Gillett sets pins record
What began with high expectations for the Basehor-Linwood wrestling team ended with seven Bobcats advancing to the state tournament and one holding the school's new single-season pins record.
Saturday, Feb. 16, at one of the four 4A regional tournaments, Cody Bell, Brandon Buck, Matt Dukes, Matt Gillett and Tim Morgan all reached the regional finals, and three of the five took home a regional title.
"I want to get all of my kids through to state," BLHS coach Scott Neil said. "But seven is still good. I'm happy with that."
Joe Bell and Craig Bower also earned state berths by placing in the top four at regionals. The seven state qualifiers are two more than the Bobcats had last year.
Gillett's performance highlighted the regional tournament that was hosted by BLHS.
Entering Friday's first round, Gillett had 22 pins, one shy of the old record. Realizing that, he made up his mind to break the record Friday.
"I didn't even know what the record was until a couple days ago," Gillett said. "But when I found out, I told myself I wanted to break it on Friday."
That he did. Out of the gates, Gillett looked like a man on a mission. He took care of his first round opponent in 53 seconds, pinning him in the first. He captured the record when he pinned his second-round opponent 57 seconds into the match.
"It was really weird," Gillett said. "The day Craig Bower told me I was close was the day the guy who had the record came up to practice and started helping us out. I'd never met him before, so I guess it was kind of fate."
Gillett won his next two matches on points alone, and he now enters the state tournament as the No. 3-ranked wrestler in the heavyweight division. He is 29-5 on the season.
Gillett's was not the only one to have an outstanding performance last weekend. Dukes kept the number in his loss column at one by cruising through the first two rounds and dominating the championship match.
It was the semifinal match, however, that gave him the most trouble.
Leading 13-9 late in the third round of his semifinal match against Topeka Hayden's Kyle Ingenthron, Dukes got caught in a tough position and was nearly pinned. In an act of desperation Ingenthron shot low on Dukes' legs and rolled Dukes on his back.
After nearly getting pinned, Dukes was able to wait out the final eight seconds to hold on to a 13-12 win.
In the championship match, he was determined to make up for the near loss and he did, pinning his opponent in 1:12.
"I redeemed myself for that earlier match," Dukes said. "I wrestled like crap in that one and that's not the way I wrestle. I wanted to show that in the finals."
Neil said he knew Dukes was angry with himself after the semifinal match, and that he was pleased with the way he bounced back in the final.
"I don't know what's been going on with him lately," Neil said. "But I just told him to get it straightened out and get back to Matt Dukes wrestling that's what he does best."
The wins moved Dukes to 30-1 on the season, and he enters state as the No. 1-wrestler in the 145-pound weight class.
Buck took a different road to the title than Dukes. After breezing through the first three rounds, Buck faced his toughest competition in the final. And even at that, the final was not that tough for him.
It appeared that Buck had his opponent pinned early in the match, but the referee never slapped the mat. From there, Buck decided to have some fun.
"He was flat on his back, but I guess the ref didn't see it," Buck said. "But that was fine with me. It gave me a chance to get some work on my feet. I was still a little sluggish."
Buck missed two and a half weeks of action earlier in the year because of a neck injury. But Neil said he thinks the junior is starting to get back into shape.
"I think he's there," Neil said. "He's been a lot better on his feet lately."
Buck improved his record to 24-5 on the season and enters the state tournament as the No. 2- ranked wrestler at 152 pounds.
As for the rest of the team, both Bell (21-7) and Morgan (23-9) had shots to win in the finals, but fell short. Joe Bell took fourth at 125 pounds and moved to 10-10 on the year, and Bower won the third-place match, 7-0, to move to 16-7 on the year.
With seven wrestlers moving on to state, several Bobcats think they can make some noise as a team. Neil said he thought they could finish in the top three, but that they were going to have to wrestle extremely well to do that.
"It's a lot different out there at state," Neil said. "But of my core of five guys, every one of them can win a medal, and we think we have a legitimate shot at the finals with three of them. That's a lot of points at state so who knows what can happen from there."
The state tournament in Wichita begins Friday, Feb. 22.
The finals are scheduled for 6:15 p.m. Saturday.