Grape a state champion
Four other Lions win state medals
Wichita Kyle Grape is a state champion. There's no question about it.
Grape, a Lansing High sophomore, began the 140-pound state championship match in the offensive against Bishop Carroll freshman Tom McDonald and Grape never let up. He erupted to a 6-0 lead in the first 31 seconds of the match.
McDonald made a brief rally as he scored a point on an escape and then made a two-point take-down to pull within 6-3. Grape responded with a quick reversal and eventually pushed his lead to 11-3. As the third period began and Grape was still nursing a six-point lead he continued to attack in search of the pin.
The pin never came, but it didn't matter. Throughout the match there was no question who the Class 5A state champion would be.
"This is a nice way to finish the tournament," an emotional coach Ron Averill said. "I talked to Kyle before the finals and we just talked about what he needed to do was focus, take all the garbage out of his head, get out there and wrestle his match.
"He's been working all year, and we knew for him to compete at the higher level he just needed to wrestle his match and be aggressive in doing that. The way he was able to go out there and dominate and take it right off the bat really paid off in the end. That was huge for him."
Lack of focus never was a problem for Grape during the match - at least not until the final seconds. His aggressive beginning caught McDonald off-guard and the freshman never seemed to realize what hit him.
"When you get the first take-down, the confidence just builds in you," Grape said. "You just know you're a step closer to winning it."
In the final seconds of the match when McDonald made one last-ditch effort for a pin, Grape spun face down to make it impossible for McDonald to score on him. In doing so, however, Grape knocked his head on the mat, so when the final whistle sounded he lay on the mat for a moment and tried to collect his thoughts.
It didn't take long for him to realize he'd just won a state championship, though.
"I'm really happy," Grape said. "I was really excited that I won, but at the very end when he started reversing me I just face-pinned myself where my face went right into the mat. It got me all dizzy, so I really so I really wasn't celebrating all that much at first. I had a headache."
Grape collected his thoughts as the referee hoisted his left arm into the air to signify victory. Then he raced over to Averill and leapt into his coach's arms as his teammates and their families erupted in applause from the upper deck.
Grape wasn't the only state medalist. Four other Lions took home state medals Saturday. Sophomore Kyle Buehler (125 pounds) and junior Ryan Civils (189) placed fourth in their weight classes, while freshman Nick Flynn (112) and junior Sean Flynn (130) both earned sixth-place finishes.
Lansing placed sixth in the team standings with 99 points. Wichita Bishop Carroll won the team title with 138 points. Arkansas City and Turner tied for second with 118, Campus was fourth with 117 and Shawnee Heights was fifth with 113.5.
Five other LHS wrestlers competed Friday but didn't make it to the winner's podium. Freshman Chance Thackston (103) was eliminated in his first match of the day. Juniors Stewart Jones (135), Dennis Kessler (152), Lance Fink (171) and Logan Ryan (215) all were one victory shy of earning state medals.
All five made solid runs through the consolation bracket, but Jones' loss may have been the hardest for the Lions to take as he fell in what was without question the most controversial match of the morning.
Jones erased a 3-1 deficit entering the fourth period and held a 4-3 lead in the final minute. With seven seconds left in the match, however, as Jones and Topeka Seaman's Caleb Malone scrapped near the very edge of the outer circle the official whistled Jones for locking hands - a questionable call considering the official was behind Jones at the time, as well as because the pair was falling out of bounds. The official awarded Malone a point for the tie, and that decision was furiously argued by the LHS coaching staff to no avail. Then Malone was awarded an escape point as time expired to steal the match.
Two other Lions - sophomores Bobby Hamilton (119) and Casey Caton (160) also competed at state but didn't make it to Saturday's rounds.
All 12 LHS state competitors were freshmen, sophomores or juniors, so all will return next year. Grape said the experienced bunch will put Lansing in position to compete for a team state title next season.
"We'll keep the same team next year, so I think that we can come back and win a state title at 4A or 5A or whatever class we'll be in," Grape said. "We'll dominate it, I believe. I don't think (class size) matters. When you have a great team like we will, it doesn't matter what class we'll be in. We have individuals who just had tremendous success this year, and we're just going to take that into next year and just make it even better."