Tanner Smith stepped on the mat for the Class 6A 106-pound championship match on Saturday at Hartman Arena, and that was all it took to become a state champion.
Smith was left without an opponent in the finals after Junction City’s Gary Joint, ranked No. 1 in the class, had to forfeit and was not present due to a non-wrestling incident that occurred after Friday’s matches.
“Not being able to wrestle in the finals was kind of hard,” Smith said. “It’s still weird. I just wish I would have wrestled and actually won to be a state champion, but I can’t do anything about it now.”
Junction City also had to forfeit another state championship match, as Andrew Millsap, a defending state champion, had to forfeit the 152 final for the same reason. All points Joint and Millsap scored on Friday were nullified, leaving Junction City, ranked second entering the tournament, without 45 points of its expected output and in seventh place.
“I’m disappointed for our team, mostly,” Junction City coach Bob Laster said. “We had an opportunity to win a trophy. That’s the biggest thing I’m disappointed with, as far as how it affected our team.”
Derby coach Bill Ross did not think the strange circumstance in how Smith won diminished the thrill of being a state champion.
“He deserved to be a state champion, irregardless of the situation,” Ross said.
The one missing trophy is what is driving Ross.
“We’re still looking for that trophy that say No. 1 on it,” Ross said. “We’re going to keep coming back here and keep working hard until we bring home that trophy that has a ‘1’ on it.”
Ross knew Derby would need a near-perfect weekend of wrestling to beat Garden City, the overwhelming favorite. The Panthers wrestled well, sending four through to the finals and keeping 12 of 13 alive for the second day.
But Derby went 1-3 in the finals, as Cody McDonald (126), Garrett Xanders (138), and Mat Kissinger (220) all lost decisions in the championship match of their weight classes.
And the Panthers, a traditionally strong consolation bracket team, was only able to send Braden Dipman, who finished third at 113, and Armoni Coppins, sixth at 195, to medal matches.
Garden City finished 20 points ahead of Derby with 153½.
“Sometimes you’re happy with second and sometimes you’re sad with second,” Ross said. “I think we got the most out of our kids this year. We will not hang our heads in second.”
Franklin had moved up two weight classes to chase a championship, and now, what he had spent the entire season working for was no longer available.
It was not until an epiphany at breakfast, when Franklin began his daily routine of eating eggs, that he found an incentive.
“Why stop now?” Franklin said, repeating his thoughts. “Why not finish my wrestling career in a way that I’ll be able to look back on and say I did all that I could? You have to leave it all out there, or else there’s nothing.”
Franklin left no doubt to those questions, winning two matches on Saturday and finishing in third place after a 2-1 decision over Olathe North’s Chase Miller, his second victory over Miller in the tournament.
“He got a lot more mature this year this year and a lot more mentally strong,” North coach Jacob Johnston said. “It was hard (Friday). He could barely talk after the match. But he came back and finished the best that he could. I was proud of him.”
Northwest had three in the finals, but Dylan Beckner was the team’s only win. Shane Brock lost a 5-2 decision to Manhattan’s Kian Clemens at 132, and Saul Ortiz finished second for the straight season after a 3-1 loss to Manhattan’s Austin Chauncey.
Other placers were Jordan Bell, third at 220, Kevin Folsom, sixth at 152, and Micquille Robinson, sixth at 170.
“You’re happy with what the kids did, but you’re a little disappointed to come that close,” Northwest coach Eric Prichard said. “The kids did everything they could of done, and you can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Class 6A and 5A Parade of champions
Derby's Tanner Smith, 6A 106-pound champ