Heights freshman Sean Deshazer wants to be a four-time state wrestling champion. Teammate Matt Reed, a senior, wants as many pins as possible. Falcon 132-pounder Barry Newton just wanted to make it this far.
In wrestling, coaches smile upon individual goals. When they’re reached, all members of the team share in the glory and championships are pursued more vigorously.
Heights and Northwest had several wrestlers move toward their benchmarks on Friday, and, not surprisingly, both are in the top four of the Class 6A standings entering today’s championship matches.
The City League teams combined to send seven competitors to the finals — four for Heights and three for the Grizzlies. Both teams are chasing Manhattan for the team title. The Indians have 137 1/2 points, 36 more than second-place Heights — the defending 6A champion — and 52 1/2 more than Northwest, which is fourth.
Manhattan may force Heights and Northwest to settle for individual accomplishments, but the determination from their athletes is what fuels their teams.
"I love it," Heights coach Mike Church said. "One thing I know about these young men is they love each other, they’re brothers. They want to compete for each other. Their goal is to win for themselves and everybody else around them."
Though the Falcons have one more wrestler in the finals, they and Northwest reached the last round in similar fashion. Each team has a surprise championship participant and others who displayed domination in getting as far as they expected.
Northwest’s surprise was Eric Perez, a senior who has wrestled for three years. His exponential progress has him in the 138-pound final against Junction City’s Andrew Millsap.
"Funny things happen at a state tournament," Northwest coach Eric Prichard said. "He’s one of the ones who have benefitted from it."
Heights’ Newton reached the 132-pound final despite being unranked and practically unknown when the season began.
His story isn’t a glamorous one — both he and Church attribute the ascension to simple hard work. His celebration wasn’t glamorous, either — Newton remained stoic as Church wrapped him in a bear hug.
"I’m pretty excited on the inside, but it’s still sinking in a little bit," Newton said.
The rest of the Heights championship contingent — freshman Sean Deshazer, Matt Reed and Uylesses Deshazer — featured the expected. Sean Deshazer, cousin of Uylesses and former Heights state champion Daniel Deshazer, is comfortable following the family path.
The younger Deshazer said he told Church of his plan to become a four-time champion a few weeks ago and Church responded with, "You just made my day." The pressure of contributing to a legacy clearly isn’t reaching him.
"I’ve been doing this for so long and I don’t look at it like that," Deshazer said.
Reed, a 2011 champion, easily won his semifinal match against Shawnee Mission East’s Blaine Hill, albeit controversially in a stoppage that prevented Reed (29-0) from getting his 25th pin. Ulyesses Deshazer needed overtime to beat Leavenworth’s Jacob Roberson at 180 pounds.
Heights may not catch Manhattan and defend its title, but the Falcons are game to try. The Indians have four championship participants.
"That’s what we come here to do, is scrap with the best guys in the state of Kansas," Church said. "We don’t come here to wrestle the worst guys. Manhattan has set a standard and we want to scrap with them and see where we’re at."
Northwest 113-pounder Michael Lindlar reached the finals with a grueling 5-2 decision against Derby’s Jeffery Morrow. Grizzlies heavyweight Tarez Griffen got his semifinal work done in 33 seconds, pinning Don Fowler of Blue Valley Northwest.
The Grizzlies and Heights don’t have a match together in the finals, but as they carry the banner for 6A City League wrestling teams, that doesn’t mean they’re rooting for each other, either.
"Obviously we want to finish above them and they want to finish above us," Prichard said. "And we both want to finish above everybody else."