It has been a year of parallel successes for Northwest High’s wrestling team and junior Michael Lindlar.
The Grizzlies, City League runnerup the past two seasons, took advantage last week of a strong record in dual matches to capture their first league title in coach Eric Prichard’s 11 years at the school.
Lindlar also had a breakthrough — he captured the 113-pound weight class after finishing second the past two years.
Heading into Saturday’s Class 6A regional at Garden City, Lindlar has a record of 27-5 and is ranked third in the state. At that regional, he will also have a chance to face the two wrestlers ranked ahead of him: Alex Garcia of Dodge City and Tevin Briscoe of Garden City.
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But Lindlar, in his third year on varsity, said he knows the season is far from over.
Asked whether this was his best season, he coyly answered, “So far, yeah.”
Prichard also has high hopes for Lindlar that go beyond regionals. Lindlar was just a couple points from making the state final last year, finishing fourth.
“Each year you take a new step,” Prichard said.
Not making last year’s final and the success of this season has only increased Lindlar’s motivation to get to state and make the final.
“It’s a big motivation to get into the finals this year, and it’s definitely possible,” he said.
He said one of the major focal points of this year has been making his weight.
“Over the years, it takes a little more discipline to get down to weight,” Lindlar said. “You kind of get a little bit of experience each year being at the same weight. Getting down to weight is a little bit of a challenge, but you remember what it felt like last year, and then it gets a little bit easier as it goes on.”
Lindlar has been one of the strongest performers in the lower weights for Northwest, which has also had good years from seniors Antonio Terrell at 145, Tyler Keller at 220 and Tarez Griffen at 285. Lindlar is Northwest’s only ranked underclassman, so even after this season, he will be looked upon to take on more leadership duties next season.
He said he was pleased to be able to contribute to Northwest’s wrestling history, but he’s not about to take it easy.
“I look as every achievement as motivation to get better for the next day and get something greater than I did the last time,” Lindlar said.
Prichard said Lindlar benefited from watching Grizzlies state champions Kyle Caylor and Trey Page his freshman year.
“He had a good look at what he could be,” Prichard said.
Lindlar’s maturity has not gone unnoticed, Prichard said.
“No more crying and whining, just getting what he needs to do and get it done,” he said. “Getting his weight down. We’ve been talking a lot about controlling weight this year, not getting too heavy.”
Lindlar said Prichard’s guidance has helped him mature.
”He’s been a big part, his motivation to work hard, without a good coach, I wouldn’t be a good wrestler, to sum it all up,” Lindlar said.
Prichard said he sees a lot of himself as a wrestler in Lindlar.
“He almost models me when I was in high school,” Prichard said. “I wrestled because I knew I wasn’t going to be a basketball player, I knew I wasn’t going to be a football star, wrestling was about my only option. I wanted to be good at something.”
With the new weight classes, Lindlar’s class increased a pound from 112 to 113, but Prichard said keeping it low can be a challenge, one that might be resolved next year by having Lindlar wrestle at 120.
“We’re going to really need him to step up next year because we lose about 6-7 seniors,” Prichard said. “Next year, he will be asked (to lead).”
Even if that means trying to motivate a 285-pound teammate.
“If I can,” he said with a laugh.