Eyes on the prize
Though his first tournament win came at last weekend's Class 5A regional, Bishop Carroll junior Devon Keith remained fixated through an up-and-down regular season on winning a state title.
Before his finals match against Emporia's Nathaniel Flanagin at 171 pounds on Saturday, Keith was smiling and joking with his coaches, displaying what seemingly was a "happy to be here" attitude.
Turns out Keith was just confident. Though he trailed 4-0 after two periods, Keith turned a takedown into a five-point maneuver to win the match by a point.
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"This is what I've been working for since I was 8," Keith said. "Really, since the beginning of the season — this is what I've been going for the entire time. I knew I could do it, I just had to get to it."
Flanagin scored on an escape and a reverse to lead 4-0 after two, and he nearly used his advantage to pin Keith late in the second. Keith became the aggressor in the third period, scoring an early takedown and keeping Flanagin on the mat to take the lead.
Keith barely missed pinning Flanagin, and after a stoppage Flanagin had the opportunity for an escape to tie it 5-5. But Keith held on in the final seconds, and almost immediately after the match was over, he was crying. As he walked to his family in the crowd, Keith was hugged by several well-wishers.
"That was probably the biggest ride I've had in my entire wrestling career," Keith said.
The Kapaun Mount Carmel duo of 189-pounder Jonathan Truman and 215-pounder Dylan Matheny advanced to the finals, and after Truman pinned Shawnee Heights' Donnie Lockhart for his championship, Truman gave some of the credit to his teammate.
"Matheny, me and him work hard every day in practice," Truman said. "With a top-caliber guy like Matheny, we push each other. Hopefully in his match he can get something done. Hopefully I pushed him enough to where he can get a state championship."
Truman's plans were foiled by Emporia's Mark Kolmer, who used his advantage in strength to beat Matheny 9-7 and cap a 37-0 season.
Truman was impressive in his won over Lockhart. Trailing 1-0 in the second, Truman took a 6-1 lead with Lockhart on the match and pinned him with eight seconds to go in the second period.
"I knew, going through that, that he was on his back," Truman said. "I didn't know what the time was but I was thinking, 'If I don't get that pin at least I'm up by five.' "
Truman and Matheny were pacing so much before their matches that coach Tim Dryden had to tell them to sit down. Truman harnessed that aggressiveness, then used it against Lockhart.
"My coaches were kind of putting me in time-out a little bit," Truman said. "It's kind of hard to go out there and not be real aggressive, but you have to kind of be passive sometimes."
Andover Central 103-pounder Zac Gentzler capped a perfect season by controlling Javier Vieyra for a 6-1 win. But you wouldn't know he'd just won by watching his reaction. No jumping up and down, no yelling. Not even a fist pump or a smile.
"I'm not really much of a celebrator," Gentzler said. "Win and get off the mat."
His match against Vieyra was just as methodical. Gentzler pinned his three opponents on Friday and Vieyra wrestled to not be Gentzler's fourth pinfall victim. Vieyra's defensiveness allowed Gentzler to be on the attack, and he scored on three takedowns.
"It seemed like he was content on losing by four or five points," Gentzler said. "I've got to make it my mission to score more points."
Repeats and not
Spencer Blew, last season's 130-pound champ, and Bo Pursel, who won in 2009 at 103 pounds, both captured state championship No. 2 for Lansing.
Blew beat Winfield's Vance Oliver at 140 pounds and the 112-pound Pursel bested Shawnee Mill Valley's Trevor Boyer. A state title winner from 2009 who failed to repeat was Arkansas City's Garrett Jones, who lost to Andover Central's Jake Gentzler at 125 pounds a season after beating Gentzler for the 119-pound title.
Winfield's unranked heavyweight, Kalen Potts, was a surprise finalist. The senior entered with a 20-8 record and on Friday his final two opponents had a combined record of 58-8.
On Saturday, Potts was overmatched by Pittsburg senior Beau Bennett, who improved to 33-4 with a pin at 1:46.