SALINA, Kan. — As a top-four finisher in each of his first three trips to the Kansas Class 4A state wrestling tournament, one might expect Bonner Springs Aaron Puckett to have some pretty fond memories of Salina.
By BRENT MAYCOCK
Special to The Star
Instead, Puckett let memories of past shortcomings serve as some big-time fuel for his final trek west on Interstate 70.
It was tough, but every year I lost motivated me more to be where Im at, Puckett said. It made me who I am now.
What Puckett is now is a state champion. The Braves senior capped a perfect 41-0 season in dominating style, whipping Andales Kyle Armstrong 8-0 for the 160-pound title.
It means so much to me to be able to do something that hasnt been done by a lot of people, Puckett said. I knew it would be tough, but I battled through it.
Puckett and Jonathan Blackwell constituted a 1-2 punch the Braves lineup this season. Blackwell also had some motivation going to state this year. A state champion as a sophomore in 2011, he said he was overconfident when he returned to the finals last year and was beaten by Pittsburgs Aaron Seybold 2-1.
I pretty much went in expecting I was going to win and kind of underestimated him, Blackwell said. This year, I wasnt going to have it taken away from me.
There wasnt any way for Blackwell to underestimate his foe in the 152 finals this year. Buhlers Jake Gehring entered the showdown undefeated at 42-0.
But Blackwell got a takedown midway through the first period and never trailed. He built a 5-1 lead in the second period and settled for a 5-3 win and his second state title in three years.
The titles by the duo helped Bonner Springs to a fourth-place finish in the team standings.
Im really excited for Aaron, he worked hard and improved a ton this year, said Blackwell, who never finished worse than second in his four years at state and was 35-1 this season. I was really motivated and I was hoping wed win as a team, but that didnt happen. We still got two champs and thats pretty good.
Bonner nearly got a third, but Josiah Seaton fell 2-0 in the 106 title match to undefeated Jake Goldenstein of Augusta.
Paolas Pomatto surprises
Paolas Joe Pomatto couldnt have had a tougher road to his first state title. In Fridays quarterfinals, the Panthers heavyweight upset No. 1 Josh Horn of Winfield 11-7. In Saturdays semifinals, he took out No. 2 Zell Bieberle of Colby 3-1 in overtime.
That left No. 3 Matt Kellerman of Prairie View in the finals, the same wrestler he had lost to in last weeks regional finals. But Pomatto was on a roll and finished it, handling Kellerman 10-2 to claim the 285 title.
Im pretty astounded by what I did, said Pomatto, who finished the season 38-5. I just kept feeding and feeding off my momentum. I cant even put it into words right now. Im on top of a mountain.