Trio of Bobcats to make the trek to state
This year’s event to take place in Salina
Three Bobcats earned trips to the state wrestling tournament last weekend, and one will go there as a regional champion. Basehor-Linwood High School senior Dustin Sullivan will go to state at Salina on a high after burning through his 140-pound weight class at Eudora's regional tournament.
Sullivan went 5-0 on the weekend, with three victories coming by pin. As one of the best-conditioned athletes in the area, he has seemed to only get better as the year has gone on. Sullivan was hardly challenged at regionals, beating Eudora's Miles Cleveland 10-1 in the semis and Spring Hill's Kyle Hudgins 9-2 in the championship.
Sullivan, who has a record of 26-7, will be making his second straight trip to state. He will be joined by Zach Davis, who's making his fourth trip, and Dustin Weimer, who qualified for the first time.
The trio of state qualifiers led BLHS to 77 points and a strong seventh-place finish in the 15-team field. Among Kaw Valley League teams, BLHS finished behind just Bishop Ward, which had 87.5 points. They beat out Bonner Springs, Tonganoxie and Piper fairly easily.
"I thought we wrestled better as a team this year than last year," BLHS coach Scott Neil said.
Davis, one of the area's most decorated wrestlers, met his goal of getting back to state, but made it a little hard on himself. Davis went 3-1 on the day and took third place, but had to stave off possible elimination after a disappointing loss.
Davis had a bye in the first round and then defeated Travis Clarke of Eudora easily in the second. But in the next round he faced off against Russ Naylor from Spring Hill, a sophomore who has given him trouble all year.
Naylor had gone 2-1 earlier in the season versus Davis, but it looked like the BLHS senior would even things up at regionals. Toward the end of a hard-fought match Davis led 3-1 and had Naylor secured in a hold. But, with just 10 seconds remaining, Davis made a crucial mistake. He let up for just a moment and Naylor took advantage, escaping and taking down Davis for a lightning-quick three points and the victory.
Davis was 24-8 going into the match with Naylor, who was 29-16. Although he's now 1-3 against the sophomore, Davis said he thinks he's the better wrestler.
"I just wrestled poorly against him," he said. "I took a break when I shouldn't have."
After the defeat, Davis had to go through the consolation bracket, where one wrong move could have ended his wrestling career in heartbreaking fashion. But he said he was still confident he would be wrestling in Salina. He backed up that confidence with a dominant 16-0 victory over Prairie View's Clint Holland that assured him at least fourth place and a trip to state.
For good measure Davis added another victory in his third-place bout. He defeated Baldwin senior Matthew James by a 12-2 major decision to help out his seeding for state. Naylor ended up taking second, raising the possibility that the two will meet for a fifth time this season at Salina. If they do, Davis said things will end differently.
"I'm not going to let up on him," he said.
Weimer, although much less experienced than Sullivan or Davis, looked every bit the state-caliber wrestler last weekend.
He breezed through his first three opponents by fall, tech fall and major decision to earn a spot in the championship bout. Weimer, 18-16, lost that bout 6-1 to Eudora's Michael Whitten, who entered the mat with a 30-14 record and the crowd on his side. Still, it was a huge weekend for the senior.
"He is wrestling fantastic," Neil said. "I thought his semifinals match was his worst match and he was never in any real trouble there."
Weimer will go to state in just his third season of competitive wrestling, but his good friend Will Peterson, who joined with him as a sophomore, came up a little short.
Peterson faced a very competitive field in the 171-pound bracket, but fought admirably. He earned a pin in his first match before losing in the second round to Fort Scott's Dakotah Gettler, who would finish second.
Peterson came back strong in his first consolation bout, pinning Osawatomie's Joe Hewer in the third period. But the consolation route proved too long, as Peterson was eliminated in the next round by Eudora's Loni Ogden.
The surprise of the tournament for BLHS might have been freshman Swede Johnson.
Johnson was just 7-7 on the season, but finished regionals 2-2 and narrowly missed going to state. He lost to Fort Scott senior Gary Wiggans (23-5) in a match that decided who would go to Salina.
"I did not think he would be this close at the end of the year," Neil said. "He's really come on here lately and he's done a great job. He got out-experienced today, that's all it came down to."
With Johnson narrowly missing out, Weimer, Davis and Sullivan were confirmed as the Bobcats' state representatives. Neil said he is tempering his expectations for Weimer, because of his inexperience, but said that Davis and Sullivan stood a good chance of getting top-six finishes and ending their high school careers on the medal stand.