Cardinals hope to have turned corner at Bobcat Classic
That's the motto that the Cardinal wrestling team has adopted this year, and it is especially personified by their coach, Bill DeWitt.
He expects to win, and wants to win in everything, including games of Guitar Hero with his 7-year-old daughter.
So you'd expect that when Eudora traveled to Basehor-Linwood for the Bobcat Classic - a 30-team tournament which took place Friday and Saturday - and finished 21st, he wouldn't be too happy.
Not so fast.
"It was a great weekend. We wrestled well - finally - and most of the kids turned some corners," DeWitt said. "We didn't wrestle that well down there last year."
One reason DeWitt saw no need to place importance on the overall team standings is the Bobcat Classic is one of the toughest tournaments in the state. It includes teams that are nationally ranked, such as Goddard - also the number one ranked team in Kansas' Class 6A - who won the tournament overall, finishing 46 points ahead of the second place team, Andale.
"It was a real tough tournament," senior Travis Clarke said.
For Eudora, it was more of the same for its big guns as the team finished the tournament with three medalists, two more than the team finished with at the meet last season.
Clarke wrestled well and placed fifth out of 23 wrestlers at the 140-pound weight class. That was despite fracturing the orbital bone in his right eye.
"Man, that kid, he's as tough as they come," DeWitt said. "He wrestled smart and aggressive and started wrestling like we kind of hoped and expected him to."
Clarke went 4-2 in the tournament and wrestled all six matches without pinning or being pinned, an indicator to DeWitt that Clarke is wrestling smarter with leads and is improving at avoiding being pinned.
Sophomore Cody Salzman, who moved from his former weight of 112 down to 103, placed sixth out of a field of 20, the first time in DeWitt's Eudora coaching career he's had an underclassman place in the Bobcat Classic. He went 4-3 over the weekend, and showed he could be a contender for a state medal.
Two of his losses came at the hands of the same opponent, third place finisher Caleb Seaton of Bonner Springs.
"He wrestled some great kids along the way and was wrestling great," DeWitt said. "Sometimes, he just needs to not put so much pressure on himself and not think so much and just wrestle."
To have a competitive 103-pounder such as Salzman could do wonders for the Cardinals, who have wrestled in tournaments and duals all year long without one, giving up valuable points in every contest.
The third medalist for the Cardinals was Evan Meyers, who finished eighth at 189 pounds.
Meyers started out the tournament on a roll, pinning his first opponent in just over a minute and then getting a major decision, 15-2, in his second match. He was finally pinned by eventual runner-up Andrew Davis, a senior from Glenwood, Mo., but then appeared to get back on a roll in his first match in the consolation bracket with a 9-4 victory. He couldn't maintain the momentum however, dropping his final two matches to slip to eighth.
"Evan wrestled well. He was having a great tournament and kind of fell apart a little bit in his last two rounds," DeWitt said. "He just made a couple of mistakes, and sometimes his confidence isn't as high as it should be, because he's a good wrestler."
DeWitt said Meyers, who has had success the last couple of years but hasn't been the "dominator" he is this year, can't afford to allow a couple of small mistakes to shake his confidence in later matches.
"People certainly know who he is now," he said. "So, he's not going to help himself by having himself beat before he gets on the mat. But he's working on that and I think he'll get it."
Another bright spot for Eudora was the return to action of junior Max Campbell. Campbell tore an ACL last year in a match and was unintentionally leg-whipped in practice by a teammate earlier in the year to reaggravate the injury.
Campbell went 2-2 at 135, and was one win away from medaling.
"Considering his conditioning wasn't the greatest, I thought that was exceptional for that kid," DeWitt said. "He picked up some confidence over the weekend."
Overall, DeWitt thinks he has some individuals who will be ready to peak towards the end of the season, hopefully leading to team success and individual state medals.
Next, the Cardinals will have a triangular Wednesday at Lansing with Basehor and Lansing, both teams that, like Eudora, could not make the Emporia tournament due to inclement weather.
Then, the Cardinals varsity squad will head Saturday to the Paola Invitational, a tournament that DeWitt says presents the opportunity to get some junior varsity kids into a varsity setting and see what they can do, providing rest and healing to varsity kids that might be ailing.
Clarke, one such wrestler who in DeWitt's opinion could use some rest, won't be one of those to sit out if he has it his way.
He plans to again don the facemask he used earlier in the season after suffering a broken nose at the Eudora Classic.
"Oh, no," Clarke said when asked if he would be out of action in the coming week. "I'm just going to wear that mask again. It sucks."