Derby’s Cade Lindsey is a rookie only by his designation as a freshman.
When it comes to wrestling, Lindsey is a veteran and his experience came through on Friday during the opening day of the Class 6A tournament at Hartman Arena.
In front of vocal Garden City fans and against an older opponent in Kaj Perez, Lindsey kept his cool facing a third-period deficit and executed a stunning reversal less than 30 seconds before the final bell to pull out a 4-2 decision.
It was the final impressive victory in a day full of them for Lindsey, who beat seniors in his first matches before knocking off Perez, who entered ranked ahead of him, in the semifinals. He will wrestle Northwest’s Devin Onwugbufor in the championship match at 120 pounds.
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“He may be a freshman, but he’s got a lot of wrestling experience,” Derby coach Bill Ross said. “He’s got a lot of mental toughness. He’s very mature for a freshman and he’s got such a competitive spirit. Nobody likes to lose, but this kid really hates it.”
It was the lone semifinal highlight for Derby, which sent five to the semis but only had Lindsey come out victorious. That hurt Derby (68 points) in its effort to catch defending champion Garden City (96.5 points).
But Brandon Becker (126), Triston Wells (132), Tanner Smith (138), and Trent Allen (182), who all lost their semifinal matches, are still alive along with five other teammates that will be wrestling on the backside of the bracket on Saturday.
For Ross, that’s a place he calls home.
“We’ve got a resilient group and year-in and year-out we wrestle like gangbusters on the back side,” Ross said. “I believe tournaments are won a lot of the times when nobody is in the stands. We may have went 1-4 in the semis, but we’re not out of it yet. I know our kids will show up and fight until the end.”
Northwest sends three to the finals – Noah Ornelas and Justin Onwugbufor, both seniors, are back at the state tournament to claim the title that has escaped them to this point. Devin Onwugbufor, a sophomore, is just along for the ride with his older brother.
All three will have an opportunity to win a state title on Saturday, as Ornelas (195) and both the Onwugbufors, Justin (152) and Devin (120), reached the finals in their respective brackets on Friday.
“It’s definitely really cool to be in the state championship match, but I’ve got some unfinished business to take care of (Saturday),” Justin Onwugbufor said.
That’s the same mentality that Ornelas carries, especially after reaching the championship match last season only to lose in the final period. That loss has stuck with him and it’s been a driving force in his 37-4 season that earned him the No. 1 designation entering the tournament.
“I’m ranked No. 1 for a reason and I came here to prove it,” Ornelas said. “Everybody thinks I’m No. 1, so I’m going to show them why.”
Ornelas registered three straight pins, including a 19-second fall in the quarterfinals, on his way to the title match where he will face Shawnee Mission West’s Jose Montoya (33-1).
“I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve done all year,” Ornelas said. “I grind and grind and grind until they break and then I take advantage of it.”
Justin Onwugbufor won two decisions handily to advance and will face Blue Valley’s top-ranked Tanner Madl (37-2) in the 152 final. Devin Onwugbufor survived for a 3-2 victory over West’s Kesean DeShazer, his fourth, one-point victory over DeShazer this season, in his semifinal match and will wrestle Derby’s Cade Lindsey for the 120 title.
“(Devin) just shot at the right moment (against DeShazer),” Northwest coach Eric Prichard said. “DeShazer is a quality kid though, so I’m always nervous when we’re only ahead by one. Devin just did another great job of seeing that one through.”
Dryden’s mindset – The first two seasons of high school wrestling understandably came with a lot of pressure for Boo Dryden at Campus.
“He’s been wrestling since he was 3 years old and he’s had a bull’s eye on his back for his whole life,” Campus coach Jim Dryden said. “Everyone has always known who Boo is. It was maybe a little bit too much pressure.”
All of that culminated last season when Boo Dryden, Jim’s nephew, failed to qualify for the state tournament.
“That devastated me,” he said. “It pushed me 20 times more to go harder this year. I told myself that I’m not going to let anything stop me this year.”
Dryden shed his wrestling-not-to-lose persona Friday, taking the aggression to his opponents. The results were decisive: Dryden had a 37-second pin and two major decisions en route to an appearance in the 113-pound title match against South’s Dallas Wilson.
“I just have a completely different mindset going into these matches,” Dryden said. “I know what I want and now I’m chasing it. And I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there.”
Wilson wants another – When South’s Dallas Wilson surveyed his competition on Friday, he noticed something: a lot of them were nervous. After going through that last year as a freshman, Wilson could relate.
But back again to the state tournament, Wilson doesn’t feel nerves anymore.
“I feel like since I’ve been here and won it, I know how to take it a lot better than most other people,” said Wilson, who won the 106 title last season. “I’m not scared or nervous anymore, I’m just ready to wrestle.”
Wilson made a convincing argument he is ready to repeat in the 113 semifinals, where he picked apart Olathe North’s Jevon Parrish, who entered the tournament ranked No. 1 in the class, in an 8-2 decision.
Wilson (33-4) will wrestle Campus sophomore Boo Dryden in Saturday’s championship match.
“I already did it once, so I feel like I’m ready to do it again,” Wilson said.
Kelly beats learning curve – David Kelly’s freshman season at West gave no indication of what was coming.
“I went 0-3 on varsity and I had a (junior varsity) losing record,” Kelly said.
Now a senior, Kelly will be wrestling for a state championship against Garden City’s Jesse Nunez after knocking off two ranked wrestlers on his side of the bracket to reach the final in the 170-pound division.
“I honestly didn’t think I would ever get this far,” Kelly said. “I guess hard work does pay off. I just trust my coaches. I mean, they’ve gotten me to this point.”
Kelly won an 11-6 decision over Shawnee Mission North’s Cesar Salgado, then scored two takedowns and rode Blue Valley Northwest’s Max Tierney out to score a 6-5 decision in the semifinals.
“I just wanted to keep creating angles for myself and keep moving so they didn’t have enough time to set up their offense,” Kelly said. “I felt like I was good on top and good on bottom today.”
Gates closes in on dream – It took less than a minute into his semifinal match for Hutchinson sophomore Brian Gates to pin his opponent, Drake Taysom of Gardner-Edgerton.
Results like that are rare in top-level matches like the semifinals at the state tournament, but Gates feels like he is destined to fulfill his dream of winning a state championship. He will receive the opportunity Saturday when he wrestles Olathe South’s Jace Koelzer in the 106-pound final.
“This feels amazing to know that I could be one of the greats of Hutchinson,” Gates said. “I want to be on that wall. It’s been my dream since I was 4 years old.”