Josh Goepfert has a chance this weekend to become the first Marysville wrestler to finish in the top six of four state tournaments.
There’s that. And it would be a nice accomplishment for the senior, who will wrestle in the 113-weight class in the 3-2-1A tournament in Hays.
But Goepfert doesn’t have a state championship. The past two years, he has lost to Chase County’s Trey Francka in the semifinals of state, first at 103 pounds and then at 106.
There will be no semifinal meeting between Goepfert and Francka in Hays. They are in opposite sides of the bracket. Both enter competition Friday unbeaten – Goepfert is 35-0; Francka 34-0. This is one of only two weight classes in the state – the 170-pound division in 3-2-1A is the other – that includes two unbeaten wrestlers.
“I want this bad,” Goepfert said. “Coming off of last year, and the year before, I want this. It would be nice.”
But guess who doesn’t want to give up the state championship he won last year.
Yes, that would be Francka, who has two second-place finish and a title in his previous three years.
Before we go any father here, both wrestlers want it understood that they’re not taking any of the other competitors in their weight class for granted. They know it won’t be easy to get to the final, which is the only place they could square off.
But if Goepfert-Francka III happens, it will be one highlights of the state wrestling weekend.
“People are saying he’s really after me,” Francka said. “I’ve read on some of the forums that people think he’s going to beat me this year.”
Francka didn’t seem too worried, though.
“I pinned him my sophomore year at state and my junior year I beat him 6-0,” he said. “I was sick last year, too. If I had been up to my potential I probably would have pinned him again. Hopefully.”
Thanks for throwing the word “hopefully” in there, Trey, because for a minute it sounded like you might be over-confident.
With a career record of 134-12, I guess there’s a reason Francka believes in himself.
“We’ve taken him around this year to wrestle some of the best kids in the state in 5A and 4A,” Chase County coach Derick Budke said. “It’s been a really challenging schedule for him, so I’m sure that’s helped.”
The key to wrestling against Francka, Budke said, is to never allow him to get on top. And good luck with that.
“The way I describe it is that Trey has a great butt compass,” Budke explained. “He has a good knack of always knowing where his hips are and he has really strong legs. He’s flexible and that sense of balance that he has when he’s on top is the most important thing.”
Budke said Francka has given up three takedowns in his 34 matches this season and scored more than 60.
“He’s a pretty dominant kid,” Budke said.
Goepfert knows what he could be up against.
“The last couple of years he’s been able to get on top of me and he’s put those legs in and I’ve had difficulty escaping,” Goepfert said. “I’ve just got to be quicker on bottom and do whatever it takes to get on my feet.”
Goepfert and Francka aren’t friends, but they have talked at the previous state tournaments.
“I think he’s a real nice kid,” Goepfert said of Francka.
Francka said he has nothing against Goepfert, but wants to finish his high school career as a state champion.
“I love the sport,” Francka said. “I started when I was about 6 years old and just stuck with it. I wrestle freestyle and Roman with Team Kansas in the summers.”
Francka wants to wrestle at Fort Hays State, though he has not been offered a scholarship.
Goepfert started wrestling at a young age, too, and wants to continue in college.
“He’s talking with Oklahoma City, Bethany and some junior colleges,” Marysville coach Cole Frederickson said. “Francka has kind of been a guy who has haunted Josh for a while now. I think he’s excited to be on that opposite side of the bracket.”
Their showdown could come Saturday afternoon. Francka would be a decided favorite against Goepfert.
“There’s definitely some drama in this weight class with two unbeaten guys,” Frederickson said. “It’ll be exciting for the wrestling fans if this match happens.”
It probably needs to happen.
“I’m pretty confident, but I’m not going to get a big head,” Francka said. “One match at a time, work my way up. I’m not going to say I’ll be in the finals because I’m not yet.”
Goepfert knows, more than anyone, how tough it is to beat Francka. But he wants one more shot.
“It’s also going to be the last time I’ll be competing for Marysville High School,” Goepfert said. “This is it. And I want it.”