When Charlie Knox started a wrestling club in 1985, the goal was simple. Bring the sport he adores to more people. He wanted to teach and involve more kids who might not otherwise have a chance to compete.
Knox still runs his club, and his passion for wrestling directly impacted his extended family.
Since the inception of the club, Knox’s family members have racked up 12 state titles.
Wrestling is a family sport that encompasses the Taylors, Deshazers, McCrays, Phillips and Carters.
And on Friday and Saturday at Hartman Arena, count on a large contingent of family members watching, competing or coaching at the Class 6A and 5A wrestling tournaments.
“Our family has got a hard work ethic,” Charlie Knox said. “And we’re built toward wrestling. You put the hard work together with that, and there will be success.”
Knox’s introduction to wrestling came in high school after he was cut from the football team. He’d grown up playing soccer because a neighbor would pick him up and drive him to the soccer field to play.
He knew so little about wrestling that Knox, then 5-foot, thought he had to weigh exactly 98 pounds for his matches.
“I went in telling coach I wasn’t going to make weight. My mom’s been feeding me everything and I only weighed 96 pounds,” Knox said. “But wrestling was the perfect sport for me.”
He wrestled in college at Garden City Community College and Chadron State.
“After I seen all the opportunity and found out there were youth wrestling clubs, I thought it was an ideal way to earn some scholarships for youth. I wanted to give back to the community,” Knox said. “All the guys around me would tell me, ‘I’ve been wrestling since 5, 6 years old.’ No one ever provided wrestling to our community. I thought it would be perfect.”
He’s worked to make the sport affordable and is an avid fund-raiser.
“It’s important for the inner-city youth,” said West coach Kenny Taylor, who is Knox’s cousin. “There’s a lot of kids walking around with a lot of athletic ability that don’t know the sport, and the less fortunate kids don’t get to experience the coaching. He makes it feasible, spends his own money, own time to invest in the kids.”
Seeing his dad give back is a primary reason Charles Knox Jr. wanted to get into coaching. He’s an assistant at East. Tristen Deshazer, a cousin and four-time champion at West, is coaching in Iowa.
“Wrestling is in my family, in my family’s blood,” Knox Jr. said. “I also believe in giving back what I learned in the experience of wrestling. I like teaching the kids about life lessons.”
It was Danny Deshazer, Charlie Knox’s cousin, who won the family’s first wrestling titles, winning in 1988 and ’89 to start an impressive run of titles that included a title by their cousin, Kevin Knox.
Then in the 1990s, there was Taylor’s two titles, and his brother, Gaylen, who won a title along with their cousin, JR Phillips.
The next generation of the family took over in the 2000s, with Danny Deshazers’ sons winning seven — Tristen Deshazer won four at West, while Daniel winning three at Heights, his last in 2011.
Taylor and Daniel Deshazer were All-Americans, and Deshazer won a national title at Nebraska-Kearney last season. Taylor, Tristen Deshazer, Charlie Knox and Danny Deshazer were all national qualifiers.
There are two family members currently at Heights — juniors Armond McCray (138 pounds) and Sean Deshazer (126), who is 32-0 and has won two Class 6A titles. Deshazer, now in 5A, is a cousin of Tristen and Daniel Deshazer.
Some of Sean Deshazer’s first memories are from the wrestling room, of watching his older cousins wrestle and getting out there with McCray and competing.
Despite the impressiveness of the family tree, Deshazer said there’s not an immense pressure placed on him to win two more titles.
“I don’t feel any pressure to win,” he said. “I know that I work hard enough, though, to make it happen.”
As for why the family has been so successful, Deshazer credits the coaching they’ve received through the family.
“We all got in the gym at such a young age, and we had such great coaches,” Sean Deshazer said.
And there’s another generation in the family coming. Deshazer has two younger brothers who are wrestling, while Taylor has a 3-year-old son, Kamarjea, who comes to every wrestling event and is a regular at practice.
“He knows the whistle and the physical combat, so it becomes natural to him,” Taylor said. “He knows his wrestling stance, his double leg.… I would love to see him be successful at the sport of wrestling.
“But in the same sentence, I’ve been through the rigors, I’ve made sacrifices for the sport of wrestling. If he’s not willing to make the same sacrifices I did or doesn’t seem to like it, I won’t force him to do it.
“If he wants to play the violin or the cello, I’ll support him like we were at a wrestling tournament.”
STATE WRESTLING SCHEDULE
Class 6A, 5A at Hartman Arena, Park City
Class 4A at Bicentennial Center, Salina
Class 3-2-1A at Gross Coliseum, Hays
Cost: $10 for adults, $7 for students, per day
First round, 10 a.m.
Championship quarterfinals, 2 p.m.
First-round consolation, 4 p.m.
Semifinals follow first-round consolation
First round, 9 a.m.
Championship quarterfinals, 1 p.m.
Semifinals, 3 p.m.
Consolation cross-bracketing, 9 a.m.
Consolation quarters, 10:45 a.m.
Consolation semis, 12:15 p.m.
Fifth-place matches, 2 p.m.
Consolation finals, 3 p.m.
