Wrestling statistics deceiving
The Eudora Cardinals varsity wrestling team finished the 2003-2004 season with a record of 166-236. That's 70 matches below .500. The season was an obvious failure, right? Wrong.
What many may have missed is that the team actually outscored its opponents 851-753. Some may not have followed the state tournament success of junior Josh Barr. Others may have missed the record-threatening seasons of a select few. And many probably were unable to observe the incredible improvement the team made beyond the world of statistics.
Eudora closed the season on top of its game, exactly the way head coach Bill DeWitt had anticipated.
DeWitt believes the heart of the season serves to prepare the team's heart for the end of the season.
"I was pleased with the way the season ended," DeWitt said. "I think most people saw, by the time we got to league and regionals, that most of the kids were wrestling at a much higher level than they had been. That shows us as a coaching staff and as a program that there's learning going on and there's definite growth."
Growth was both a focus and a necessity of this team. Eudora was young and inexperienced. It faced a brutal schedule filled with proven programs and proven participants.
But DeWitt subscribes to a philosophy that his team will not back down from anyone. That the team's growing pains indicated one thing: growth.
And grow they did.
"I was really proud of the team that we had at the end of the year," DeWitt said. "By then we were down to the kids who made the commitment and bought into what we wanted to do. They really worked their tails off, and you're happy to see that as a coach."
That was the team that sent Barr to state and had two other wrestlers (sophomore Miles Cleveland and junior Chris Durkin) just a match away from qualifying.
Barr carried the banner of the team's late success with a sixth-place finish in Wichita.
"I didn't necessarily think we would get a state-placer, but Barr proved me wrong, which is fabulous," DeWitt said. "And he was a lot closer to being in the finals than a lot of people are aware of."
Barr's rise was made more remarkable by the fact he didn't even qualify for the tourney a year ago.
It was an inspirational run earning the junior grappler the Don Abel Inspirational Award given to the team's most inspirational member.
Barr shared the team's MVP award with fellow captains Durkin and junior Andy Coffman.
The trio combined for 69 of the team's 166 matches won -- 34 of which were amassed by Barr and the fourth most in school history.
Matt McPeek earned the Freshman of the Year award.
Newcomer of the Year was awarded to a soccer defector, junior William Bock.
The Most Improved (from the season's beginning to its end) was awarded to sophomore Austin Calhoon. And the Junior Varsity Player of the Year was freshman David Westerhouse. For the record, the JV team finished a solid 51-37 on the year.
The greatest award may be reserved for DeWitt next season. Each of this year's award winners and each of the 12 letter winners will return next year. That's a significant fact for a program that returned just four letter winners this season.
Those returning wrestlers hope to carry with them the momentum they generated this season.
One thing is for sure, though -- the team will carry with them greater expectations and greater pressures.
"There will be a lot more pressure on those kids and they'll have to perform," DeWitt said. "Obviously they cannot give the excuses that they lost to inexperience or youth or to a lack of maturity. They know it and they anticipate it, and I'm going to stay on them all spring to get after it."
The increased expectations locally may not translate statewide though -- at least not yet.
"Personally, from a coach's standpoint, I want to be that team that people love to hate," DeWitt said. "Hopefully we will get to that point where people see us on the schedule or see that we're coming to a tournament and their immediate reaction is, 'Oh man, Eudora is going to be there.'"
That's the goal anyway. But the Cards probably can get away with another year under the radar.
"Obviously it's a lot easier to sneak up on people," DeWitt said. "Next year we'll probably still be able to do that a little bit...the year after that we probably won't."