High School Sports

Wrestling notes: Valley Center’s Boone families wrestle for bragging rights

Derby's Cade Lindsey, right, and Northwest’s Devin Onwugbufor wrestling in last February’s Class 6A 120-pound final.
Derby's Cade Lindsey, right, and Northwest’s Devin Onwugbufor wrestling in last February’s Class 6A 120-pound final. Correspondent

This weekend at the Class 5A wrestling tournament at Hartman Arena, three Boones will be competing for Valley Center.

Dallas, a junior, is 31-12 and ranked sixth in the 138-pound division; Don, a senior, is 26-6 and ranked fourth in 152; and Tyler, a junior, is 30-14 in 160.

Don and Tyler are brothers, while Dallas is their cousin. Both fathers, Don Sr. and Dallas Sr., were successful wrestlers at Valley Center in their time, as Don Sr. was a state champion and Dallas Sr. was a state runnerup.

“Wrestling is kind of what our family is known for,” Don Jr. said. “It’s just what we’ve always done from an early age.”

While all three want to wrestle well and take home a medal from the state tournament, their finishes this weekend aren’t necessarily the most important matches when it comes to the family.

“We’ve still got to beat our dads and each other,” Tyler said.

While others may care more about where they finished at state, in the Boone family, it matters more who beat whom at the last family gathering.

Don Sr. and Dallas Sr. used to be able to hold off their sons with ease, but the task has become more and more difficult once they reached high school.

“Every once in a while we’ll get in there and roll around with them,” Dallas Sr. said. “But they’re getting older and stronger and we’re just getting older. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up with them.”

“They still try, but they’re so old now that their bones are brittle,” Don Jr. quipped.

All three qualified for state last year, as well.

Don has had the most success, as he reached the 145 championship in 2015 and finished sixth in 160 last year after an injury derailed him.

Tyler and Dallas both hope to join Don on the medal stand this weekend.

But if not? There’s always the next family get together.

“We’re always trying to one-up each other,” Dallas Jr. said. “You can’t lose to your brother, so things get pretty heated.”

Andover’s Jack Maki takes the hard road — Before this season, when it became apparent St. James’ Sammy Cokeley and Goddard’s Kendall Frame were going to land in the 160 division, Andover coach Brett Fiene asked Andover senior Jack Maki if he would want to maybe wrestle up or down one weight class to avoid two nationally-ranked wrestlers in the same division.

Maki (34-3, ranked No. 3) said bring on the competition.

“He knows the medal is going to mean the most coming from that weight class and competing against those guys,” Maki said. “In any other class, he would probably win 160. But he doesn’t want to win a 4A title or a 6A title, he wants to win a 5A title because that’s the toughest.”

Maki has come close to a title all three years, as he finished runner-up in 120 in 2014, third in 132 in 2015, and runner-up again in 145 in 2016.

“As a coach, you love that will to compete,” Fiene said. “You want a guy that is confident and someone who is willing to step up to the competition. Jack’s not going to run away from anybody or anything like that. He’s a coach’s dream.”

Andover also has another title contender in senior Paul Stuart (31-4, ranked No. 2 in 145). He has wrestled for a championship the past three seasons and won the last two — an undefeated title season at 120 in 2015 and another title in 132 in 2016.

But he suffered an agonizing loss in the final period to Goddard’s Garrett Lange, who is now ranked ahead of him.

“Paul has taken losses before and he knows how to come back from a loss,” Fiene said. “He always learns from them and he’s really focused right now on making sure he doesn’t take a step down on that podium after standing on top the last two years.”

Andale an unlikely No. 1 — There will be 11 teams at the Class 4A tournament that will bring more wrestlers than Andale, which has qualified six.

But Andale is still ranked as the No. 1 team in 4A, largely because it has three title contenders in seniors Zach Eck (33-3, ranked No. 2 in 138), Anthony Capul (36-0, ranked No. 1 in 195), and Davon Spexarth (35-4, ranked No. 1 in 220).

“All of those guys have had a target on their back all year long,” Andale coach Brad Lies said. “They’ve handled the pressure pretty well and now it’s just a matter of doing it for one more tournament. We’re trying to get the others to buy in that we really do have a shot to win this thing.”

While Eck and Capul were established wrestlers entering this season, Spexarth had the challenge of jumping two weight classes up to 220. He struggled early in the season, but Lies said Spexarth has now adapted his style to the 220 division and is wrestling his best entering the state tournament.

“Him and (Capul) are practice partners and those guys have been pushing each other all season,” Lies said. “It’s been pretty special this season to watch those guys go back-and-forth. It’s like one of them will go out and do something a high school guy probably shouldn’t be able to do, then the other will try to go top it.”

Campus chasing a trophy — Armed with 10 qualifiers and eight being ranked, Campus coach Jim Dryden senses this senior-laden team is likely to be the best chance for Campus to win a team trophy at the state tournament.

“We definitely want to be in that Top 5 mix and if we can move up to the Top 3 and bring home a trophy, that would be great,” Dryden said. “We know this is probably going to be one of our better shots to bring home a trophy, so I think the guys are a little more focused on the team aspect of things. They’re thinking about what they can do to help the team.”

