Grapplers take to mats at summer league
Who needs to spend their summer kicking back and relaxing? Not the 50-plus high school grapplers who took part in the Unlimited Fitness Wrestling League, held every Thursday night in June at Tonganoxie High.
Instead, wrestlers from Tonganoxie, Basehor-Linwood, Eudora, Bonner Springs and other area schools felt they would be better served by locking horns with each other in the THS wrestling room.
Once the final match of the month-long league ended on Thursday evening, THS coach Jeremy Goebel said the biggest highlight for him was seeing more prep wrestlers out this year than in 2007, the UFWL's inaugural run. Goebel said the league, which featured 11 five-man teams this year, only had 32 participants last year, and he was especially excited about the larger turnout of Tonganoxie wrestlers (between 12 and 16 Chieftains competed each week and comprised three of the league's teams).
THS grappler Jeremie Maus, who competed both years, said the biggest difference in the second summer was the number of wrestlers.
"A lot more people, and that makes it nice because you get more combat on the mat," Maus said, grading the level of competition at a B or an A.
After four weeks, Goebel said everyone who competed saw improvement and that, more than anything, was the goal for the league, which allowed combatants to see anywhere from 12 to 16 matches in four weeks.
"It's only going to help them. Anytime you can get on the mat with good competition it's going to help you," Goebel said, lauding the level of competition. "A couple of those brackets had four kids who were in the top four in the state tournament."
When the dust settled and all the results were tallied it was one of Eudora's entries, Cardinals No. 2, which finished at the top of the standings.
One of Tonganoxie's teams won last year but this year the best a THS entry could finish was third. Tonganoxie No. 1, which included Matt Brock, Maus, Steve Davis, Zach Kaighin and Kevin Hamm, finished 27 points behind Cardinals No. 2.
The five Chieftains might have made a run at the title if jobs and other obligations hadn't kept four of the grapplers from missing the final night of action.
But Maus, the only member of the third-place team present Thursday, said there was more to the league than being the top-ranked team. He said team chemistry really grows during the four-week league.
"Team-wise it helps so much because it gets us all bonded," Maus said, explaining that proved to be the case for the '07-'08 season following last summer's league. "All the way from freshman to senior class we were all friends."
In between matches, the Tonganoxie wrestlers often sat and talked when a THS wrestler wasn't in action and when one was, their focus turned to the match and cheering for their teammate.
Nobody made any of the wrestlers compete in the league, so everyone involved was primarily concerned with improving their skills. Rising THS junior Jeremy Elliot said they got that and more.
"It's giving us a lot of mat time. That's helped a lot of us out. Instead of sitting around during the summer doing nothing we've come in here and got some of our moves back," the 160-pounder said.
"It helps so much," he said. "Just wrestling in the summer helps. It just makes you so much better to get prepared for the winter."
Rising THS junior Jeff Ross said he saw a lot of different styles and sizes from opponents during the month and that will prepare him for the '08-'09 campaign.
"Whatever somebody brings, you've got that in your arsenal," Ross said.
Goebel said the time all the wrestlers invested in the league would be evident when the season starts later this year.
"That's going to pay dividends for our program," he said. "We're getting in the room and it's paying off in the summertime."
Unlimited Fitness Wrestling League Standings
1. Cardinals No. 2, 129
2. Red Shirt Warriors, 108
3. Tonganoxie No. 1, 102
4. Chief Renegades, 97
5. Flying Lambkins, 69
6. Wellsville, 65
7. Tonganoxie No. 3, 63
8. Bonner Springs, 61
9. Tonganoxie No. 2, 48
10. Cardinals No. 1, 39
11. St. Thomas Aquinas, 24