PERFECTION: Riedel caps undefeated season with Tonganoxie’s first state champion in program history; Searcy becomes 2nd matches later
Salina Korbin Riedel’s goal had been unchanged since his freshman year, but history had shown it to be a tall order in Tonganoxie.
The senior’s end goal always was to be a state champion. The THS wrestling room has plenty of wall plaques indicating accolades and state medalists, but there was a void: No state champions.
The wall decor soon will be changing.
On Saturday, Riedel became Tonganoxie High’s first gold medalist — and the program’s first undefeated champ to boot.
Riedel outlasted Burlington junior Cael Johnson (38-4) for a 16-6 major decision in the 158-pound championship match at the Class 4A State Wrestling Championships at Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina.
Riedel controlled the match throughout and never really was threatened. He said this past week in an interview with The Mirror that he was confident about his chances to win a state title. He followed through on Saturday without much outward fanfare or emotion as he finished off a perfect 42-0 season.
“I looked up to my crowd and accepted the moment and shook the opponent’s hand,” Riedel said, referring to a nod to THS crowd in the arena. “That’s been my goal since freshman year. I finally did accomplish this. It meant a lot to me. The sport of wrestling as hard as it is … the outcome, it just felt good.”
As calm and collected as Riedel was, THS coach Ross Starcher looked just the opposite from his chair on a corner of the championship mat.
“I’m pretty sure I was more nervous than he was,” Starcher said. “It definitely was an emotional match.”
Longtime assistant coach Scott Underwood was in the same boat.
“I was a nervous mess leading up to Korbin’s match,” Underwood said. “It was like having the excited-to-get-it-going jitters in your belly.”
A few matches later, it suddenly was old hat for the THS coaches.
Riedel told teammate and best friend Connor Searcy “now it’s your turn” as the junior prepared for his championship match at 195.
“I knew Connor was going to win after Korbin did,” Starcher said.
Searcy (28-2) was able to hold on for the 3-1 victory in his championship match at 195 against Marysville junior Garron Champoux (39-3).
“It just felt awesome,” Searcy said. “I just heard that buzzer and I knew I won. I looked up at the crowd and everybody was cheering. It was just insane, just awesome. I knew all my hard work paid off. It just felt pretty good. It was all happiness. It was just crazy.”
Saturday’s winning ways got started with freshman Grayson Sonntag, who lost Friday in the 106-pound semifinals. He made his way through the consolation bracket and placed third. He became Tonganoxie’s first third-place medalist in school history with a 3-1 decision against Ulysses sophomore Quentin Pauda (33-9).
“Grayson in our first match, I was not terribly nervous,” Underwood said. “We had wrestled that kid. Grayson is pretty salty.”
On Monday, now a freshly minted gold medalist, Riedel was working on his next move — a college scholarship. He was on a recruiting visit to the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Riedel has other schools on his list, with more showing interest after Saturday’s big victory.
The senior plans to major in human biology or kinesiology and eventually become a chiropractor.
Riedel might not have showed as much emotion as his coaches after winning gold, but he explained his demeanor.
He said he had gotten a bit excited in celebrating after defeating a top-ranked opponent in both 4A and 5A earlier this season. He talked with his father, Bobby, about responding to victories. He said some of his previous celebrations weren’t over-the-top, but that he was striving to be “classy” in victory.
“He was just like a machine,” Underwood said. “Once he got that first takedown, it was like ‘this is going to work.’ He just took care of business.”
Underwood, who has also coached in Tonganoxie’s youth wrestling program for years, said it was special to get to know Riedel and his family, as has been the case with many of his wrestlers and their families.
But this year’s campaign definitely was something special.
“That kid has just been stone-cold in his matches his whole life,” Underwood said. “I guess it was my job to bear those nerves for him.
“It just means so much to be able to sit in that corner (of the mat where coaches are seated) and come out on top in that match.”