shot to produce multiple state wrestlers for the first time in school history.
"We just have to wrestle and get 'er done," Goebel said.
Although three grapplers extended their seasons, 10 wrestlers ended their years -- four of whom were seniors.
Brad Nickel finished regionals with a 2-2 record, as did Jerry Hartshorn and Matt Weyer. Alan Bauerly ended regionals with an 0-2 record. Nickel ended the season at 19-19, Hartshorn finished 24-18 and Weyer was 22-8. Bauerly's final mark was 16-19.
"I thought the seniors had a good run," Goebel said. "I would have liked for them to end their careers at Wichita, but that's how the cookie crumbles."
Also competing in Hiawatha were Justin Smith (0-2), Hunter Samuels (1-2), Ben Dobbins (0-2), Alan Athon (0-2), Josh Maxon (1-2) and Aaron Adcox (0-2).