State wrestling tournaments across Kansas begin today with Class 6A and 5A at Hartman Arena in suburban Wichita, while Class 4A is at the Salina Bicentennial Center and Class 3-1A is at Fort Hays State University.
1. Snowstorm impacts state schedule
To accommodate travel delays caused by Winter Storm Q, the Kansas State High School Activities Association modified the schedule for all of its state wrestling tournaments. Weigh-ins have been pushed back to 2 p.m. with first-round matches expected to start at 4 p.m. followed by second-round matches. The semifinals, which normally take place on day one, have been moved to 9 a.m. Saturday. Several consolation rounds also must be completed Saturday with the finals — championship, third- and fifth-place matches — expected to begin at 2:30 p.m. on three mats simultaneously.
2. Returning champs eye perfection
Leavenworth senior Nathan Butler (285) and Gardner Edgerton junior Dustin Williams (160) won state titles last season. While neither had an unblemished record, both head to state today with only four matches standing between them and perfection. Butler, 40-0, who won 6A titles at 215 as a sophomore and 220 as a junior, is ranked first in Class 5A and is expected to cruise. Williams, 39-0, who won the 6A title at 145 pounds as a sophomore, is a heavy favorite again in 6A.
3. Bonner positioned for crown?
Butler and Williams aren’t alone in the quest for perfection. Bonner Springs senior Aaron Puckett, 37-0, also hopes to finish his season without suffering a loss. He’ll be the favorite in Class 4A at 160 pounds, but the Braves have a much bigger agenda. Ranked first as a team, Bonner hopes to nab its first team title. Senior Jonathan Blackwell (152), a state finalist the past three seasons and a champion at 135 as a sophomore, is ranked first in the state but has undefeated Buhler senior Jake Gehring lurking in the bracket. The Braves also need strong showings from junior Josiah Seaton (106) and senior Justus Seaton (113) to have a legitimate shot.
4. Thunder expect to make noise in 5A
It’s been six years since any team from the metro area claimed a state wrestling title. Along with Bonner Springs, St. James Academy, ranked second in Class 5A, hopes to change that. Defending champion Arkansas City is a powerhouse, but the Thunder qualified 12 to state, including top-ranked sophomore Zak Hensley (126). Eight other St. James wrestlers — freshman Stephen Tujague (2nd, 106), freshman Tyler Hensley (5th, 113), junior Reese Cokeley (2nd, 120), junior Andrew Tujague (3rd, 138), junior Ben VanLerberg (6th, 145), sophomore Matt Pratt (4th, 152), junior Trent Salsbury (2nd, 170) and senior Andy Muehlberger (4th, 182) — also are ranked.
5. Top-ranked octet also eyes titles
Eight other local wrestlers are ranked first in the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association’s poll, making them favorites to strike gold at state. That group includes two wrestlers from St. Thomas Aquinas — sophomores Isaac Dulgarian (138), the reigning 5A champion at 120, and Ben Ewing (220) — and two more from Lawrence, freshman Alan Clothier (170) and senior Andrew Denning (182). The remaining four are Turner junior P.J. Cheney (113), Tonganoxie senior Julius Coates (195), Gardner Edgerton sophomore Seth Pesek (195) and Olathe North freshman Blake Stovall (126).
| Tod Palmer, email@example.com