Salina slide doesn’t dampen memories
Unlike many coaches, Eudora wrestling coach Bill DeWitt would just as soon cut the final chapter out of the story of his 2005-2006 Cardinals.
A disappointing showing at the state championships in Salina belied a solid season, which saw improvement among his underclassmen, strong regular season tournament showings and an exciting dual victory against a tough league foe.
"It was a good year," DeWitt said. "Obviously we didn't want it to end the way it did but overall we accomplished a lot of things. There was a lot of growth on this team."
Among the stories of the year for the Cardinals was the improvement of many of the wrestlers, who at times struggled a season ago.
Perhaps nowhere was this more evident than in the case of Michael Whitten. The junior stumbled through a sophomore season with a 13-20 record, only to bounce back in 2005-2006 with 18 more wins and a regional championship at the 135-pound class.
"Michael improved immensely from last year to this year," DeWitt said. "I would say he was the most improved player on the team this year. I've always thought he was pretty tough and this year he started getting his shots in and gaining some confidence."
In the underclass ranks, several Cardinals made marks for themselves by taking advantage of some varsity opportunities.
Freshman Jackson Wiley made an impression at 103 pounds, while fellow freshman Max Campbell came within one match of a state trip at the 112-pound class.
"Skill-wise, those guys did fine," DeWitt said. "I inserted them into the varsity line-up and I think they responded. Now record-wise, they may have been better off at the junior varsity level and been .500 or better. They wanted the challenge. Those guys are a part of the future, so it's good to see them at that level."
Sophomore Evan Meyers emerged as one of the Cardinals' top competitors this season by bolstering the 200-plus weight groups at 215 with a regional title and 25-16 record.
Among the more accomplished wrestlers returning to the Eudora ranks was Tim Durkin. The junior came into his own over the course of the season and began to garner attention after strong showings at the Basehor and Bonner Springs tournament and a second-consecutive trip to state at 189 pounds.
The attention, while deserved, did sow the seeds for even more improvement and a strong senior campaign for one of DeWitt's veterans.
"They just figured him out," DeWitt said. "He started getting all of this attention and then his opponents knew to watch his legs. Hopefully that will start him working on that aspect and he'll come back ready to do some damage next year."
Durkin finished the year with a 36-13 record and a regional championship.
On a team level, the Cardinals produced a dual win on senior night at Eudora over rival and Frontier League power Baldwin.
The 40-39 victory in the team's final dual of the season seemed to catapult the team into some success over the next two weeks.
"Everything kind of culminated with the win over Baldwin," DeWitt said. "Not only are they a rival, they had a great state tournament and there was a lot of satisfaction in beating them. It was great because when I picked up the roster at the beginning of the year, I really had no idea what I had. So that win really put things together."
Eudora also said goodbye to four-year wrestler Miles Cleveland. The senior departed the Cardinal ranks with a 105-47 record and two state appearances to go with a regional title in 2005.
"We're losing a great senior," DeWitt said. "He was our only returning varsity member with a winning record and was a leader. He worked hard for us all four years."
The Cardinal wrestling team will officially wrap up the season with their awards banquet March 21 at Eudora High School.