PARK CITY — Terry Lange didn’t sleep much Friday, the night before his son, Garrett, a junior at Goddard, would wrestle for the 145-pound championship in Class 5A.
“I kept thinking about how that final moment (after the match) would happen,” Terry said. “Would I be consoling my son after a hard-fought loss? Or what would it be like in victory?”
Terry lived the reality of it on Saturday night at Hartman Arena after Garrett pulled off a thrilling victory, winning a 4-3 decision in the final seconds of the championship match against Andover senior Paul Stuart.
After winning the match and shaking hands, Garrett was overcome with emotion and dropped to the ground. This was the moment, Terry thought, and before he knew it, he was racing down from his seat in the stands, hopping the barrier, and racing past security to wrap his state-champion son in a hug.
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“Sometimes your emotions get the better of you,” said Terry through a smile after being told by security to return to his seat.
“We’ve been talking about that moment since I was a little kid,” Garrett said. “Maybe 4 years old.”
What made the moment mean even more to Garrett was that the victory came against Stuart, a two-time state champion himself and a wrestler Lange has always admired.
But Stuart entered the match badly hobbled by an injured ankle that he would later say will require surgery. But for the last match of his high school career, Stuart was determined to win his third straight title, even if it meant once again wrestling primarily from his right knee in the finals.
“I know he hurt his ankle and it’s amazing how good he can still wrestle,” Garrett said. “That’s why he’s a two-time state champ. I look at him as the best in Kansas.”
The match began slowly, with each wrestler trading an escape, but the final minute of the third period packed enough action for an entire match.
It was Lange who scored the match’s first takedown, converting a shot for a 3-1 lead with 41 seconds left. Stuart looked drained from the weekend of wrestling on a bum ankle, but he showed his championship determination with a reversal to tie the score just 15 seconds later.
After being pushed out of bounds with Stuart on top, nine seconds remained for Lange to escape for a championship.
“The only thought that was going through my head,” Lange said, “was get the hell out of there.”
Meanwhile, Stuart didn’t even have enough energy to stand up to get to the middle of the ring; he had to crawl.
With Stuart clasping with as much strength as he could muster, preventing Lange’s first attempt to free himself, Lange’s second burst was too much for Stuart to contain. After wiggling free with four seconds left, with Stuart devastated on the ground, Lange jumped in excitement for his first title.
As the buzzer sounded, both wrestlers collapsed to the ground — Lange in sheer excitement and Stuart in agony.
“This was an emotional win for Paul,” Andover coach Brett Fiene said. “I know he lost the match, but as far as him overcoming adversity...just wow. The reason we do this is to prepare our kids for the real world and that right there showed he’s going to be successful in life. Everybody saw that tonight.”
For Lange, it was the culmination of over 10 years of wrestling.
“Honestly, about a month into this season, Garrett decided he was going to work harder to achieve what he wanted to achieve,” Goddard coach Brett Means said. “Without that extra dedication for the last couple months, this probably would have never happened.”
Goddard wins third straight team title, crowns three champions — For the third straight season, Goddard’s depth and talent could not be topped by the Class 5A field as the Lions scored 207½ points — 60½ points more than second-place Arkansas City.
Goddard qualified the most wrestlers, 13, sent the most to the semifinals, 10, and had nine finish in the Top-4. Along with Lange, Goddard had champions in Kameron Frame (152) and Cale Davidson (195).
Other medalists were Logan Pirl (runner-up in 126), Kendall Frame (runner-up in 160), Troy Fisher (runner-up in 171), Lane Glover (third in 132), Austin Andres (third in 182), Will Spexarth (fourth in 120), and Trevor Dopps (fifth in 138).
“It was a fun four years with my class,” said Davidson, who won his second straight title and is signed to wrestle at Wyoming in college. “I’m going to miss being with these guys. All of the winning, all of the grinding we did together...I’m going to miss. I’ll always miss it.”
After winning a 12-2 major decision over Pittsburg’s Wes Jameson to capture his third straight title to end his career, Kameron Frame watched in disappoint a match later when his twin brother, Kendall, lost in sudden-death overtime to St. James’ Sammy Cokeley to end his chances of a third straight.
“It was really tough to watch that,” Kameron said. “It kind of dulled the moment for me a little after winning. I was pretty upset after that. But overall, to win as a team, I’m totally happy about that. They’re my family and I couldn’t be happier about that.”
Goddard graduates the Frame brothers, Davidson, Glover, and Spexarth, all of whom have been integral parts to Goddard’s past three championships.
Coach Brett Means will worry about that later.
On Saturday, they shared one last championship together.
“It was a good weekend for us and we’ve had a nice run with this group of kids,” Means said. “There’s still a lot of kids returning that will help us be competitive in the future, but I’m going to miss those guys. It’s been a lot of fun. We’re still going to have to work hard because nobody is going to care next year what we did this year.”