The way Andover Central junior Jake Gentzler figured it, he had nothing to lose Saturday night in the 125-pound championship at the Class 5A wrestling regional at Bishop Carroll.
Gentzler had already qualified for the state tournament at Intrust Bank Arena on Friday and Saturday. He knew he would be on the other side of the bracket of his upcoming opponent, Arkansas City's Garrett Jones. And Jones had already beaten Gentzler twice — at the Rose Hill tournament two weeks ago and in the 2009 5A final at 119 pounds.
What meant most to Gentzler was beating an Ark City wrestler, a key for Andover Central's team points since both had six in the finals.
"I laid it all on the line and was aggressive," Gentzler said. "I worked on my offense all week."
Gentzler took a one-point lead with an escape early in the third period and hung on for the win.
It wasn't enough to give Andover Central the team title. Arkansas City handily won after winning five of six title matches and placing 12 in the top four.
That was Ark City's only loss in the finals. The Bulldogs won the regional team title with 174 points after winning five of six title matches and placing 12 in the top four. Andover Central and Pittsburg tied for second with 153 1/2 points, while Kapaun Mount Carmel finished with 117 and Bishop Carroll in fifth with 114.
"We put ourselves in a good position, coming out of a tough regional," Arkansas City coach Greg Buckbee said. "I'm tickled we're taking 12 to state. And five champs? Real pleased."
Ark City had its share of close matches, though.
One of the most exciting matches was at 112 pounds. With Ark City's Cody Eastman trailing Kapaun Mount Carmel's Lukas Maki 2-1ed 2-1 when, with one second remaining, Eastman got a takedown for the win.
The Bulldogs had another thrilling finish when, with three seconds to go, Kash Biddle took down Andover Central's Alex Bontz for the 3-1 win.
"I think I got a few more gray hairs tonight," Buckbee said. "But if you're going to win, you want to win them like that sometimes. You don't want to blow them all out. You want to win the close ones."
Andover Central had six in the finals — just like Ark City and Pittsburg. But the Jaguars struggled in those title matches.
The Jaguars won two — Gentzler's and at 103 pounds where his brother, Zac, continued his undefeated season.
"Both Gentzler boys wrestled real well the whole weekend," Andover Central coach Terry Alley said. "(Zac's) real good on his feet. Hopefully he has four more matches in him."
As for Jake Gentzler, he avoided an early takedown against Jones and then got Jones on his back and seemingly in position to pin him.
"I kept my balance really well," Gentzler said. "I made a really good angle turn and somehow he ended up on his back."
Gentzler only earned two points for it, which irked him. He threw up several fingers to his dad in the stands after the match, noting that he should have gotten those points, which resulted in Andover Central losing a team point, its second lost point of the day.
Those two points would have given Andover Central sole possession of second place.
"That's a tough lesson for boys to learn," Alley said.
Central had another tough loss when Codie Bontz lost in the final seconds at 140 when Winfield's Vance Oliver got two points with 24 seconds to go for the 2-1 win.
"These would be nice to win," Alley said of the regional championship matches. "Next week's, those are the ones we want."
* Bishop Carroll and Kapaun Mount Carmel are both taking seven to the state tournament. Both had two in the finals, both came away with titles.
For Bishop Carroll, Dylan Penka pinned Pittsburg's Daniel Blair at 152 in third period. Teammate Devon Keith won his first tournament title of the season when he edged Winfield's Garrett Hoover 5-3 at 171.
"The fact that it was just 5A (teams) was a big deal," Keith said of what made the difference in him winning this tournament. "I've struggled with 4A and 6A all year, so this was an advantage for me. I felt that I wrestled great, with the first two rounds being pins, so I had energy going into the finals."
Kapaun's Jonathan Truman won his second straight regional title when he beat Liberal's Justin McPhail 1-0 at 189, while his teammate Dylan Matheny had an easier time when he pinned Pittsburg's Broc Bennett at the 1:16 mark of the 215 match.
Truman and Matheny practice against each other daily, which has helped both.
"It comes down to the practice room," Truman said."... With him being bigger than me, it helps with the kids that I'm wrestling. Working with a bigger guy, it makes the other guys feel lighter, or at least normal.
"We definitely push each other in the wrestling room and help each other out with moves."