Bobcats too kind at Bonner tourney
Being nice is considered a virtue most of the time. But, in high school wrestling, all nice usually gets you is a face full of mat.
According to Basehor-Linwood coach Scott Neil, that's a bit of what happened to his wrestlers last Saturday, when the team finished near the bottom of the 12-team field of the Dick Burns Mat Classic at Bonner Springs.
"What I think is that we were just too nice," Neil said. "We didn't really get after it."
If it had been the Bobcats' first action since winter break, one might just attribute the performance to rust after the long lay-off. But the team made a strong showing at a dual meet last Thursday. In that competition the Bobcats won five of seven head-to-head matches against Tonganoxie and six of seven against De Soto. Still, most of that momentum didn't carry over into the tournament two days later.
"We just wrestled lazy today, I don't know what it is," Neil said. "Sometimes you just have a tournament like this."
But Neil knew he would be missing some sure points going into the tournament because he was holding out two of his best wrestlers, seniors Dustin Sullivan and Trevor Pipkin. The two likely would have been good for at least 15 points each, putting BLHS much closer to the middle of the tournament pack. Still, Neil stuck to his principles and held them out for missing practice during winter break.
With those two out, Zach Davis was the only state tournament wrestler competing for BLHS. With an 8-0 record Davis was the top seed in his division and got a first-round bye. But his second-round performance was a disappointing 3-5 loss to Spring Hill's Russ Naylor, a 10-7 wrestler who Davis didn't expect to deal him his first defeat.
Relegated to the consolation bracket, Davis cruised through matches against Samuel Mace of Bonner Springs, Travis Clarke of Eudora and Buzz Hermreck of Paola to secure a spot in the third-place bout. When he found out that his opponent in that bout would be Naylor, that was all he needed to hear.
"I was very excited," Davis said. "I was ready to go out there and take it to him."
From the opening whistle Davis dominated the rematch. In the second period he really took control, going up 10-1 with a series of near-pins. Naylor got a few points on escapes in the third period , but the final result was a 15-5 victory for Davis that left his Spring Hill opponent in tears.
"The last match I was a lot smarter," Davis said. "I just didn't chance anything."
Davis snagged a third-place medal for his 4-1 record on the day, but the awards ceremony was a little bittersweet. He had to watch first place go to Olathe South's Seth Sweet, an unheralded 12-6 wrestler who barely defeated Naylor in the semifinals.
Davis predictably finished the day with the best record of all the Bobcats. Stephen Millison, Dustin Weimer, Will Peterson, and Todd Bell all finished 1-2. Ethan Douglas continued a recent string of strong wrestling by going 2-2 and narrowly missing out on a medal. The BLHS heavyweight beat Spring Hill's Justin Allen easily in the first round before falling to Fort Scott's Gary Wiggans, who entered the tourney 5-1. He followed that up, though, with a consolation bracket victory against Highland Park's Endra Ducksworth. Another victory would have put him in the third-place bout, but he couldn't get past Tom McCoy of Nebraska's Bellevue East.
Overall it was a bit of a frustrating day for Neil, but he was encouraged by the wrestling of Bell, who is 3-2 since joining the team after winter break. The junior posted a victory over Spring Hill's Austin Hamm before losing to Joe Payne of Paola, whose brother is heavyweight state champion Caleb Payne.
"I thought he was one guy who really wrestled well," Neil said of Bell. "He's still shaking off a little rust, but he took on a tough opponent in Payne from Paola. That's a big name in wrestling and Todd stuck right with him."