Wood collects another title at Emporia
When Dennis Wood sits down to eat during the holidays, he will dig in like an experienced pro.
Wood, a Lansing High junior wrestler, has had plenty of feasting practice during the past three weeks while devouring opponent after opponent. The newly appointed No. 2 wrestler in the state at 103 pounds in the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association rankings, Wood posted a 3-0 record Saturday at the Emporia Winter Classic and placed first in his weight class. He won his first two matches by pin and then earned an 18-3 technical fall against Jared Dakin of Emporia in the finals.
Wood's season record now is 14-0. His title was Lansing's biggest highlight in Emporia on a day when senior Kyle Buehler placed second at 140 pounds, junior Nick Flynn was third at 145, senior Casey Caton was second at 171 and freshman Cullen Demarest was sixth at 125.
"As long as he's aggressive he's scoring, and that's what we've been focusing on with him," LHS coach Ron Averill said of Wood's key to success. "Not so much his technique, but his mental state, because when he's focused and really gets after it, it's going to be tough to beat him. Now that he's seen that, he's going to be pretty tough to beat."
Wood was Lansing's top individual performer, but Goddard was the top overall team at the tournament. The defending Class 6A state champions collected the team title with 222.5 points. Eudora was second with 169 and Emporia finished third with 160.5. Lansing placed seventh with 119.5 points in the 15-team field despite sending only a partial squad. Nine LHS wrestlers competed Saturday while a few others - most notably 119-pounder Scott Keller and 215-pounder Tyler Strouhal - missed the tournament because of illness.
"Going in we had some apprehension just because I knew pretty much everybody on the team had been under the weather even since before the Eudora Tournament (on Dec. 8-9)," Averill said. "We've been fighting some health issues, but we went in and wrestled tough throughout the day."
Averill said the caliber of competition at the tournament was beneficial for his wrestlers because it would prepare them for the postseason. He said he was especially pleased to compete with Goddard.
"The thing about Goddard is they're just so solid all the way through," Averill said. "Regardless of who they have, those kids are in top caliber competition every day in the practice room so they're strong all the way through. It was easy to see why they were state champs last year and they're expected to be state champs this year."
LHS senior Kyle Buehler, the 5A state champ at 135 pounds last year, lost his 140-pound title match to Mitchell Means of Goddard, 3-0. The loss was Buehler's first of the season after starting the year 13-0. Means was the fourth-place medalist at 140 in 6A last year.
"It was one of those close enough matches that it could go either way on any day," Averill said. "It was just a situation where if Kyle went in 100 percent healthy it'd be totally different I believe. But it's early in the season, so we'll take the loss, grow from it and move on."
Senior Casey Caton placed second at 171 pounds by winning two of three matches. His lone loss was an 11-3 setback to T.J. Lorson of Topeka Seaman. Lorson was a fourth-place finisher at 5A state last year at 189 pounds.
Junior Nick Flynn posted a 4-1 record and placed third at 145 pounds. His only loss was a 2-0 overtime decision in the semifinals to Maize's Zach Hentzen, the 6A state runner-up last year. Flynn is 13-3 this season.
Saturday also was a big day for freshman Cullen Demarest. He placed sixth at 125 pounds, but his 3-2 record was impressive considering the caliber of competition he faced, Averill said.
"That's a pretty big feat for him coming in as a freshman and being able to compete on that level," Averill said.
Also competing for Lansing on Saturday were sophomore 135-pounder Wes Appleget (0-2), 152-pound senior Brad Zink (1-2), 160-pound sophomore Grant Hinckley (2-2) and 189-pound senior Taylor Teeters (1-2).
Lansing now has nearly three weeks off to rest and recover before returning to the mat Jan. 4 for a dual with Silver Lake and Santa Fe Trail at LHS. Then the Lions will compete Jan. 6 at the Louisburg Invitational.
Averill said his squad is looking forward to the break.
"We're going to back off on the intensity of practice some this week and go back and cover some of the basics," he said. "We'll review some of that stuff for some of the younger guys, clean up our act a little bit and get more healthy. Then we'll get back on the mat and hit January running."