Seniors Boo Dryden (41-2, ranked No. 2 in 120), Zach Bowen (35-7, ranked No. 2 in 195), and Matt Kimber (21-7, ranked No. 3 in 220) represent title contenders for Campus, while Kai Rhea (39-7 in 106), Luke Bowen (33-4 in 132), Brayden Black (29-9 in 138), Easton Schroeder (31-7), and Brycen Schroeder (29-12 in 152) all ranked in their respective weight class.

Jim Dryden likes what he has seen from Dryden in his bid to win a second state title.

“He was a little apprehensive early in the season, but since January he’s flipped the switch,” Jim Dryden said. “He’s wrestling like he’s the best guy and he’s letting things take care of themselves. He’s just changed his approach.”

After being a surprise finalist in 220 last season, Kimber is viewing himself as an underdog again this season.

“Matthew wrestles his best when he doesn’t consider himself the favorite,” Dryden said. “So I’ve had to reemphasize to him just because he made it to the finals last year doesn’t mean he’s a favorite this year. He’s still one of the least experienced wrestlers. He seems to do better when the pressure is off him.”

Goddard eying a third straight — After qualifying a state-best 13 wrestlers, Goddard appears to once again to be the favorite to win its third straight Class 5A team championship.

Goddard has top-ranked wrestlers in Garrett Lange (36-3 in 145), Kameron Frame (36-2 in 152), Troy Fisher (27-1 in 170), and Cale Davidson (32-1 in 195). The Lions also have Will Sepxarth (No. 3 in 120), Logan Pirl (No. 2 in 126), Lane Glover (No. 4 in 132), Trevor Dopps (No. 4 in 138), Kendall Frame (No. 2 in 160), and Austin Andres (No. 3 in 182) in the rankings.

“All our kids are focused on right now is doing whatever it takes to make the team successful,” Goddard coach Brett Means said. “They’re not looking ahead to who they might wrestle in the semis or the finals. I tell them if they don’t take it one match a time, then they’re not going to be wrestling who they think they will.”

Means said he sees a common thread in this team with past championship teams, but it must still wrestle its best this weekend to hold off a very strong Arkansas City team that has a handful of title contenders itself.

“A lot of these kids grew up wrestling with the Kansas Young Guns and those guys did a great job of getting them mentally, physically, and technically prepared,” Means said. “They’re all very close and they all root for each other. They don’t want to be good for themselves, they want to be good for their teammates.”

Jaguars a surprise success — Andover Central coach Chris Saferite knew his team would be really good, but it has surprised him a little that it has come this season when the bulk of the Jaguars’ lineup are just juniors.

Central, ranked No. 4 as team in Class 4a, has qualified eight wrestlers with junior Griffin Baker (36-7, ranked No. 1 in 106), sophomore Jake Patch (26-9, ranked No. 3 in 120), junior Gunnar Gentzler (30-10, ranked No. 3 in 132), and junior Bryant Page (26-13, ranked No. 5 in 138) all entering as ranked wrestlers.

“I knew the potential was there, but the hard part in the beginning was just finding a weight for everybody,” Saferite said. “We have five or six really talented kids there at the start of the lineup, but they’re all close to the same weight. Once we finally figured that out, I think they’ve just taken off.”

Baker has been the biggest surprise this season. After finishing with a mediocre record at 113 last season as a sophomore, Baker actually dropped a class down to 106 as a junior. He’s responded with a 36-7 record and is ranked No. 1 in the class entering state.

“He was wrestling up last year and now that we’ve got him back at the weight that fits him, he’s been wrestling very, very well,” Saferite said. “With Griffin, the only thing standing in his way is him. I think he’s capable of beating any kid in his bracket as long as he wrestles his way and stays focused.”

Grizzlies still around — Northwest isn’t likely to be in the hunt for a team trophy, but coach Eric Prichard still feels like his team could be chasing championships this weekend.

Junior Devin Onwugbufor (16-0, ranked No. 2 in 126) has returned from a knee injury and won every match entering the state tournament. He is still ranked behind Olathe North junior Jevon Parrish, whom he could meet in the finals in a match between the two regional champions.

“It’s been so impressive to watch him come back and wrestle like this,” Prichard said. “When Devin wrestles a 6-minute match, then I don’t think there’s anybody that can beat him.”

In his first season on varsity, senior Joey Gilbertson (31-3, ranked No. 3 in 285) has excelled. He had to set behind a state medalist for the last three seasons and Gilbertson is expected to continue Northwest’s success in that weight class.

“He’s not your typical heavyweight kid,” Prichard said. “He can do a lot of the same stuff that the lighter weights do.”

Northwest also has senior Adam Baker (28-10, ranked No. 6 in 152) and sophomore Marcus Hicks (28-11, ranked No. 5 in 220) as potential medalists.

Mulvane’s Scantlin going for third title — Mulvane senior Anthony Scantlin has wrestled for a championship all three years at the state tournament. He’s won the last two times, taking home the 132 title in 2015 and the 145 title in 2016.

For the first time, Scantlin (38-0, ranked No. 1 in 152) will have an undefeated season on the line as he pursues his third straight championship. Scantlin has compiled a career record of 150-11.

“He’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever had in my room,” Mulvane coach Rick Langerot said. “He works hard to achieve his goals and his goal this season is to win that third title, so that’s what he’ll be going for on Saturday.”

Taylor Eldridge: 316-268-6270, @vkeldridge