Cards bring home state medals
Eudora finishes 17th in 4A
Two Eudora seniors brought home medals from last weekend's 4A state wrestling tournament in Wichita. Michael Paxton finished as the runner-up at 215 pounds, and Shane Grant took fifth at 275. Sophomore 103-pounder Andy Coffman added a win, and the trio led the Cardinals to 17th place.
Abilene won state 4-A with 113 points followed by Columbus and Goodland, both of which tied for second with 100 points each.
"I was very pleased with our efforts this season," EHS coach Bill DeWitt said. "I realize we have some big, big seniors to replace, and we have a lot of work to do in the off season."
Following is a description of how each Cardinal fared at state and how the other three seniors closed out their final campaign.
senior, 215 pounds, second place
Paxton and pin were all but synonymous this season, and Mike added two more in his first state appearance. The senior shattered the old single season pin record of 23, setting the new bar at 29.
He opened in unusual fashion with a 12-8 decision over Pat Ketter of Perry Lecompton.
"I was nervous since it was my first time wrestling at state and didn't wrestle very well," Paxton said. "I wrestled better in my second match."
He settled down and got back to normal by pinning Derek Rupp of Ulysses, using 4:18 in the quarterfinals. Then in the semifinals, Paxton stunned undefeated Maryville senior Ryan Friedrichs with a patented throw that resulted in a first-period pin.
"Once I got him down, I held him the hardest I've held anybody down all year. I wanted to win so bad," Paxton said.
That victory by fall in 1:17 propelled Paxton to the finals where he faced Jordan Bedore for the championship.
"He was pretty strong. I really couldn't work anything. I was on my back a couple of times, but I fought off and didn't get pinned. I'm proud of that," said Paxton of the 17-2 loss.
"He had never made it to state before and had the jitters in the first round," DeWitt explained. "He rolled into the finals against an All-American who took away Mike's strength which is throws."
Paxton and teammate Grant plan to travel to the high school nationals in Cleveland, Ohio, later this month to find out about becoming All-Americans. The top eight in each 80-man bracket earn the designation. There were 16 competitors, four from each of four regions, at the state level in Kansas.
Paxton, who has been wrestling since he was five years old, placed in all seven tourneys as a senior and finished 34-6. He was third at Bonner Springs, second at Effingham, Eudora and league, and took firsts at Immaculata, the prestigious Bobcat Classic at Basehor-Linwood, and regionals at Santa Fe Trail.
The state runner-up set the pin record in his first regional regionals match and went on to add five more. Going into state, he also led the squad in wins (31), first takedowns (23), two-point near falls (11) and team points (202). Paxton earned the Don Abel Inspirational Leadership Award last season, the first junior to ever do so.
He plans to attend Fort Hays State University to study criminal justice and continue wrestling, probably at 197 pounds. Paxton has a 3.5 GPA who uses his brain as well as his strength to down his opponents.
"I set up my moves well and I have pretty good upper body strength," Paxton said. "I love the competition of wrestling -- to go one-on-one with somebody. Now I'll lift and get ready for college."
senior, 275 pounds, fifth place
The only Cardinal grappler to win his final match, senior heavyweight Shane Grant became a two-time state medalist Saturday. With a second-period pin of Baldwin's Sam Coffey, Grant earned fifth place and won his third match of the tourney.
He opened with a quick pin of Josh Mills of Coffeyville (47 seconds) and then beat Guy Miller from Scott City in the quarterfinals with a 9-4 decision.
In the semifinals, he battled Tony Lewis, got behind in the early going, and had to try some high risk moves against the junior from Ulysses.
"He was a decent kid who used his hips well," Grant said. "I had to go for the pin and got off balance when I tried to throw him and ended up on my back."
Lewis went on to claim the championship while "Bubba" wrestled back in the consolation semifinals. There Grant lost a 4-2 heartbreaker in the last five seconds of overtime when Danny Lavoie of Concordia scored a takedown.
"I know Shane was disappointed at state because he was the runner-up last year. He had a good tournament and came back strong with a pin," DeWitt said.
Not only did Grant have a good tournament had a great career for Eudora. He didn't get much varsity opportunity his freshman season wrestling in the shadow of undefeated state champion Robert Collins, but he had a winning 3-2 record. He went 18-13 as a sophomore and made it to state, and finished 19-7 as the silver medalist at state as a junior. In his senior season, he medalled in each tournament in which he competed, including a championship at Effingham . He was second at Eudora, league and regionals, third at Bonner, and sixth at the Bobcat Classic.
Grant also set a pin record in the opening round of regionals by overwhelming his Council Grove opponent in seven seconds. The previous fastest pin had been set by teammate Luke Powers, who used 11 seconds on Feb. 4 in the Spring Hill dual. Grant next downed Ottawa 7-1 with a five-point first period and a takedown with ten seconds left. In the regional heavyweight semifinals, Grant secured his third trip to state by edging Fort Scott 3-2 on the strength of the first takedown. He met Dennis Kimzey of Prairie View in the finals and lost in overtime 3-1.
