As his emotions over losing a state championship wrestling match in 2009 died down, Andover Central junior Jake Gentzler re-examined what it all meant.
A state title winner in 2008, the Jaguars' 125-pounder felt the pressure to repeat. When he didn't, that pressure was alleviated.
He won the Class 5A 125-pound title on Saturday at Intrust Bank Arena, defeating last season's 119-pound champion, Garrett Jones from Arkansas City. Jones beat Gentzler for the title in '09.
Gentzler was one of three 5A wrestlers who avenged runner-up finishes in '09 by winning titles Saturday, joining Ark City's Kash Biddle and Tyler Davis from McPherson.
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"It's horrible," Gentzler said of finishing second. "But at the same time, it got the target off my back from winning my freshman year. Winning this match, there was a lot less pressure on my shoulders."
Gentzler's brother Zac also was a state champion, winning at 103 pounds. Emporia won the team title with four finalists and three champions.
Jake Gentzler's only loss this season was to Jones. His match with Jones on Saturday was a struggle, as Gentzler scored twice on one-point escapes during regulation and the two went to overtime tied 2-2.
Gentzler nearly scored a two-point takedown at the end of the first extra period, but Jones managed to stay on his feet. In the second overtime, Gentzler scored an escape to take the lead and Jones couldn't match it.
"I was just hanging on for dear life," Gentzler said. "I was doing everything I can to keep him down and not let him go."
Gentzler was the only one of the runner-ups-turned-state champs who already owned a title. Biddle had never left the state tournament with a win, losing in the 130-pound final last year and in third-place matches the previous two seasons.
His 135-pound match with Lansing's Garrett Hinckley didn't carry the suspense of Gentzler's match. Biddle dominated after scoring an early takedown and led 5-0 before pinning Hinckley at 5:29.
"When I lost last year I felt so bad," Biddle said. "I worked hard all season and to go out there and lose in the finals really sucked. It hurts you, but this year it helped me build motivation to be stronger and better and win this match like I did."
Davis' title came with a sense of urgency because his high school career was over after his title match at 145 pounds against Lansing's Dillon Scanlon.
The runner-up at 145 last season, Davis eased through his first two matches Friday before being tested in the semifinals by Emporia's Chase Sanchez and again by Scanlon, whom Davis beat 5-3.
Davis, who said he wrestles better on his feet, allowed three one-point escapes to Scanlon. But Davis had the clear advantage in strength, scoring on two takedowns.
"The high emotion (of winning) is a lot better," Davis said. "I didn't just lose last year, I got my butt beat last year. I didn't want that to happen again, I wanted to do that."
Colby Watters of Ark City and Winfield's Vance Oliver experienced heartbreak again after finishing second last season. Oliver was pinned by Lansing's Spencer Blew, last year's champion at 130 pounds, in a 140-pound match Saturday.
Watters, the 103-pound runner-up in '09 as a freshman, was defeated 5-3 in his 112-pound match by Salina South's Blaine Smith.
"It just means I'm close," Watters said. "But I'm not there yet."