Grape going for title
LHS sophomore earns berth in 140-pound finals
Wichita It's been seven years since Lansing High School last had a wrestling state champion, but it will try to end the drought Saturday.
Sophomore Kyle Grape will try to become the first Lion since Chris Swisher in 1997 to be an individual state champion when he faces freshman Tom McDonald of Wichita Bishop Carrol for the 140-pound title at the Kansas Coliseum.
"From where we're sitting right now we think it's a very realistic goal for him to be a state champion," LHS coach Ron Averill said. "We're looking forward to him stepping out on the mat and realizing his dreams."
Grape, a fourth-place finisher in Class 4A last year, marched through the Class 5A field in businesslike fashion on Friday. He pinned Dusty Hawk of Liberal in his first-round match and then beat Matt Westin of Mill Valley, 6-4, to advance to the semifinals.
The semifinal showdown with Levi Anstine of Arkansas City was Grape's toughest match of the day. In fact, he trailed early before rallying to take a 5-4 lead. Anstine led Grape out of his hold with 1:32 left in the third period, bumping Grape's lead to 6-4. Then Anstine went on the attack.
Anstine had Grape wrapped up and seemed on the verge of pinning him, but he made one mistake. Anstine allowed Grape to get his hips straight on the map and suddenly Grape turned the tables. Grape drug Anstine across his body and pulled his shoulders to the mat for the pin.
"I didn't think I was going to end up pinning him," Grape said. "When I was up by one coach said I can't stop going hard. I've just gotta keep going."
The normally stoic Grape let his emotions shine through following the pin as he pumped his fist in the air and hugged his coaches. Celebrating isn't his style, but this time he couldn't help it.
"I was looking at his shoulders and I knew (I had him), and when I arched his back then he just gave up," Grape said. "Right then I knew I won it and I felt so much adrinaline rush right through me."
"Last year I came and took fourth. I lost in the semifinals, and I didn't want that again. I wanted to win a state championship, and I'm here now. I expect to get it done."
Two other Lions fell just shy of the state finals. Sophomore Kyle Buehler lost his semifinal match at 125 pounds and junior Ryan Civils fell in the 189-pound semis after winning his first two matches by pin.
Civils said he was disappointed he wouldn't be in the finals, but the two-time state qualifier still has his sights set on winning some state meet hardware.
"I've made more improvement over what happened last year," Civils said. "I wanted it all (this year), but he (semifinal opponent Sean Pietrzyk of Salina South) is a senior and it was his time to shine."
Of the 12 Lions who qualified for state, 10 survived to see additional competition on Saturday. Only sophomores Bobby Hamilton (119) and Casey Caton (160) were eliminated.
In addition to Grape, Buehler and Civils, seven other Lions began the climb through the consolation bracket. Freshman Chance Thackston (103), freshman Nick Flynn (112), junior Sean Flynn (130), junior Stewart Jones (135), junior Dennis Kessler (152), junior Lance Fink (171) and junior Logan Ryan (215) all will wrestle in consolation matches beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday. The championship finals will follow in the evening.
"We're real pleased with the way we're finishing up," Averill said of his squad's first day at 5A state. "We would've liked to have had some more guys in the semifinals. Today is not without some regrets of the way some of the matches played out, but looking at the fact that we brought down 12 and we still have 10 wrestling on Saturday, we're really pleased with that.
"We had some real good wins coming back on the back side. That's what we've been telling the guys all year long is you've got to be ready to take those opportunities, and we had guys stepping up and taking opportunities like Lance Fink and Chance Thackston again."