Lions romp through regional meet
Kansas City, Kan. It should come as no surprise if the Class 5A schools are ready to wish Lansing High's wrestling team good riddance already.
The Lions made life miserable for the opposition during their first appearance at 5A regionals. They placed third as a team with 221.5 points, trailing defending state champion Turner (244) and Shawnee Heights (224.5). Topeka Highland Park was fourth with 110 points.
Lansing qualified 12 wrestlers for the state meet, breaking the previous school record of eight.
The day was filled with the usual suspects doing well and earning state berths as expected, but a handful of others also crashed the party and earned their opportunity to compete at the state meet Friday and Saturday at Kansas Coliseum in Wichita.
Lansing's Kyle Buehler (125 pounds), Sean Flynn (130), Stewart Jones (135), Kyle Grape (140), Dennis Kessler (152) and Ryan Civils (189) all will be making return trips to the state meet after making strong showings Saturday.
Six other Lions will be making their first state appearances.
"I've been telling them all week long that regionals and state are where you step in and you want to rob people of their dreams and steal their medals," LHS coach Ron Averill said. "We had a lot of big upsets today, especially when you look at Chance Thackston and Bobby Hamilton and Lance Fink. They stepped up and did exactly what we've been saying they could do all year long, so it was good to see it pay off for those guys, as well as the other guys who have been winning all year long anyway."
Buehler, Grape and Nick Flynn were Lansing's only individual champions, while Hamilton and Sean Flynn placed second in their respective weight classes.
Hamilton's run to the finals may have been the biggest surprise of the day. After taking his licks all season against tough competition and winning just four matches, Hamilton turned the tables Saturday and won back-to-back matches before falling in the finals.
"One of those things that I say multiple times throughout the year is that (regionals) is where preparation meets opportunity, and I'd like to think that he finally reached that point where the preparation met opportunity and he was able to put it all together," Averill said of Hamilton's march to the 119-pound finals.
Thackston (103 pounds) and Fink (171 pounds) may have been the other surprise qualifiers for LHS. Fink began the season wrestling at 152 pounds but jumped to the 171-pound weight class to benefit the team. Despite giving up almost 20 pounds to some of his opponents, he put together a series of strong matches and gutted out an 8-7 win in the third-place match.
Meanwhile, Thackston had been one of Lansing's most improved wrestlers during the last month of the season. He began stringing together victories down the stretch and placed fourth at the Kaw Valley League meet before making another successful run at regionals.
A new addition in high school wrestling this year is the awarding of the regional coach of the year from each regional in the state. Averill was the Turner regional's winner.