Bishop Carroll senior Jaleb Gann leaned over, kissed his hand and tapped the mat for the last time.
Gann and the Golden Eagles seniors went out in historic style, clinching an unbeaten City League dual season with a 44-27 home win over Wichita Northwest. Carroll will be the favorite ahead of Saturday’s GWAL championship tournament at North.
The Eagles went 8-0 for the first time since 2009.
The Carroll seniors went 5-0 on Thursday. Gann said it was a special moment for him to cap his home career.
“I just wanted to let everybody know that I was thankful for the atmosphere they gave me, and I was thankful to wrestle on the Carroll mat for the past three years,” Gann said.
The Carroll wrestling program has been on a slow climb toward the top. Although Kapaun and Northwest have rotated through the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association rankings at times this season, the Eagles have mostly been absent despite their successes.
Earlier this season, Carroll beat Kapaun for the first time in six years. The win over Northwest sealed the 2019 Carroll team’s spot in school history.
“We were probably the usual third-place team when these guys came around,” coach J.D. Johnson said. “We’re trying to take that next step, and these guys have been a huge part in it. They’ve put a lot of points on the board over four years of wrestling, and over half of them have spent at least three years in the varsity lineup.
“They’re going to be tough guys to replace on the mat, off the mat, everywhere.”
Carroll was outstanding against the Grizzlies. The Eagles won 9 of 14 bouts and earned five pins. They put 19 points on the board before Northwest posted one.
Senior Ryan Murphy was one of the five Eagles to get a fall. His came at 170 pounds and clinched the dual victory with four matches still to go.
Murphy, the No. 2 ranked wrestler at 170 in Kansas Class 5A, said it was a good way to go out.
With the win, Carroll will enter Saturday’s City League tournament with nine team points. Kapaun, who finished second in dual season, will have eight. Northwest will come in with seven.
If the Eagles win the tournament, they will win the City League title outright. If Kapaun takes first and Carroll second, the Eagles will be co-champions. And if Northwest, Kapaun and Carroll finish in that order, there will be a three-way tie.
Murphy said his group will have the edge, especially after Thursday night.
“The kids who don’t get a lot of glory are going to be the ones that do it at the tournament,” Murphy said. “All of the teams are going to have two or three kids in the finals, and they kind of cancel each other out, but it’s the teams with the middle of the road kids that make the difference.”