Eudora to send four to Salina’s Class 4A state meet
One of Eudora coach Bill DeWitt's goals for his 2006 wrestlers was to get eight of them to state at the end of February.
Admittedly that may have been a bit lofty, but at last weekend's 4A regional at Eudora he nearly got his way.
The Eudora Cardinals had a strong showing over the weekend, in which many of his grapplers had opportunities to take the bus ride down Interstate 70 to Salina for this year's Class 4A state wrestling tournament.
"I told them eight, thinking we're not going to get eight and here we are with a chance to get as many as 11," DeWitt said. "Those guys competed real well and I know some of them are going to be disappointed, but it just wasn't meant to be."
Junior Matt McPeek came within one match of the consolation round, which would have all but guaranteed him a spot. Juniors Kyle Scrimsher and Loni Ogden, along with freshman Max Campbell had the same opportunity as McPeek but came up short as well.
"Every single one of these kids are going to be back next year," DeWitt said. "They're going to be a little bit better from this experience and they'll be a good team next year."
Ultimately only four Cardinals will make the trip this weekend to the Bicentennial Center -- senior Miles Cleveland, juniors Tim Durkin and Michael Whitten and sophomore Evan Meyers.
Three of the Cardinals took the direct route to Salina by winning the championships in their respective weights.
Whitten rode two pins and a major decision in the 135-pound class, before outlasting Basehor's Dustin Weimer 6-1 for the title.
Durkin captured a major decision over Sumner's Jerry Cox in the title match at 171 pounds to punch his ticket, while Meyers did the same at 215 against Spring Hill's Austin Hamm.
Cleveland took a bit of a back way to Salina by bouncing back from a semi-final defeat at the hands of Basehor's Dustin Sullivan to take third place.
"That's kind of a tough way to do it," Cleveland said. "You end up wrestling more matches. You know that you lose one more match and you're done."
As nice as each of the wrestlers' performances were, the glow of the regionals soon faded as the task at hand was taken up on Monday.
Practices reconvened for the four state-bound wrestlers as well as any of those not going who wanted to help the foursome prepare.
"The weekend's behind us," DeWitt said. "We had nice practices with some of the other guys coming in and helping and we've sat down and watched film on what it is we need to improve on going into the weekend."
Cleveland and Durkin will both make their second appearances at the state tournament, while Whitten and Meyers are gracing the tournament's mats for the first time.
The two returning wrestlers have already explained to the rookies what to expect.
"The experience is kind of overwhelming at first," Cleveland said. "You go in there and there are all these teams and everyone around. But also after the first match, things kind of get back to normal and you get used to it."
Each field the wrestlers will compete in over the weekend will be filled to the brim with quality talent.
Whitten will open his tournament bid with a match against Kenny Calhoun of Perry-Lecompton. Calhoun was a fourth-place finisher at the Chapman regionals.
The 135-pound bracket also contains Santa Fe's Josh Cauthon (35-6) and Altamont-LaBette champ Aaron Ellison of Colombus. Ellison enters the bracket with a record of 33-2.
Cleveland's 140-pound bracket features some familiar faces for the senior. Santa Fe Trail's Lorenzo Mundy, Kyle Hudgins of Spring Hill and Basehor's Dustin Sullivan have all faced Cleveland and could face him deep in the bracket.
The gauntlet of the state bracket could lie in the one Durkin finds himself in. The 189-pound class boasts two of the toughest wrestlers in the state in Holton's Jesse Strawn and Concordia's Chris Sutton-Kearne.
Strawn is ranked number one in 4A by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association with a 40-0 record and goes into the tournament as the bracket's defending champion.
Sutton-Kearne, who failed to place a year ago at state, is ranked second with a 34-1 record. Sutton-Kearne lost to Strawn in the Chapman regional championship match.
Meyers will get his inaugural state appearance underway with a match against Jordan Pfenninger of Buhler in the 215-pound bracket. The bracket also features Santa Fe Trail sophomore Jake Kober, who comes into the tournament with a 31-4 record.
With loaded brackets such as these staring each wrestler down, the state bound Cardinals are focusing on their own games and what got them there in the first place.
"I really haven't looked at the brackets," Cleveland said. "Everyone is good at state so we just do things we did to get us here. We just go over everything that we've done all year. And if you watch state champions that's what they do."
The team heads to Salina on Thursday and will go to the Bicentennial Center for some early stretching and workouts before beginning competition Friday morning.