Parade of champions, 40 minutes after consolation finals finish
First-round consolation, 9 a.m.
Consolation cross-bracketing, 11 a.m.
Consolation quarters, 12:45 p.m.
Fifth-place matches, 4:15 p.m.
Consolation finals, 5:30 p.m.
Parade of champions, 40 minutes after consolation finals finish
113 — Michael Prieto, so., Garden City (106)
138 — Tevin Briscoe, jr., Garden City (132)
152 — Andrew Millsap, sr., Junction City (145, 138 in 2012)
170 — Dustin Williams, sr., Gardner-Edgerton (160, 145 in 2012)
182 — Laphonso McKinnis, sr., SM Northwest (170)
195 — Seth Pesek, jr., Gardner-Edgerton (195)
113 — Logan Terrill, jr., Arkansas City (106)
120 — Parker Howell, sr., Kapaun (113)
126 — Sean Deshazer, jr., Wichita Heights (113, 106 in 2012, both in 6A)
126 — Reese Cokeley, sr., St. James (106 in 4A, 2012)
132 — Joey Defore, sr., Arkansas City (113 in 3-2-1A, 2012)
145 — Michael Olsen, sr., Lansing (126 in 2012)
152 — Andrew Tujague, sr., St. James (138)
160 — Isaac Dulgarian, jr., Aquinas (120 in 2012)
195 — Preston Weigel, sr., Hays (195, 170 in 2012)
220 — Ben Ewing, jr., St. Thomas Aquinas (220)
113 — Jake Goldenstein, jr., Augusta (106)
120 — Cesar Regalado, sr., Pratt (113)
145 — Kaleb Konitzer, sr., Prairie View (132)
195 — Skyler Hittle, sr., Concordia (195)
285 — Justin Scott, sr., Jefferson West (220)
126 — James Jurgens, jr., Scott City (120)
132 — Brandon Ball, jr., Hoisington (126, 120 in 2012)
138 — Brogan Humphrey, sr., Fredonia (138, 132 in 2012, 125 in 2011)
152 — Tagen Lambotte, sr., Rossville (145, 145 in 2012, 135 in 2011)
182 — Nick Wuthnow, sr., Sacred Heart (170)
182 — Gavin Grater, sr., Riley County (182)
1. Doug Duell, Goodland 1972-75
2. Roy Oeser, Kapaun 1974-77
3. Matt Treaster, Beloit 1981-84
4. Todd Layton, Independence 1984-87
5. Todd Drake, Andover 1985-88
6. Justin Ware, Arkansas City 1989-92
7. Devin Bahm, Arkansas City 1993-96
8. Bill Gabel, St. Francis 1993-96
9. Bo Maynes, Salina South (130-0) 1995-98
10. Zach Roberson, BV Northwest (153-0) 1996-99
11. Jeremy Long, Santa Fe Trail 1997-2000
12. Dusty Spaulding, Emporia 1997-2000
13. Travis Stites, McPherson 1997-2000
14. Dustin May, Derby 1998-2001
15. Doug Hoover, Kapaun 1999-2002
16. Jake Kriegbaum, Abilene 2001-04
17. Mat Gilliland, Hoxie 2001-04
18. Josh Baldridge, Campus 2002-05
19. Clay Madden, Norton 2003-06
20. Tristen Deshazer, Wichita West 2003-06
21. Romero Cotton, Hutchinson 2005-08
22. Trison Graham, Arkansas City 2005-08
23. Boaz Beard, Goddard 2006-09
24. Tyler Caldwell, Goddard 2006-09
25. Colt Rogers, Smith Center 2007-10
26. Ryne Cokeley, St. James Academy 2008-11
27. Dylan Schumaker, Thomas More Prep 2009-12
28. Bo Pursel, Lansing 2009-12
29. Zac Gentzler, Andover Central 2010-13
Gardner-Edgerton senior Dustin Williams has titles at 145 and 160, and he enters Friday’s first match with a 33-0 record at 170 pounds. His teammate, Seth Pesek, is also unbeaten, 28-0 at 195.
North senior Caleb Franklin was unbeaten coming into the 6A tournament in 2013 at 220 pounds. He finished fourth. For regionals on Feb. 22, he moved up from 195 to 285 in an attempt to win a title. He finished second at regionals.
There are eight unbeaten wrestlers in 5A, including Heights junior Sean Deshazer (126 pounds), a two-time champ in 6A. Also unbeaten are Hays’ Preston Weigel (195) and Aquinas’ Ben Ewing (220), both defending champs.
Aquinas junior Isaac Dulgarian (160) was considered a likely four-time champion, but he was disqualified during the 138 quarterfinals in 2013. He won at 120 pounds in 2012 and is 36-1 this season.
At 170, an incredible matchup could pit Atchison junior Tyler Harris (35-0) and Smoky Valley junior Austin Cook (40-0).
Fredonia senior Brogan Humphrey (138, 34-1) and Rossville senior Tagen Lambotte (152, 37-1) are both three-time champs. There have been 29 four-time champs in Kansas history, including Andover Central’s Zac Gentzler from 2010-13.