At last year’s state wrestling tournament, Goddard’s record-setting 125.5-point margin of victory would have been good enough to finish second ahead of Valley Center, who had 125.
That is the bar in 2019 the Lions are looking to live up to in hopes of a fifth straight state title. Behind a year of traveling across the U.S., some of the top wrestlers in Kansas and a sense of urgency to carry tradition, Goddard is the favorite again.
The Lions have taken three trips out of Kansas and wrestled with four of the top 20 teams in the country, according to the latest InterMat high school team rankings, including No. 1 Blair Academy.
Goddard coach Brett Means said those trips can be humbling, but they are needed.
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Goddard likely wrestles the toughest schedule in Kansas, and it pays off in February. Freshman Jerrdon Fisher is the best example. Fisher is the No. 1 wrestler in Class 5A at 126 pounds.
“He’s a stud, and he’s got seven losses,” Means said. “We need that competition to get where we need to be in the state of Kansas.”
A week ago, junior Trevor Dopps, No. 1 at 160 pounds, beat Hoxie’s Dayton Porsch, who entered with a 158-1 high school career record. Dopps, too, has seven losses this season because of the tough schedule.
Means said living up to the Goddard standard has been the biggest challenge for this year’s team. The Lions have 11 wrestlers listed in the top six of the latest Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association rankings, more than any other team.
Senior 170-pounder Troy Fisher is one of four top-ranked wrestlers at Goddard. He is undefeated and hasn’t’ lost since his state championship match of his sophomore year.
Fisher has committed to Northwestern after graduation and is No. 13 in the nation at 170 pounds, according to InterMat. Means said guys like Fisher are key to bringing the room together.
“I’ve always felt like a leader on the team, but this year, it’s like I’m the leader,” Fisher said. “Nothing has really changed.”
Goddard graduated three state champions from last season but has back three others who made it to state title bouts in 2018: Fisher, junior Jason Henschel now at 113 pounds and senior Lucas Glover now at 120.
Those three will only be some of the favorites this year at state, but the Lions aren’t likely to duplicate their record-setting performance from last season. The competition around them has heightened.
Last year’s Class 4A champion Arkansas City has bumped up to 5A, and Maize has looked the part of a state contender, too. Along with Blue Valley Southwest and St. Thomas Aquinas from the Kansas City area, 5A won’t be a foregone conclusion as was the case last season.
On Saturday, Goddard beat Maize 44-23 in a dual meet. The Lions are set to play host on Thursday to Ark City, a team they beat at the Newton Tournament of Champions about a month ago.
“We’ve got to stay healthy,” Means said. “You have to get a decent draw, and you have to wrestle good that day. I’ve seen defending state champs lose in the first round, so we just have to stay focused.”