National power Oak Park is next for LHS
How's this for a plot twist: Lansing High's wrestling team will be the underdog on Saturday at the Baldwin Invitational.
That's right. Lansing, the No. 1 ranked team in Kansas Class 5A and undefeated all season, is not the favorite to win this weekend. That honor goes to Oak Park (Mo.) High, which is ranked among the top 25 prep programs in the nation.
LHS coach Ron Averill said his squad relishes the opportunity to take on an opponent the caliber of Oak Park, and he said it would be good preparation with the state meet looming just one month away.
He said it's time to forget about rankings and just go wrestle.
"I told our guys, 'what we need to do is get excited about the opportunities that we have,'" Averill said. "We're at the point now where we have nothing to protect. The danger of these rankings is they can be such a distraction in that we think we already own something and then we start getting defensive because we have to protect it. We have nothing to protect. We have a goal set out there, and we have great opportunities for us, but nothing is given. We've got to get excited about pressing forward and really proving to somebody that that (No. 1 ranking) should be ours."
Besides, Averill said if there's a ranked team with a target on its back Saturday, it isn't Lansing.
"If anybody has anything to protect, it's Oak Park," Averill said. "I'd like nothing better than to see the Kansas schools come through and knock them all off. And hopefully we'll do our fair share along the way too. I'm excited about seeing what we can do down there."
Lansing will have its work cut out on Saturday. A number of Oak Park wrestlers are nationally ranked in their respective weight classes by Wrestling USA Magazine. Among them are freshman Mac Bailey (No. 27 at 103 pounds), junior Scott O'Donnell (No. 12 at 119), senior Zack Bailey (No. 1 at 135), junior Shane Nay (No. 14 at 140) and sophomore Brent Haynes (No. 21 at 145).
Oak Park isn't the only team that will prove challenging, though. Abilene, De Soto, Marysville, Mill Valley, Royal Valley, Tonganoxie, Wellington and powerhouse Santa Fe Trail also will be there.
Although the Lions have seen parts of the tournament field at various points this season, they haven't been at full strength at any point this year. A few competitors were ineligible during the fall semester. Then injuries and illness have kept others off the mat. In fact, junior Kyle Grape is recovering from the flu, sophomore Chance Thackston missed the last two weeks with a knee injury, sophomore Brad Terron is getting over a sinus infection and senior Lance Fink is recovering from an injured shoulder and a hyperextended elbow.
"That's the nature of the beast with wrestling," Averill said. "It's a competitive contact sport, and when you're going week after week, you're doing battles not only with others, but with your body. You're going to get all of those bumps and bruises."
WEEK IN REVIEW
The LHS wrestlers began a busy week with a Thursday double-dual at Silver Lake. First, Lansing thrashed Hiawatha, 57-18, and then took on Class 3A power Silver Lake. Thanks to a strong performance from their veterans, the Lions upended the Eagles, 48-29.
After that, LHS headed to the Holton Invitational on Saturday. The result was another victory. Strong programs such as Topeka Seaman, Labette County and Wichita Southeast were on hand, but Lansing was the cream of the crop. Six Lions - Dennis Wood (103), Kyle Buehler (135), Sean Flynn (140), Jeff Terrill (145), Dennis Kessler (171) and Logan Ryan (215) - won individual titles. Three others - Casey Caton (152), Lance Fink (160) and Jordan Pratt (171) - placed second.
With their wins Saturday, Buehler, Flynn and Kessler remained undefeated on the season. Buehler and Flynn both are 25-0. Kessler is 14-0. Senior Ryan Civils (15-1) and Ryan (23-2) also have been nearly flawless this season.