High School Sports

Five things to watch in Kansas state wrestling

St James’ Zak Hensley (right) won a 5A state championship last season in the 132-pound class last year.
St James’ Zak Hensley (right) won a 5A state championship last season in the 132-pound class last year. special to the star

Kansas high school state wrestling tournaments will take place Friday and Saturday in Park City, Salina and Hays. Here are five storylines to keep track of through the weekend:

1. Thunder looks to repeat

St. James Academy captured the Kansas Class 5A state title last season, and the Thunder will have a chance to repeat if it can knock off top-ranked Goddard, which finished second last year. Mill Valley is also in the race, ranked third by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association.

The Thunder returned two state champions this season: Matt Pratt (170) and Zak Hensley (132). Each is ranked first in his weight class, and each won a regional title on Saturday at Blue Valley West. Hensley was also voted by coaches as the regionals’ outstanding wrestler.

Stephen Tujague (138), Tyler Harris (182) and Clay Lautt (160) are also coming off regional championships. Drew Ernsdorff, Sammy Cokeley and Tyler Hensley were runners-up.

2. Eagles favorite in Class 6A

With Sunflower League and regional titles already under its belt, Olathe North heads to Park City as the top ranked team in Class 6A.

The Eagles are led by a pair of undefeated wrestlers — Isaac Dulgarian and Emilio Fowler — who have provided a spark after transferring in before the season. They are not, however, the only weapons on that squad.

Olathe North qualified 12 of its 13 wrestlers out of regionals, and three of them are ranked No. 1. Dulgarian is first in the 170-pound weight class, Fowler is first at 182 and Blake Stovall leads the 138-pound class.

3. Chasing perfection

Dulgarian and Fowler are two of the Kansas City-area’s handful of wrestlers that have perfect records going into the state tournament.

Dulgarian, who is chasing his third state title, is 41-0. He won his freshman year and junior year with St. Thomas Aquinas.

Fowler is 44-0 but will have to get past Lawrence’s Alan Clothier, who is 38-0 in the same weight class. The two would have met at the Sunflower League meet, but Clothier sat out with an illness. Clothier is the defending state champion in 6A, and Fowler finished fourth with Gardner Edgerton.

Another local champion chasing a perfect record is St. Thomas Aquinas’ Ben Ewing. He is 23-0 and looking for his second 5A title at the 220-pound class.

4. Youth leading Basehor-Linwood

Corbin Nirschl burst onto the high school scene last year and took the 106-pound title in Class 4A with a 35-0 record. Even though he moved up to become the top-ranked wrestler in 120, the Bobcats seem to have found a more than capable replacement at 106 with freshman Cody Phippen.

Nirschl is the top seed in 120-pounds with a 31-1 record, and Phippen is the No. 2 seed at 106 with a 34-2 ledger.

Jon Trowbridge will be another Bobcat to watch at 126-pounds. He is 35-4 for fourth-ranked Basehor-Linwood.

5. Huskies in the hunt for Class 6A

Although Olathe North took its regional title last week, Blue Valley Northwest provided some heat with four individual champions: Sam Elliott, Jason Laramore, Max Tierney and Blake Johnson.

The Huskies finished third last season and returned Elliott and Tierney, who are defending state champions in the 120 and 152-pound weight classes. This year, the two are wrestling at 126 and 160 pounds respectively.

To reach Kathleen Gier, call 816-234-4875 or send email to kgier@kcstar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kgier.