Tight team race
Arkansas City wrestling coach Greg Buckbee was feeling under the weather on Friday during the first day of the Class 5A tournament at Hartman Arena.
While Buckbee tried to keep some distance from his wrestlers, he wanted to do the same with the rest of the 5A teams in the quest for the team title.
Arkansas City leads 5A with 111 1/2 points, while Goddard is second (98 1/2), St. Thomas Aquinas and Newton are tied for third (97 1/2) and Andover Central is fifth (92 1/2)
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That’s not much separation, and there’s little doubt that the tournament will come down to how the teams wrestle today.
“We’re going to score a lot of points on the backside because of some of the losses we do have,” Buckbee said. “… Newton will score a lot of points. St. Thomas Aquinas will score points. It’s going to be a tight race.”
Arkansas City has 11 wrestlers still alive with three in the finals – Logan Terrill at 106 pounds, Cody Eastman at 132 and Tyler McMichael at 152. Aquinas has three finalists, while Newton has 13 wrestlers still in it, with two finalists (Miles Johns at 145 and Dillon Archer at 195.
Goddard has eight still wrestling, with four finalists — Dakota Leach (106), Lincoln Lemon (145), Tyler Kimple (160) and Manny Capp (170). Andover Central has 10 wrestling, with three finalists – Zac Gentzler (113) is looking for his third championship, while Alex Bontz (152) is going for his second. Preston Solomon also advanced at 195.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Andover Central coach Chris Saferite, whose team is the defending champion. “But everyone’s got a lot of work to do. If we come ready to wrestle and we can win some matches … we made it happen last year on the second day. Hopefully, it’s in our favor.”
Goddard coach Brett Means is just happy with the way his team wrestled. Happy to see the guys he has in the finals, most of whom are wrestling up a weight.
“They’re all special,” he said. “They’ve all gone through adversity to get there.”
For the third straight year, Andover Central junior Zac Gentzler and Salina South senior Javier Vierya will meet in the 5A finals today. Gentzler has beaten Vierya the past two years at 103; they’re now at 113.
While they’ve met under such intense circumstances and there is a rivalry, the two are friends. They travel together, their parents talk.
But they want to beat each other today.
“We’re great friends off the mat, but on the mat, we’re just two wrestlers going at it,” Gentzler said.
Vierya has been driven by his championship losses to Gentzler.
“I wrestled all summer, wrested national tournaments, got in the weight room,” he said. “To get him again for the third year in a row, especially it being my senior year, it means a lot to me.”
Andover’s Hunter Weddington is the lone Trojans representative, but his coach, Brett Fiene thinks that helped him advance to the 182-pound final against Shawnee Heights’ Nick Meck.
“It was a one-man show, all the attention has been on him, and I think he benefited,” Fiene said.
It was a tough week of practice, with Fiene even feeling soreness.
“It was incredible,” Weddington said. “It’s a totally different situation when you’re the only guy and everyone is coming at you for an hour. I hated Fiene. I love him to death, but I was dead tired.”
Weddington took a head butt to the head and bled. He got taped up to stem the bleeding, and went back to the match.
Winning for two
Goddard senior Danny Capps cheered loudly while watching his twin, Manny, wrestle in the 170-pound semifinal. Danny Capps yelled, “that’s what’s up!” and “You continue to fight.”
Near the end of his brother’s win over KC Turner’s Tyler Kruskamp, Capps said, “You make me cry, man.”
Manny Capps shed his own tears after the match. He’ll wrestle in the finals against Hays’ Preston Weigel.
“I could see that he was getting emotional, and I couldn’t hold my emotions back,” Capps said. “It all poured out after I got the ‘W.’ ”
Danny Capps had wrestled until he broke a hand.
“Me being in the finals, it’s just like me and him going in the finals,” Manny Capps said.
Six returning champs still have a shot at defending their titles.
They include Gentzler, Bontz, Gardner-Edgerton’s TJ Stokes at 126, Lansing’s Bo Pursel at 132, Emporia’s Brandon Charbonneau at 138, St. Thomas Aquinas’ Eric Mason at 285.
Pursel is going for his fourth title. There have been 26 Kansans win four titles.
When Bontz began his career at Andover Centranl, he won by using his strength, size and athleticism. Most of his matches were low-scoring or he won in overtime.
That isn’t the case anymore.
“I’ve had great coaches, Kenny Taylor, Coach (Terry) Alley and Coach (Chris) Saferite,” he said. “I’ve been able to open up more, take shots, get more confident with my speed and agility.”
Kapaun Mount Carmel’s Luke Bean didn’t exert much energy in any of his three matches at 220 pounds.
Bean dominated, pinning all three.
He won his first match in the first 1:23, the second in 1:30 and his semifinal match lasted all of 13 seconds.
— Joanna Chadwick