Varsity Kansas

Andale's B.J. Finney casts long shadow over wrestling

It's not by choice, but B.J. Finney inspires fear on the wrestling mat.

Away from wrestling, the Andale senior is, his coach Brad Lies says, "the nicest kid you could ever meet."

But on the mat a certain mystique surrounds Finney. He is a rarity with his bear-like stature — Finney is all of 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds — and the nimbleness of a lightweight.

Finney's reputation precedes him. Opponents see who they're up against and often the match is over before it begins.

"He doesn't look that big when he's warming up with his sweats on," Lies said, "but when he strips down to his singlet, you can see that twinkle in their eyes is gone. They're not quite as anxious to get out there anymore."

Finney, who is ranked No. 1 in his weight class, will wrestle this weekend at the Class 4A regional at Pratt.

In nearly 60 matches the past two seasons, Finney has lost once. It's the lone blemish on his resume, coming in last year's Class 4A title match against an opponent he had defeated twice before.

"I just tried to put it behind me," Finney said. "My dad always told me, 'It's just a game. It's just a match. You'll get them next time.' "

Wrestling is hereditary for Finney. His grandfather wrestled, as did his father and cousin, who both won state championships at Clearwater.

Growing up under the tutelage of his father, Finney became a fundamentally-sound wrestler.

"He pretty much put me in my first pair of wrestling shoes and turned me loose," Finney said.

But when Finney entered middle school, his father passed away. Not only did Finney lose his father, but also his role model.

So he set out to match his father's achievement — winning two state championships. It just added to the disappointment after the loss last season.

There appears to be no storybook ending to conclude Finney's career, but he suggests it depends on the viewpoint.

"I don't think I have to win to define me," Finney said. "Anybody that has seen me wrestle or anybody that knows me, knows I don't have to win. It'd be nice to go out with a bang, but it wouldn't define me."

While Finney won't be able to equal his father's total, he would like to make him proud, even if he is not there in the physical sense.

"He always told me, 'You know I'm there if you find money lying around,' " Finney said.

This past week, Finney found three dollars worth of change at school.

"I always know he's there," Finney said. "It's just one of those feelings you have. I know my dad still is proud of me for what I do, no matter how bad I felt I did. He'll always be there."