Derby senior Triston Wills and Maize sophomore Kyle Haas met up after the dual and gave each other a well-earned hug.
Wills, who has signed with Oklahoma State and is one of the top wrestlers in Kansas, beat Haas 4-2 in the 182-pound bout of Maize’s thrilling 34-32 dual victory over the Panthers that clinched the AVCTL I title for the second straight year.
“All season I’ve struggled to wrestle some of these bigger guys,” Wills said. “I’m not cutting any weight, and I’m jumping up two weight classes. It’s been harder to adjust, but now it’s later in the season, and I’m kind of putting things together.
“I’ve beaten a lot of guys I shouldn’t have before. I live for those big matches. ... He’s a great kid, a great wrestler. He’s got a hell of a next few years ahead of him, and I’m sure I’ll see him soon at the next level.”
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Haas, the top 182-pounder in Class 5A and one of the only undefeated wrestlers left in Kansas, led Willis 2-0 for most of the bout. But after a fault point and an esacpe late in the third period, Wills tied it.
A few seconds later, Wills took his shot and connected with the left leg. He drove up and lifted Haas, who tried to carry out of the circle, but Wills got him down with a few feet to spare and 11 seconds on the clock.
“You got two gladiators going at it,” Derby coach Bill Ross said. “The kid works his tail off. He’s got a tremendous amount of heart. You can never count him out of a match. ... Right now I don’t think there’s a better matchup than that. That’s probably one of the best matches in the state you’re going to find.
“I’d put that No. 1, and I just feel fortunate that I was a part of it.”
Less than three weeks ago, Haas beat Wills by fall with six seconds left in the first period of the semifinals at the Newton Tournament of Champions. Haas was aggressive, and Wills left his shot open and got stuck.
Thursday he wrestled an almost perfect match, Ross said. Wills said he knew Haas would come out active, looking for an early pin again. Will said he had to weather the storm and tire Haas out.
Maize coach Mike Schauer said as Haas was walking to the mat, he told him, “Win the match first.”
“I don’t think he heard that part,” Schauer said. “I think he thought, ‘OK, I got a takedown and now I’m going to go to work on him.’ Sometimes you just got to slow it down a little bit.”
Although the 182-pound bout was the most anticipated match of Thursday’s AVCTL I championship dual, it didn’t decide it.
Maize senior Jacob Quiggle did in the final bout of the night at 285 pounds.
The Eagles led for almost the entire dual. The lead was up to 28-6 after Maize’s Devin Gomez earned a comfortable fall at 145 pounds.
A match later, Derby’s Jace Jenkins started the comeback with a pin of his own. The Panthers won four of the next five bouts, including Wills’ stunner over Haas.
Derby’s Tyler Allen snagged the first lead of the night at 220 pounds. With a one-point deficit, Quiggle started to feel the pressure.
”I thought, ‘Ok, this one is coming down to me,’ ” he said. “Then I had everybody out there saying, ‘It’s on you, it’s on you,’ and I thought, ‘OK, you guys can’t keep telling me that. I’m going to freak out.’ “
After a pair of escapes through the first three periods, Quiggle and Derby’s Ronnie Washington went to overtime.
“My dad was taking pictures over there in the corner,” Quiggle said. “I looked over at him, and he smiled at me and said, ‘This is what you’re here for.’ They set it up perfectly for me: Down one point going into my match on senior night. That’s what we live for.”
Washington kept looking for a toss, and Quiggle said he finally got tired of it. He snapped down, rounded the corner and took his shot, coming away with the title-clinching 3-1 decision.
The victory gave Maize its second straight AVCTL I title, a league that consists of Derby, the No. 1 team in 6A; Campus, No. 6 in 6A; and Newton and Salina Central, Nos. 8 and 9 in 5A.
They are the only two league wrestling titles in Maize history.
“This was a fun one; the crowd was in there,” Schauer said. “It seems like every time we go out there, it’s different people that are stepping up. Tonight it was at 126 with Cael Moses and at 138 with Caden Hughbanks, both freshmen with one-point wins in overtime. We’re kind of taking turns, and that’s important.”