Even though Gardner Edgerton’s Seth Pesek already has two state titles under his belt, he says this one would shine brightest considering the difficult season he has endured.
Pesek, 8-1, started the season late because of lingering ligament damage from football season, and once he returned, he ended up injuring the other knee as well.
Regardless, Pesek advanced to the Kansas Class 6A 195-pound state title match with a 9-2 decision against Maize’s Devon Baker on Friday night.
“It’s a feeling like no other,” Pesek said. “I’ve been dinged up and haven’t been able to wrestle much this year, so this means more than any of them I’ve had so far.”
Pesek credited the coaches and recent graduate Dustin Williams, who is now at the University of Nebraska, for teaching him the patience and toughness needed to get back.
“He would beat me up in the practice room and I would learn how to defend those and mirror them,” Pesek said. “To be the best, I had to train with the best and do what he did.”
Pesek will face Garden City’s Zeke Herrera in today’s finals. They will follow the conclusion of the consolation finals, which start at 2 p.m.
Hensley seeks repeat
Coming into the Class 5A state tournament, St. James Academy’s Zak Hensley know he and the Thunder would have big targets on their backs.
Hensley won the Class 5A 132-pound weight class and the Thunder took the team title last year, but this time around he said they are more on the offensive.
“We have been going after Goddard because we know they are tough,” Hensley said. “It was not as much about defending, but more about attacking today.”
Hensley will get his chance to repeat against Emporia’s Garrett Whitson in the Class 5A finals.
The team, on the other hand, has some major ground to make up, trailing first-place Goddard by 51 points. Clay Lautt (160) and Matt Pratt (170) will also go for individual titles. Lautt will face Turner’s Jacob Smith in the final.
Keeping it simple
When asked about what got him to the Class 5A state finals with just one loss, Lansing’s Caleb Ward had a simple answer.
“It’s just hard work,” Ward said. “I don’t really have much else.”
Ward will put his 37-1 record on the line against Newton’s Jared Langley in the finals of the 195-pound weight class.
“I’ve been working for this since I started wrestling and it is a dream,” Ward said.
The Lions are currently in seventh place, and Ward is their only finalist.
Down to three
Three Kansas City-area wrestlers remain undefeated this season after the first three rounds.
St. Thomas Aquinas’ Ben Ewing will carry a 26-0 record into the 220-pound championship in Class 5A. He is looking for his second state title and first since 2013.
Olathe North’s Isaac Dulgarian is 44-0 at 170 pounds, and teammate Emilio Fowler is 47-0 at 182 pound.
The fourth was Lawrence’s Alan Clothier, who lost his semifinal match in a 4-3 decision.
Olathe North and Mill Valley both found themselves in second place at the end of Friday’s action.
Olathe North trails Garden City by 49.5 points and will have three wrestlers in today’s championship finals. Blake Stovall (138) joins Dulgarian and Fowler.
Mill Valley trails Goddard by 35.5 points with four wrestlers in the finals. The Jaguar’s finalists are Dylan Gowin (106), Conner Ward (113), Logan Marx (138) and Bryan Burnett (152).
Class 4A update
Basehor-Linwood, which is currently in fourth place, will send three wrestlers to Class 4A finals at the Salina Bicentennial Center. They are Cody Phippen at 106 pounds, Corbin Nirschl at 120 and Jon Trowbridge at 126.
Bonner Springs’ Tanner Hitchcock (113), Sumner’s Emmanuel Browne (38-4) and Spring Hill’s Brandon Dofat will also wrestle in title matches.