4 grapplers statebound
SCHS sophomore Theron Tucker locks up a cradle on Wamego’s Braden McMillen during consolation action. Tucker won by a 12-0 major decision in the regional tournament.
By Rod Haxton, editor
McDaniel, Jurgens are regional champions
Justus McDaniel didn’t look like a freshman during Saturday’s Class 4A regional wrestling at Buhler.
A takedown and near-fall in the final 13 seconds saw Scott City’s 113-pounder win an exciting 8-5 decision over top-seeded Adam Whitson in the championship finals.
McDaniel is one of four Scott Community High School grapplers who will be competing in the state tournament this weekend in Salina. He will be joined by regional champion Jarret Jurgens (152), silver medalist Wyatt Hayes (160) and third place finisher Kaden Wren (120).
As a team, the Beavers (111) finished fifth behind Abilene (215), Clay Center (137.5), Colby (136.5) and Goodland (115.5).
Head coach Jon Lippelmann knew coming into the weekend that he had four strong prospects to advance to state, but he was hoping for one or two more.
“It’s been two years since we’ve been in 4A, so we don’t get the respect that I feel some of our kids earned,” says Lippelmann. “At the same time, seeds aren’t what win matches. You win medals on the mat.”
McDaniel (15-1), who spent part of the season sidelined due to knee surgery, could only manage a No. 3 seed despite his record. He had no trouble advancing into the finals with a first period pin over Colby Mohr (Abilene) and a 16-0 technical fall against Dacotah Lee (Wamego) in the semi-finals.
The championship match didn’t start out well for McDaniel, who gave up a first period takedown and a reversal in the second period to trail 4-0. Rather than try to score from the bottom in the third period, McDaniel chose to start from his feet.
“I felt I could take him down and hopefully turn him from there,” he explained. “I felt I had a better chance of doing that than being able to turn him a couple of times.”
The strategy paid off as McDaniel not only scored a quick takedown, but was able to take Whitson to his back for a near-fall that tied the match, 4-4.
Whitson got an escape with :42 remaining to retake the lead, 5-4.
After falling behind again, McDaniel said he had to remain aggressive.
“I knew I had to go hard and keep pursuing. I felt he was wearing down, so I had to be stronger and keep going,” McDaniel says.
Once again, the freshman was able to set up a takedown and with :13 on the clock not only took Whitson to the mat, but also had a cradle locked up. That gave McDaniel a brief 6-5 lead, but there was doubt for a moment or two whether he could keep the cradle or whether Whitson might come out on top.
“He didn’t panic,” says Lippelmann. “Even though he was laying on our chest and we were backside down we powered through after a second-and-a-half or two and we were able to put him to his back.”
He was successful in doing just that and collecting two near-fall points at the end of the match for the final three point margin.
McDaniel felt he had the cradle locked tight enough to avoid giving up the reversal.
“I just needed to slide my hips out of the way so I could roll him through. I was finally able to get it done,” he said.
Lippelmann said there was no hesitation on his part about having McDaniel on his feet to start the final period.
“His footwork is really strong. I think I have more confidence when he’s on his feet than what he does,” says the head coach. “It’s not that he doesn’t have the power to turn kids, but when you’re wrestling the elites you can’t expect to turn them all to their backs, so we’re going to take them on their feet.”
The 152-pound championship finals didn’t offer near the excitement as Jurgens dominated in a very routine 10-0 major decision over Conrad Vajnar (Hays).
It was the second time this season the two grapplers had faced each other with Jurgens winning by a 10-3 decision in the quarter-finals of the Rocky Welton Invitational.
“I was confident on my feet because I’d taken him down about five times in the Welton, but I didn’t want him to escape like he did last time,” says the SCHS junior.
It didn’t seem that Vajnar was also aware that Jurgens could score at will on their feet, so he wasn’t too aggressive about trying to escape when on bottom.
Jurgens (29-1) built an early 5-0 lead with a takedown and three-point near-fall in the opening period while nearly getting a fall.
“I thought I had the pin, but (the officials) weren’t calling it very fast this weekend,” he says.
The junior added a reversal and another near-fall in the final period for the easy win.
“I wasn’t going to be satisfied with a two or four point win. I wanted to keep the pressure on him and turn him to his back,” Jurgens says. “I was just waiting for one little mistake that would allow me to get his arm and turn him.”
Jurgens had rolled into the finals with a fall and technical fall in his first two matches, followed by a second period pin over Kory Finley (Colby) in the semi-finals.
Hayes is Stymied
Hayes knew going into the championship finals at 160-pounds that he would have to find some way to score against a very defensive minded Hunter Mullin (35-2, Clay Center).
The SCHS sophomore was unable to score on his feet, instead giving up four takedowns, in an 8-3 loss to the No. 1 ranked wrestler in state.
Hayes (29-2) took a 1-0 lead with a second period escape, but gave up a pair of takedowns in the period to fall behind 4-2.
“He took advantage of my mistakes and used my aggressiveness against me. That’s something I will learn from,” says Hayes. “This was a chance to scout things out and it gives me some things I can work on this week before state.”
If the two grapplers should meet again, it will be in the state finals and Lippelmann likes his grappler’s chances.
“I learned that (Mullin) is scared to take shots and he’s not brave enough to be on bottom against us. That makes me feel really confident in those two positions,” says Lippelmann.
“Give him credit, he’s very good at what he does. He’s very defensive and he stopped our attacks, even those we were just about to complete,” says Lippelmann. “But, he has nothing to make me worry that we can’t take him the next time we see him.”
Despite his outstanding record, Hayes had to settle for a No. 3 seed, but had little trouble earning a berth in the finals. He opened with a pin and won his second match by a major decision. In the semi-finals, Hayes pinned number-two seeded Clayton Peterson (Buhler) in just 2:17.
Wren Stumbles in Semis
A last second reversal was all that prevented Wren from being the fourth Beaver in the regional finals.
Wren (22-4) was seeded third in the 126-pound division, but was in control of his semi-final match against Trevor Casteel (Abilene). Wren had a 3-0 lead when he took an injury timeout after it felt like his injured shoulder had popped out in the second period. While he was able to continue, he didn’t have full motion in his shoulder and it affected his ability to attack on his feet.
That led to Casteel getting a takedown in the final two seconds of the second period.
Wren, however, was able to ride Casteel for nearly the entire third period before giving up a granby roll and a reversal just ahead of the buzzer.
“That was quite a disappointment,” says Wren, who had lost to Casteel by an identical move in the Kansas Kids State Wrestling Tournament two years ago.
“I was leading 1-0 with 10 seconds left and he granby rolled me in exactly the same way,” says the SCHS freshman. “I need to ride a little tougher and roll through with the granby if it happens again.”
Lippelmann says he understands Wren’s hesitation when dealing with an injury, but he felt that had Wren continued to be aggressive, he had the ability to score another takedown in the second period.
“Two things that make me lose sleep at night and scream at small children are backing up and giving up points with less than five seconds left on the clock and he did both of those,” says the head coach.
“That’s a freshman, but I’ll take him in a match any time over the kid who beat us this week.”
Following the semi-final loss, Wren had a strong finish to the weekend with a consolation semi-final fall over Nick Elliott (Buhler) and a pin in just 2:23 over Tanner Reed (Colby) in the bronze medal match.
Theron Tucker (120) finished one win shy of earning a second trip to the state tournament. After losing in the championship quarter-finals, he advanced to the consolation semi-finals where he was eliminated in a second period fall by Tye Paluso (Chapman).
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