Shortly after Kapaun Mount Carmel’s football season ended in the Class 5A semifinals, junior right guard Bennett Powers came home late.
“I asked him, ‘Where have you been?’ ” said his dad, Todd. “He said, I’ve been been at wrestling practice.”
Bennett Powers joined Kapaun’s wrestling team even though he had never wrestled before. His goal? To help the team win titles.
“They needed a heavyweight,” Powers said. “A lot of my friends from football came out to wrestle. Without a heavyweight, it was going to be hard to win a City League championship and to go on and win state.”
Powers was one of eight Kapaun players to wrestle in the 5A regional championship matches on Saturday as Kapaun won the team title with 184 points at its own gym. Kapaun qualified 11 wrestlers for next week’s state meet.
Kapaun senior Parker Howell, who won the 5A 113-pound title in 2013, won at 120 pounds. Teammate Patrick Burrus won at 132 pounds. And senior Ethan Harp won at 195 pounds.
“It’s great to have a heavyweight who can finish,’’ Howell said. “In those duals, it’s huge. Even out here, having someone who can come in here, get in the finals their first year wrestling regionals, is insane. He’s something special.”
But individual accolades are not what Kapaun is about.
“For me, personally, it’s great,” Howell said of the regional title. “I just love winning something as a team. Winning individual is fun. Winning as a team, there’s nothing better than that.”
Kapaun ended a regional championship drought. Of how long? Well, coach Tim Dryden is planning researching just that on Sunday. All he knows is it hadn’t happened in the previous 15 seasons he’s been at Kapaun.
Kapaun has a City League title, too, after the Crusaders finished in a three-way tie. Kapaun last won a league title in 1992.
“It’s amazing to be part of this team,” Burrus said. “We have 10 or so seniors on the team I know we have the manpower and the know-how to take state this year, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.
“We’ve been mainly focused on taking City League first of all. Now that we’ve done that, our thought is put on state, and we plan on taking that as well.”
“We had a bad, I mean, a really bad semifinals round,” coach Greg Buckbee said. “We pulled three out of 12 into the finals. That’s just not the Ark City way.
“I am very proud that they came back after some tough losses and wrestled hard and finished up very well today on the backside.”
Sophomore Kendall Biddle was Ark City’s only champ; he got a tech fall at 152. Ark City still qualified 11 for the state tournament.
“I didn’t like seeing my guys lose,” he said. “It makes me more mad, and it makes me want to go out there and do even better than what they did.”
“I thought we should have gotten 12 in,” Goddard coach Brett Means said. “But the guys who did wrestle in the finals, they wrestled well.”
Goddard had six in the finals, and the three who finished second — Will Spexarth (113), Kameron Frame (132) and Brett Woodruff (160) — lost by a combined seven points.
But the future could be Goddard’s. The Lions brought eight wrestlers who were freshmen or sophomores, including seven freshmen.
“Coach (Kenny) Taylor’s doing really good,” Collins said. “He’s turning around a lot. I know how he runs practice. He makes it fun and makes it hard at the same time.”
He had a major concussion that kept him out his freshman and sophomore seasons. He had mononucleosis his junior seasons.
“It feels great,” Sponsel said after his 10-5 win over Ark City’s Bryson Nuckles at 145 pounds. “I know that hard work has turned into victories for me.”
Carroll qualified nine for state and also had champions in Tommy Marquez (182 pounds) and Nick Nolting (220).
“He shot in on a single,” Stuart said. “I sprawled out of it. He came up in a pretty bad position. I reshot, got in on a leg and I knew I was going to score from there.”
1. Kapaun 184; 2. Goddard 141.5; 3. Arkansas City 139.5; 4. Carroll 130; 5. West, 87; 6. Andover 82; 7. Liberal 47; 8. Eisenhower 14.
West's Idris Elias, 106 pounds
Andover's Paul Stuart, 113 pounds
Kapaun's Parker Howell, 120 pounds
Goddard's Kendall Frame, 126 pounds,
Kapaun's Patrick Burrus, 132 pounds
Goddard's Christian Frame, 138 pounds
Carroll's Luke Sponsel, 145 pounds
Ark City's Kendall Biddle, 152 pounds
West's Kalin Collins, 160 pounds
Goddard's Dakota Driskill, 170 pounds
Carroll's Tommy Marquez, 182 pounds
Kapaun's Ethan Harp, 195 pounds
Carroll's Nick Nolting, 220 pounds
Kapaun's Bennett Powers, started wrestling this year, finished second
Kapaun coach Jim Dryden
West coach Kenny Taylor