Most of Andover’s opposing teams have 14 wrestlers competing at duals and tournaments. Andover has only 12, with 220 and heavyweight both open for the Trojans. But Andover is defeating fully-staffed teams despite the disadvantage.
The Trojans finished first at the Riley County Dual Tournament, defeating Bonner Springs — a top-five finisher in 4A last year — while taking fourth at the Wellington tournament and third in Augusta.
“It says a lot that we can go to a good tournament like Augusta and take third with 12 guys, while everyone else has 14 guys,” coach Brett Fiene said.
Andover fell to 39-28 to Maize South and 32-28 to Valley Center because of the two open spots at their heavier weights.
“When you’re down 12-0 before the dual even starts, it’s pretty tough,” Fiene said. “We’ve won more matches than we’ve lost, but we’ve lost the duals. Even at tournaments, other teams are scoring points at those weights.”
Andover’s team will be tested Thursday when it faces Andover Central. In Feine’s five years as coach at Andover, the Trojans have never defeated Andover Central in a dual, nor had Andover placed higher in a tournament until Andover’s third-place finish at the Augusta tournament topped sixth-place Andover Central.
“We wrestled a few matches against them in Augusta, and we split. I’d imagine there’s going to be a lot of close matches; we’re just focused on winning the close ones,” Fiene said.
Of course there’s added motivation in this dual with Andover Central being a rival, the wrestlers on both teams knowing each other well, and both coaches being friends.
“The boys know each other well, the coaches know each other well; some of them are friends, some are not friends,” Fiene said. “I know that Coach Saferite and I are friends, and as far as rivalry goes, what better rivalry than between friends.”
Top of the rankings— If there’s one area Northwest’s Saul Ortiz needed to improve upon from last season, it was his mental toughness. It was the cause for Ortiz to fall short of placing at state his freshman year, according to coach Eric Prichard.
“He learned a lot his freshman year,” Prichard said. “He was up 8-4 (at a state match) and ended up getting beat by a senior and didn’t place at state because he had a mental lapse. I think he’s learned from that.”
As a sophomore last season, Ortiz finished runner-up at state. Now as a junior, Ortiz’s mental toughness is to a level that is really starting to make him dangerous. Ortiz is ranked first in 6A at 160.
“It comes with a couple of years under my belt as a varsity wrestler and all of the national tournaments I go to over the summer. There’s always room for improvement,” Ortiz said. “Your mind tells you to stop, but your body keeps pushing. So as long as I have it in my mind to keep going, I can keep going.”
Ortiz excels on his feet, and has a good double leg takedown, Prichard says perhaps the best Prichard has seen at Northwest. He expects Ortiz be tested this weekend at the Newton Tournament of Champions.