For the past three years, Wichita North has spent hours setting up one of the most outstanding high school wrestling atmospheres in Kansas.
The Redskins bring the best in Wichita to the traditional gym for the City League tournament championship bouts. Wrestlers run out to the mat to music, a spotlight, red or green lights lining a carpet runway and smoke surrounding them. But before Saturday, North fans had no one to cheer for.
No North wrestler had reached the City League final at any weight class since 2014, until Jackson Stroud in 2019, and he wasn’t even at Wichita North until two days into the school year.
Stroud transferred to North from Paschal, Texas, after moving in with his dad. No matter ho brief his time in red has been, he said he came up with a plan, talked with his coaches and was going to go for it.
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“This would really make my year,” he said.
Stroud entered the championship bout 27-5. We faced Wichita Northwest senior Josh Carter, a wrestler Stroud hadn’t beaten in two tries this season. He lost again in the final.
Carter won a 4-2 decision in the ultimate overtime, four overtime periods that were decided by a last-second takedown that looked as if it could have gone either way until the whistle was blown and Carter shot off the mat like a bullet in celebration.
North athletic director called it the best match of the 2019 City League tournament.
Stroud’s presence alone on the championship mat was reason enough to celebrate.
“It helps in our hallways when kids see other kids being successful,” North coach Quinton Burgess said. “They gravitate to that. I’m happy to have Jackson be the spearhead of that.”
Stroud said it wasn’t a clean, easy transition into North. Meeting friends was a struggle at times, so he turned to a place he knew he would be comfortable: the wrestling room.
Stroud said he has been wrestling since sixth grade. He said he wasn’t good at basketball or soccer, and his mom got tired of him quitting everything he didn’t immediately succeed in. He stuck with it, and it became a love.
At Paschal High School, he became the school’s first state qualifier in years. He was thrown into a similar situation at Wichita North, which isn’t a wrestling school. Without a direct feeder program, Burgess said he is lucky to know his wrestlers for four years. It’s often only three after spending a year trying to get them into the sport.
“I heard about him before the season started, so I was excited to meet him, but the jury was out,” Burgess said. “We have a lot of kids come in and say I’ve done this or that, but this kid has a real chance to make it to state.”
That’s what makes Stroud valuable. He entered the room, and after one day was already one North’s most experienced wrestlers. He proved it with a practice bout against his coach.
Burgess said Stroud is the only high school wrestler to ever beat him.
“I’d say in my 10 years of coaching, he is the best wrestler I have had through-and-through around any of my programs,” Burgess said. “I’m excited to see what he can do for the rest of the kids in our program. He does things the right way. Everybody thinks it comes easy overnight. That’s not the case with him. You can see it.”
Stroud has shown that form throughout the season. He won his bracket at each of North’s past two tournaments at Junction City and Nickerson. He finished second at Pratt and has a nearly undefeated record in the City League, expanding to Saturday.
Stroud earned a bye in the opening round and needed to get past Bishop Carroll junior Gabe Arredondo, who entered at 20-11. He pinned him after 3:53 and clinched history.
“My coaches and I have been working in the room so hard for this,” he said. “This would be so big for me and the program.”