There is no way to deny the impact Chase Nitcher and Cade Blair have had on the Valley Center wrestling program. Just this season, the duo have a combined record of 81-1.
But despite all their talent and accolades, Nitcher and Blair can't win a team state title on their own, something the Hornets want desperately and will get a chance to earn this weekend in the Class 4A Tournament at Salina.
"Don't get me wrong, Chase and Blair are studs and what they have done is huge," coach Brian Shelton said. "But in order for us to have a chance, we need other guys too."
It's not a given that Nitcher (135 pounds) and Blair (152) will make their way back to the finals — Nitcher is a two-time champion and Blair is a defending champion — but the two are definite favorites. If two or three more Hornets make the finals, Valley Center could have a realistic shot.
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Enter Codie Dean, Kyle McGoldrick and Titus Hopper.
The three have combined for a dual record of 112-8 in their four years at Valley Center and never lost a league dual.
Dean (112) is a three-time qualifier and carries a 34-9 record this season. He lost 7-3 to Nathan Reed of Colby last week in their regional final.
McGoldrick (145) is a four-time qualifier and has gone 34-8 this season. Last week at regionals, he lost in the last second to Andale's Colton Duhr in the semifinals and wound up taking third.
Hopper placed fifth a year ago and is ranked third at 215 this season. He is 36-4 and won his regional.
"All of these guys have put in a lot of hard work over their four years," Shelton said. "They have bought into our system and have gotten a lot better."
There has always been an obstacle standing in the way of the Hornets and their quest for a championship. In 2008, it was Bishop Carroll's dynasty. Last season, it was a senior-laden Emporia squad.
This year, it's Andale and Clay Center, but there is one significant difference — Valley Center has already beaten both teams this season.
The Hornets placed higher than Andale at the Rose Hill Invitational and finished higher than Clay Center at the Valley Center Duals.
"All three of us are matched up pretty evenly," McGoldrick said. "It's going to come down to a matter of one or two weight classes."
Up until last week, Shelton and his assistant coaches chose not to talk about state because they didn't want to shift the focus away from the end of the season and regionals.
But once state week arrived, the Hornets knew what had to be done and their effort and focus has been dialed in more than ever.
"We realized last week how close we are to Andale and now we know it's possible to go up there and win," Dean said. "We've always been hard workers, but now everyone knows it's go-time." "It would be pretty sweet to get it done," Hopper said. "We've had a lot of fun in practice and a lot of close duals, so it would mean a lot to all of us to bring home a championship."