Title defense begins this weekend for SC matmen

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SCHS senior heavyweight Michael McEachern pins Thatcher Jones during dual action against Goodland on the home mats.

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SCHS senior heavyweight Michael McEachern pins Thatcher Jones during dual action against Goodland on the home mats.

By Rod Haxton, editor

Scott Community High School will begin defense of its Class 3-2-1A state wrestling title this weekend in the regional tournament at Norton.

While the Beavers are in the hunt for a state title it won’t be an easy path for a team that has relied on a handful of wrestlers to rank No. 4 in the state.

SCHS qualified six boys for state a year ago, earning five medals, which was enough for a state title. It’s very possible the Beavers will be in a similar situation this year.

“We have five boys who have been pretty reliable all year,” says head coach Jon Lippelmann. “But it would sure help if we could find a way to get at least two more boys to state. It will probably take that in order to compete with teams like Plainville, Hoxie is going to be in the hunt and Oberlin has three or four boys who are going to be pretty tough.”

Lippelmann is predicting that for a state title, or to finish in the top three, a team will probably need to qualify seven boys for state and five or six of them will need to medal.

Scott City has four grapplers who are ranked in the top six in their respective weight divisions, led by Alex Kough (126, 2nd) and Warren Kropp (160, 2nd). They are joined in the rankings by James Jurgens (120, 5th) and Michael McEachern (285, 3rd).

Kough (31-5) is a two-time state medalist and has put together a strong finish to his regular season which includes a gold medal at the Garden City tournament. The senior will be the top-ranked wrestler in his weight division at the Norton regional, though his bracket will be very competitive.

The 126-pound division features four of the top six ranked wrestlers in the state, including Alex Hager (No. 3, Norton), Trevor Axelson (No. 5, Plainville) and Clint Rogers (No. 6, Smith Center).

“Alex could have, and probably should have, had a state championship by now, but for one reason or another didn’t get it done,” notes Lippelmann. “He knows this is his last chance and he’s pretty focused. He knows what he has to do and he’s determined to get it done this time around.”

It’s a very similar situation for Kropp, except that the 160-pound class also includes a one-time state champion and three-time state finalist in Calvin Ochs (No. 1, Hoxie).

Other top-ranked wrestlers include Dylan Wiesner (No. 4, Plainville) and Cody Faulkender (No. 6, Oakley).

Two of Kropp’s losses have come against Ochs, including a 5-3 decision in the finals of the Scott City Classic. Kropp (34-5) has won 14 of his last 16 matches.

After being forced to the sideline late last season with an injury, and not being able to compete at regional, the SCHS junior has quietly emerged as perhaps the only wrestler who has a chance at defeating Ochs.

“Warren is fundamentally sound and isn’t going to make mistakes that will cost him a match,” says Lippelmann.

 

120-Pound Battle

Despite being a state finalist a year ago, Jurgens will have to battle his way into the regional finals as one of four state-ranked wrestlers at Norton.

After being ranked No. 2 earlier in the season, Jurgens (28-7) has slipped into the No. 5 spot behind Gage Pfeifer (No. 3, Hill City) and Macrae Migchelbrink (No. 4, Atwood). Migchelbrink was a 5-3 winner of Jurgens in the finals of the Norton Invitational.

McEachern (26-6) is currently ranked No. 3 in state and will likely be the number-two seed at the regional tournament behind Bradey Chard (No. 2, Plainville), who was a 3-0 winner over the SCHS senior when they met in the finals of the Norton tournament.

McEachern and Chard are the only two state-ranked heavyweights competing at Norton.

Even though he’s not ranked in state, senior Raleigh Wishon (26-11) has a strong chance of advancing to his first state tournament. The only 170-pounders at Norton ranked in state are Jason Berkgren (No. 3, Oakley) and Cameron Staples (No. 6, WaKeeney).

 

3 Are Longshots

If the Beavers are to slip another one or two wrestlers into the state meet the most likely candidates are sophomore Lane Hayes (195, 12-19) and freshmen Wyatt Kropp (132, 18-14) and Cooper Griffith (182, 13-16).

Hayes has just two state-ranked wrestlers in his weight class with Harrison Gilliland (No. 1, Plainville) and Brandon Salmans (No. 2, Hoxie). Hayes was just one win shy of qualifying for state last year, so perhaps could be ready for another late season run.

Wyatt Kropp could face the most difficult challenge of the three longshots, despite his winning record. The 132-pound division is brutal, featuring four of the state’s top wrestlers in John Risewick (No. 1, Norton), Dayton Dreher (No. 2, Oberlin), Caleb Studley (No. 3, Phillipsburg) and Keegan Amos (No. 5, Holcomb).

Kropp will have to defeat one of those four opponents - likely Studley or Amos - in the consolation semi-finals in order to earn a state berth. He has seen Amos twice this season, each time losing by three point decisions.

Griffith also faces a tough path to state in a weight division that includes three state-ranked wrestlers. That group is led by Kyler Atwood (No. 1, Smith Center), Andrew Malin (No. 4, Plainville) and Steve Yergey-Dible (No. 5, Hoxie).

That provides Griffith a window of opportunity to slip into the state tournament.

“Coop has come up against some pretty outstanding wrestlers this season, but he’s shown improvement. He wrestled really well against the Goodland boy. That’s a strong kid and he’s the type of kid we’ll have to compete with and beat at regional,” Lippelmann says.

“There will be about four of those same type of kids at regional, so Coop will have to find a way to get past at least one of them.”

The key to this weekend is to survive for another week. Lippelmann is hoping that some of his younger wrestlers will be among the survivors.

“We’ve had kids who have improved. Have they improved as much as I was hoping?” asks Lippelmann. “I guess we’re going to find out. But I have high hopes for everyone.”

If the Beavers are going to push enough boys through regional in order to make another run at a state title, then it will require high hopes and a certain amount of luck.

Lippelmann will take both.

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Class 3-2-1A Regional Wrestling at Norton

Friday, February 15

2:00 p.m. First Round

5:00 p.m. Championship Quarter-Finals

6:30 p.m. First Round Consolation

7:30 p.m. Championship Semi-Finals

 

Saturday, February 16

11:00 a.m. Consolation Cross-Bracketing

1:00 p.m. Consolation Quarter-Finals

3:00 p.m. Consolation Semi-Finals

5:00 p.m. Consolation Finals (three mats)

6:30 p.m. Championship Finals (one mat)

 

Teams: Atwood, Ellis, Hays-TMP, Hill City, Hoxie, Kensington-Thunder Ridge, Leoti, Lincoln, Norton, Oakley, Oberlin, Osborne, Phillipsburg, Plainville, Quinter, Russell, Scott City, Smith Center, St. Francis, Stockton, Sylvan, Tribune, WaKeeney

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