LHS wrestlers win regional title
11 Lions qualify for state; 9 are regional champs
Tecumseh Entering the championship finals at the Class 5A regional tournament Saturday at Shawnee Heights, the Lansing High wrestling team trailed Turner by 9.5 points.
The difference marked the same point total by which Santa Fe Trail beat Lansing for the Kaw Valley League title last week.
The Lions remembered the frustration from seven days earlier when they missed key points and allowed crucial matches to slip away. They thought about what went wrong.
They made sure it didn't happen again.
Lansing had nine wrestlers in the championship finals Saturday. Four of the matches were decided by pin. One by injury default. One by a lopsided margin. Two others went to the wire. All nine were won by Lansing.
The end result was Lansing's first regional title since 2003. LHS finished with 213 points. Turner was second with 201.5. Shawnee Heights finished third with 121.5 and Wyandotte was fourth with 106.
"It's pretty impressive," LHS coach Ron Averill said of his squad going nine-for-nine in championship matches. "Coming into the tournament we had nine guys seeded first. I was confident in the belief that they were seeding the tournament correctly, but we just had to step up and prove that every thing was right.
"They've been working a long hard season to make sure that we had that ability to be where we were at, but when it comes down to that day you've just got to step up and make it happen."
The heart of the Lions' lineup - 130 pounds to 215 pounds - took care of business from the moment they stepped on the mat. Of the nine wrestlers in those classes, eight - Nick Flynn (130 pounds), Kyle Buehler (135), Sean Flynn (140), Kyle Grape (145), Casey Caton (152), Dennis Kessler (171), Ryan Civils (189) and Logan Ryan (215) - won their early matches and advanced to the championship finals. Sophomore Dennis Wood (103) also won his first two matches - the first by fall in just 36 seconds and the second by an 8-6 decision - and advanced to the finals.
The only core wrestler who didn't make the finals was senior Lance Fink (160). After a bout with the flu during the past week and nursing an injured back, Fink wasn't as sharp early. He had a first-round bye, but then he got pinned by Wyandotte's Donnie Reed late in the third period. That meant Fink - a state qualifier last year at 171 pounds - needed to beat Schlagle's Gerardo Pena in the consolation semifinals to advance to state. No problem. Fink built a 9-1 lead in the first two periods. He stretched his advantage to 12-2 after recording a near fall early in the third period. He later earned the pin. After that, Fink used a 10-6 decision against Jared Oshel of Shawnee Heights to place third.
Fink wasn't the only Lansing wrestler to qualify for state by climbing through the consolation bracket. Junior Scott Keller (112) did the same thing. Keller was pinned by eventual champion Paul Hansen in his first match of the day, but he bounced back to pin Highland Park's Luke Dawdy in just 1:41 to advance to state. He later earned a 9-3 decision over Shawnee Heights' Blake Singleton to place third.
"I'm really proud of Scott Keller," Civils said. "He got the job done."
With Keller and Fink state-bound, Lansing turned its focus to its nine championship final matches and catching Turner in the team standings. LHS had some catching up to do because of the strong all-around performance of Turner throughout the day. Always a strong program, the Bears qualified 13 wrestlers for state and looked poised to take the team title if the Lions slipped up a single time in the finals.
Unlike a week ago at the KVL tournament, there was no slipping this time for Lansing.
Wood set the tone for the finals right away. After falling behind 0-2 against Washington's James Wauer, Wood scored on a late first-period escape and then took the lead with a two-point takedown midway through the second period. After Wood stretched his lead to 5-4, Wauer pulled within a point on a reversal with one minute left in the match, but Wood answered with another reversal and held on for a 7-4 victory.
The victory was huge for Lansing, but it was a big deal to Wood, too. Although he wrestles in the lightest weight class, he is the smallest guy in the gym at every tournament. In fact, he weighted in at 89 pounds at the beginning of the season. His small size hasn't hindered him much, though. He has the 29-8 record to prove it.
"I think I've improved a lot this year," Wood said of his success. "I'm hoping to be No. 1 or No. 2 in the state this year."
After Wood's victory, Turner answered with three champions as Paul Hanson placed first at 112, R.J. Riedel won at 119 and Glen Newbill took the 125-pound title. That gave the Bears a 23.5-point advantage, but the Lions had the meat of their lineup on deck.
Nick Flynn began Lansing's sprint up the standings by earning a 10-2 major decision against Turner's Jason Langford in the first of three head-to-head LHS-THS matchups in the finals. Then came a first-period pin by Buehler. After that, Sean Flynn had a back-and-forth battle with Schlagle's DeAngelo Brooks before an arm injury and a late flurry of points by Flynn became to much to overcome. Brooks was forced to take an injury default in the third period, giving Lansing a third straight champ and fourth total.
The titles kept coming. Grape surged to a 7-2 lead during the first period against Wyandotte's Aaron Newbill before winning by fall in the second period. Then Caton earned an intense 7-4 decision against Turner's Adam Brozanic.
Caton's victory put Lansing ahead in the team standings for a moment, but Turner regained the lead when Matt Bailes earned a 20-14 decision over Wyandotte's Donnie Reed in the 160-pound final.
In the final LHS-THS showdown of the day, Kessler and Michael Dean delivered a match that was as spirited as it was intense. Kessler surged to a 6-1 lead midway through the second period against his childhood friend, but Dean roared right back to pull within 6-4 after two escapes and a stall. Kessler answered with a two-point take-down with 35 seconds left in the third period, but Dean used an escape and a takedown to pull within 8-7 with 19 seconds left. After a furious final few seconds, however, Kessler hung on and became Lansing's seventh champion of the day.
"After wrestling that match, I'm going to push myself as hard as I can every day this week in practice because that match : it wore me out," Kessler said of his battle with Dean.
Kessler's match went to the wire, but Lansing's final two matches didn't take long at all. Civils needed just 79 seconds to pin Mack Cole of Shawnee Heights and give Lansing the lead. For Civils, it was the 100th victory of his three-year career at LHS, and it was his 85th by pin.
"Wrestling 189 all three years I've been here, they've depended on me to come up with the win or the pin to bring us higher (in the standings)," Civils. "Then Logan sealed it off."
Ryan came up with a pin even quicker than Civils. Ryan needed just 34 seconds to stick Wyandotte's Michael McDonald on his back and ice Lansing's team championship.
"We were real focused all week," Ryan said. "We had a lot of determination. We knew we needed this win."
The 11 state qualifiers were the second-highest total in program history between the school-record 12 from last year. Lansing had hoped to qualify a full squad this year, but three wrestlers - sophomore Chance Thackston (119), freshman Wes Appleget (125) and freshman Tyler Strouhal (275) - came up one match short.
The Lions will depart Thursday for Wichita and compete in the state tournament Friday and Saturday at the Kansas Coliseum. The Lions have been ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 5A since the start of the season, and now they will try to end the season there too.
"State championship. That's the goal," Sean Flynn said.
NOTES FROM REGIONALS
- LHS coach Ron Averill was named the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association regional Coach of the Year.
- Turner wrestler Paul Hansen was named the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association regional Wrestler of the Year.
- Of the 14 champions Saturday, nine were from Lansing and five were from Turner.
- Shawnee Heights, a traditional power in 5A wrestling, qualified 10 wrestlers for the state tournament.
- Wyandotte and Schlagle have been reviving their programs for the past few years. Both squads made strong showings at the regional. Wyandotte qualified 10 wrestlers for state and had four regional runners-up. Schlagle sent six wrestlers to state.