Finishing with a 27-10 mark that included 19 pins, the three-year letter winner is considering attending Fort Hays State University or Labette County Community College and wants to continue wrestling. He might play football and wrestle if Fort Hays is his choice, and coaching may be in his future. He will wrestle at the high school nationals in Cleveland at he end of this month.
"I'm excited about going to nationals, and I think I can do well if I bring my A game," Grant said. "I want to go for the experience."
sophomore, 103 pounds
Andy Coffman just keeps getting better.
He started wrestling in seventh grade when a friend talked him into it, and three seasons later he made it to state. In Wichita, he gained three matches of experience and one win.
That win came against Zach Davis of Basehor-Linwood, who beat Coffman in the initial match of this season, 6-9. Coffman improved, besting Davis in January, 12-8, at the Bonner Springs tourney. The final meeting between the two took place in the first round of consolation at Friday, and Coffman triumphed 3-2 by scoring the only takedown of the match.
Coffman's losses at state were to two eventual medal winners. He was downed 12-2 in the opening round by Daniel Tibbles of Colby, who finished fifth by beating Josh Sharp of Fort Scott. Coffman lost 4-0 to Sharp in the second round of consolation.
"I put it all on the mat," Coffman said of his first state appearance. "I'll start preparing for next year. I want to place first at tournaments and place at state. A great coach helps a lot."
Besides reaching the state level, Coffman met another goal of his sophomore season by not getting into trouble on his back. He was never pinned all season.
"It's pretty impressive,' said DeWitt of the accomplishment. "He's been working hard and paying attention. His win at state will help build for next year when he will be one of the leaders."
Coffman lettered his frosh season at 103 pounds with a 13-12 record. He stayed at 103 and improved to 24-9 this season, placing at six tourneys. Coffman captured the league championship, was second at Effingham and Eudora, and third at Bonner, Immac and regionals.
The Bonner Springs tournament was the highlight for him because of the number of good grapplers there and his third-place medal winning performance, but third place at regionals sent him to state.
Coffman received a bye in the regional tourney's opening round and next dispatched Council Grove 18-3. His fourth near fall of the match at the start of the second period gave him the technical fall. Coffman was edged 4-2 in the semifinals by the eventual second-place finisher from Santa Fe Trail, who had beaten him earlier in the season 12-4. With a 10-2 major decision over De Soto, Coffman climbed to the consolation finals, where he bested Blaine Angell of Ottawa 7-1 with three takedowns.
The four three-point near falls against Council Grove helped Coffman to a team-high 20 in that category. He pinned ten opponents as a sophomore and recorded 34 takedowns.
The straight A student continues to learn and improve on the mat and will be the only returning state qualifier for next year. After graduation, he plans to attend Kansas University with a major in architectural or structural engineering.
senior, 160 pounds
James Barr went to state last season and came back with three matches of experience, one win and a black eye. The senior was a four-year letterman, and he earned five medals this year. He placed first at Immaculata, second at Bonner Springs, and third at Atchison County Community High School, Eudora and league. Barr plans to attend Baker University to study Computer Science and run track.
He was seeded sixth going into regionals his senior campaign, where six former state qualifiers filled the bracket. Barr opened with a first period pin of Louisburg and then downed the No. 3 seed from Burlington 11-8. He sealed the decision with three takedowns in the second period and another with 45 seconds remaining. In the semifinals, he lost to the eventual runner-up 6-12. Down 2-6 at the end of the second stanza against Topeka Hayden, a flurry of third period scoring still left Barr behind. His last match came against Zac Sheets of Chapman, and Sheets prevailed 5-2. Barr closed out his senior campaign with a 25-11 record.
senior, 171 pounds
The program also has to say good-bye to Luke Powers who turned in a gritty performance at regionals. Hurt and unable to compete at league, Powers wrapped his ribs and gave it all he had at Santa Fe Trail and came close to a second state appearance. The senior 171-pounder opened with a bye and then lost to Burlington. He came back with a first-period pin of Anderson County and a 9-3 decision over Fort Scott. Leading 2-1 after two periods with his Tiger foe, he scored two takedowns and a near fall for the consolation quarterfinal win. In his final match, Powers lost 9-5 to Chapman and finished with a 24-10 mark.
"It was tough to watch," DeWitt said. "He took it in stride and did his best. He will be missed He was always early to practice and stayed late. He worked his tail off."
Powers was the team's MVP last season and finished third at regionals and fifth at state at 152 pounds He was also named to the Lawrence Journal World's All-Area team. This season, he earned five medals that included firsts at Atchison, Eudora, Immac and Bonner Springs. The four-year letter winner placed fifth at the tough 22-team Bobcat Classic in January. Powers is considering attending Kansas State University but has not yet decided on a major.
senior, 140 pounds
Austin Roberts also wrestled for the last time for the Cardinals at regionals. The 140-pound senior was a four-year participant and three-time letter winner who won 11 matches and three medals in his senior campaign. He was second at Immaculata and fourth at both Atchison and Eudora. At the regional, he won a match in the first round of consolation. Using six takedowns, he was ahead 15-3 before wearing down his opponent from Chapman for a pin with 27 seconds left. During the wrestling season, he also lettered in Chess and Scholar's Bowl, and he plans to attend Kansas State University to study mechanical engineering.