Starcher engines: Brothers advance to state
Chad Starcher had been here before.
In a season depleted by a nagging shoulder injury, Starcher demanded that his agonizing arm hold on for one more match.
Such was the scene on Valentine's Day, when the senior battled his way through the Kaw Valley League meet. He reached the 140-pound finals, but forfeited the title bout because his shoulder was spent.
Last weekend, however, the result was vastly different -- Saturday was the 4A regional meet in Hiawatha.
Take a spot in the top four and you advance to Wichita for the state meet.
Miss the cut and you wait about nine months to climb back on the high school mats.
But for the senior Starcher, option 2 wasn't available.
He needed that top-four finish if he planned to make a final trip to the Kansas Coliseum in Wichita.
This, after all, was his final shot.
Starcher sustained a partial bicep tear in his left arm earlier in the season. Wearing tape and an elastic wrap around the arm again Saturday, Starcher settled in for another match.
The senior needed a victory against Spring Hill's Derrick Hayes in a consolation bracket match to ensure a state berth.
The muggy HHS gymnasium, known as the Roundhouse, had the Starcher-Hayes match at center stage. The other mat vacant because of an injury, most eyes were fixed on the consolation match.
In the first period, Starcher broke out to a 2-1 advantage with a takedown.
Hayes then moved the see-saw battle in his favor with two points.
Now trailing 3-2, Starcher maneuvered a reversal for two more points and again had a one-point lead.
Neither wrestler was finished.
Starcher again scored two points and again had a slim lead.
Ahead 4-3 entering the third period, Starcher's face reflected his obvious pain.
The wrestlers continued to battle for position, but in the process Hayes pushed and tugged on Starcher's shoulder as Hayes shot back into the lead at 5-4 with a near fall. The Spring Hill junior then worked for a move he hoped would put Starcher away.
That, however, would not happen.
As the match hit its final moments, Starcher met his opponent's challenge.
The Chieftain senior recorded a reversal with 36.6 seconds left, earning a 6-5 lead.
As though his heart were pumping determination to the ailing left bicep, Starcher refused to let Hayes out of his grasp.
The senior held on for the victory and advanced to the consolation finals against Atchison's Dustin Bartlett. But as he did in the KVL meet, THS coach Jeremy Goebel kept Starcher out of the final match because of his injured shoulder.
The forfeit, though, was trivial -- Starcher did what was needed to extend his high school eligibility to next weekend. He also landed his first state berth since his freshman season.
Considering the situation, that was an immense accomplishment in Goebel's eyes.
"I almost cried," the second-year THS coach said. "The last time I probably cried was my last match in college."
Not that Starcher noticed, but supporters from KVL foes Lansing and Piper started pulling for the Chieftain also.
"That was moving," Goebel said of Starcher's win. "I can't put it into words.
"The kid has the heart of 20 wrestlers."
Starcher's shoulder bothered him during his matches, but he said the most pain occurred between competitions.
Now 20-5, Starcher will face Wamego's Scott Pittenger. The senior took sixth in the 135 division last year, but is 33-1 this year as a 140. He placed first in the Abilene regional after defeating Clay Center's Matt Gilbert.
Starcher doesn't know how long his bicep will last in Wichita, but he plans to get in as many matches as his arm will allow.
"I'm just trying to keep up with my little brother," Starcher said.
Junior Ross Starcher will make his third state appearance after taking first in Hiawatha in the 140 division. The younger Starcher enters state with a 40-2 record.
A Starcher has advanced to the state tournament each of the last three years. On Friday, they both will compete at the same state meet for the first time.
"Chad just did an awesome job coming back from that injury," Ross said Saturday. "I think he wrestled the hardest today."