the Eephus Pitch
A year ago, the wrestling team qualified five individuals for state, and all came home empty-handed.
Coach Bill DeWitt, at the beginning of the season, was critical of himself, saying he had to figure out a way to get his team to peak at the right time.
A year ago his team peaked right before Christmas with a second place finish at a massive Emporia Winter Classic tournament. Then they became a little complacent and didn't wrestle to their capabilities at the league and state tourneys.
This year is different. I predict one of these wrestlers is going to medal at state.
The four big hammers on the squad, 103-pounder Cody Salzman, 140-pounder Travis Clarke, 160-pounder Jake Love and 189-pounder Evan Meyers all seem to be wrestling at their best right now heading into sub-state.
Ever since dropping down to the 103-pound weight class, Salzman has dominated. He's a sophomore wrestling at a weight class that contains predominantly freshmen. Experience is an obvious advantage when talking about kids who are in their first and second years of wrestling.
"Nothing prepares you for wrestling in a high school regional tournament until you do it," DeWitt said.
Salzman dropped to 103 for Basehor-Linwood's Bobcat Classic and was the first underclassman in DeWitt's Eudora career to place at that tournament. Since then he's taken first at Paola's invitational tournament and at the league tourney. That success breeds confidence.
Clarke continues to be the model of consistency for the Cardinals. He finished third at the league tourney, his lone loss coming at the hands of a Spring Hill wrestler, Russell Naylor, who has beaten Clarke three times this year.
"Each time it's gotten a little closer," DeWitt said. "That puts more pressure on the Spring Hill kid. Travis is just going to go out there and wrestle."
At the league tourney, it took overtime for Naylor to beat Clarke. 140 is loaded in Eudora's regional, with four ranked wrestlers in 4A including Clarke (sixth), so he'll have to bring the wood this weekend to advance to state for the second year in a row. But, Clarke is wrestling as well as he ever has, and, along with Meyers seems like one of the most mature and competitive kids on the team.
Speaking of Meyers, he wrestled well this weekend despite having a severe case of the flu. Hopefully, his health improves and he can finish his senior campaign by doing what he's done all year.
And last but not least, there is Love, the constant. He leads the team in pins and wrestled his best tournament of the year Saturday, losing the championship match to Greg Curtis, Gardner Edgerton, who has won every tournament he's wrestled in at 160 this year. Love had him down 4-1 before giving up a reversal and near-fall points in the first quarter.
These are the four wrestlers that DeWitt said he expects to make a run for state and the land of metallic luster. Hopefully, other wrestlers like 171-pounder Chase Rust and 152-pounder Gage Ham - two seniors - can sneak up on some people and grab state tournament berths.
Either way, this team ostensibly is peaking at just the right time.