Cards don’t measure up in first-week action
Massive home tournament starts at 1 p.m. Friday
What started out last Wednesday as optimism and anticipation turned into disappointment and frustration for Cardinals wrestling coach Bill DeWitt.
Eudora opened up its season Thursday, dropping a duel at Santa Fe Trail to the fifth-ranked team in the Kansas preseason rankings. Then the Cardinals traveled to Effingham Saturday for the Tilton-Worley Tournament at Atchison County Community High School and took fifth place in a tournament they won easily a year ago.
But even though the Cardinals' record may not be where they want it to be at this point, there were plenty of encouraging signs in the first week of competition, DeWitt said.
"I'm not discouraged one bit," DeWitt said. "These guys are all working hard for me and we're right where we need to be going forward."
The reason for the early defeats was largely because wrestlers were trying to get to a certain weight class where they can be the most competitive while helping the team reach its goals, DeWitt said.
In an effort to make it a little easier on his wrestlers reaching their weights, DeWitt let them wrestle up a weight class at Santa Fe Trail. That meant people weren't trying to cut 8 pounds in a matter of days. He tried to condition them down to around 4 pounds of their ideal weight by Thursday and then reach the weight they wanted to be at by the Friday weigh-in time for the tournament Saturday.
"Their energy was definitely zapped. I usually don't work them hard the day before a tournament," DeWitt said. "But really we worked them hard."
DeWitt also said he had kids who were still over their weight Friday after practice so they were running two hours before weigh-in trying to pull the final few pounds.
"That's not something they're going to do every week," he said.
Now that wrestlers are near their ideal weight, kids can let their bodies adjust to new diets and new physiques.
Starting off with the Santa Fe Trail duel, the energy wasn't zapped as much as it would be at the Tilton-Worley Tournament.
"At Santa Fe Trail -- wow -- we kind of blew it, actually," DeWitt said. "I was disappointed because our mental approach and preparation was good and usually we get hammered in the lower weights and I had some lower weights step up."
Sophomore Cody Salzman, at 112 pounds, was one of those. Salzman wrestled a kid who beat him pretty handily a year ago, but wrestled a tough, methodical match to win 5-1.
Dalton Hladkey followed at 125 pounds with a 16-1 technical fall.
"We were kind of rolling and then our middle weights, there were two matches in particular, we were up in points in the third period," DeWitt said. "Then we kind of relaxed, got caught and pinned and that's a massive point swing.
Senior team-leader Travis Clarke was one of the wrestlers who got caught.
Clarke was the preseason sixth-ranked wrestler in Kansas. At Santa Fe Trail he was matched up against the preseason number two. Clarke was up 4-3 in the third period before getting pinned with less than a minute to go.
"He was upset at first," DeWitt said. "Then he came back (at the Tilton-Worley Tournament) and his attitude was sensational, he looked great on the mat. That's everything you want out of your athletes.
"My seniors, I love these kids."
It was a brand new day in Effingham Saturday, but the results were mixed. What really hurt the Cardinals was they were giving up 18 points at the start of each duel because they had open weights at 103, 215 and heavyweight.
They were defeated in pool play -- it was a duel tournament featuring two pools of four teams each -- by Pleasant Ridge (33-35) and Horton (27-45). They managed victories over Atchison (66-15) and Doniphan West (51-23). One encouraging sign was that as a whole, Eudora combined for a 30-14 record despite losing two of those duels, which illustrates the disadvantage of giving up 18 points per duel.
"I just took some of my younger kids and sent them to the junior varsity meet to get better experience," DeWitt said. "That's so they can help us more towards the end of the year."
Overall, the first week's action moved Eudora's duel record to 2-3.
For the tournament, Clarke and Hladkey each finished 4-0, and at an overall 5-0, DeWitt named Hladkey the varsity wrestler of the week.
"He's pretty good, a good kid," Clarke said. "He's going to be good for us at 125."
Next up for the Cardinal wrestlers will be their home tournament, the Eudora Tournament of Champions which begins Friday at 1:30 p.m. and concludes Saturday.
"Going into the Tournament of Champions, I've got a pretty tough bracket so it's going to be fun," senior Evan Meyers said. "I get to wrestle a couple of good kids, so I just want to wrestle my heart out and hopefully end up with the gold."