Wrestlers take off with 4-0 pool play record
The Cards enjoyed a successful trip to Effingham Dec. 6 finishing a perfect 4-0 in pool play at the Atchison County Community High School tournament. Eudora defeated Hiawatha 32-28, Atchison 42-30, Center 54-24 and Maur Hill an astounding 69-0.
"I was surprised we won the pool, especially with our youth," head coach Bill DeWitt said. "We'll see a lot better team's than that but it's satisfying. You want to win every time you go out."
Josh Barr (189 pounds), Miles Cleveland (125), Andy Coffman (119) and Matt McPeek (112) won each of their four matches on the day.
"Some of these kids are really going to go far," DeWitt said. "Especially Barr. I don't know of many 189-pounders in 4A that are going to be much better than he is."
Each member of the team received a gold medal regardless of individual records.
"Every single one of those kids had a victory, or two, or had some success; which was nice because I didn't think we would compete this well as a team because we're so young," DeWitt said. "I figured we would only have a couple of guys do well, so that was very satisfying."
The importance of the Atchison success was amplified by the team's Dec. 2 performance in its 54-22 loss to fourth-ranked Santa Fe Trail.
Barr, Cleveland, Chris Durkin (215) and Mike Whitten (125) scored victories amidst the team defeat.
"We did alright," DeWitt said. "(Santa Fe Trail) has a lot of experience and for every mistake we made we paid dearly."
But that payment will not come at the expense of easier competition in the future.
"Our whole philosophy from the beginning of the year is that we're not going to back down from anyone -- our schedule's tough," DeWitt said. "If we have a good opponent, we'll respect them but our philosophy's the same. We are going to cut loose for six minutes."
DeWitt was confident that his team would rebound strongly.
"I felt good going in to Atchison," he said. "I knew we were going to get some mat time and we were going to get some experience. But what I was reallypleased with was the way those kids rally around each other and pick each other up."
That rallying cry was strengthened the day before in practice. A member of the team was lost indefinitely to an illness. His replacement was McPeek, a junior varsity freshman. McPeek's storybook 4-0 performance certainly helped inspire his teammates' success.
"We're big into controlling the things you can control," DeWitt said. "You can't help it that a guy's a state champ or physically stronger, but we can control how hard we go at it. If I can get every kid to go out there and spill his guts for six minutes then we're going to win 90 percent of the time, and I can deal with that no problem."
The next big test for the team is the EHS Invitational Friday and Saturday.
"It will be a big tournament," DeWitt said. "The good thing is that a lot of those teams will be at regionals in February. So, we'll get to see where we're at with a lot of people."
It's still unsure where this team is right now. They've experienced lopsided wins and a lopsided loss.
"If I have a whole bunch of kids that are in the finals and place, well then I've totally underestimated this team," DeWitt said. "These kids are going against some good competition. We're just going to have to see how they respond."
How they respond to the competition is one thing. How they respond to the home crowd is another.
"I think there's going to be a lot of extra pressure," DeWitt said. "The kids know there's going to be a huge crowd and they want to do well."
Those pressures could prove vitally important down the road.
"You want to put them in these situations as much as possible so when you get to regionals and state it's not totally unfamiliar to them," DeWitt said. "I'm sure they'll respond well and we'll give the town a good show."