Grape great in return
Senior returns from knee injury, collects two pins in first outing
Tonganoxie The outcome of Lansing High's wrestling duals Thursday night at Tonganoxie were the cause of little concern.
LHS dominated Tonganoxie, 56-24, and then blazed through Bonner Springs, 66-10, as was to be expected.
Instead, the evening's spotlight was focused on LHS senior Kyle Grape. The three-time state medalist and former state champion had missed the entire season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Thursday night marked his return to the mat.
He didn't disappoint.
Wrestling at 160 pounds, Grape needed just 1:33 to pin Tongie's Jeremie Maus. He then built a 12-2 lead on Bonner's Anthony Ward before recording a pin just 70 seconds into the match.
"That first match I was a little nervous going out there," Grape admitted. "After getting that first takedown I finally got into it and started working my shot like I used to do."
Although he sported a bulky brace on his right knee, Grape said he hardly noticed it while competing and he didn't hesitate on his knee.
"I didn't even think about it while I was out there," he said. "Afterwards it was sore like usual, but nothing unlike usual practice and stuff."
Grape's return was a big deal for the Lions, and their excitement was evident during warm-ups. The adrenaline carried over into a dominant performance all the way through.
"They were excited to get out here, and I think everybody was excited to see Grape back on the mat," LHS coach Ron Averill said.
Junior Dennis Wood opened the dual against Tonganoxie with a first-period pin. LHS forfeited the 112 weight class, but began asserting control of the dual when 119-pound senior Scott Keller won his match with a first-period pin. Freshman Cullen Demarest followed with a 17-0 tech fall. Freshman Jacob Hansen was pinned in the first period of his match at 130 pounds, but sophomore Wes Appleget helped Lansing regroup by earning a 13-2 major decision at 135 pounds.
The meat of Lansing's lineup turned the lead into a landslide. Senior Kyle Buehler needed less than two full periods to earn a 17-0 tech fall against Jonathan Farris at 140 pounds. Junior Nick Flynn followed with a second-period pin at 145 and senior Brad Zink earned a third-period pin against Jeff Price at 152. Grape kept the hot streak rolling with his pin against Maus. Sophomore Grant Hinckley then pinned Wyatt Coffin in the third period to cap a string of six straight LHS victories.
Tonganoxie's Steve Davis pinned Sean Gowdy during the second period after three minutes of a back-and-forth battle.
Just like Grape, junior Brad Terron returned to the lineup Thursday after an injury. The 215-pounder showed signs of rust at times, and Derek Parrett nearly had Terron on his back and nearly pinned when Terron turned the tables. He tossed Parrett to his back, rolled on top and hung on for the pin. That was Lansing's final victory of the dual because sophomore Tyler Strouhal was pinned at 285.
LHS accepted four forfeit victories against Bonner, but the Lions earned plenty more wins on their own. Wood, Buehler, Flynn, Zink, Grape, Hinckley and Strouhal all won their matches by pin.
Thursday's duals brought to a close what was arguably the toughest regular-season schedule the Lions have ever faced. They are off this weekend and then head to the Kaw Valley League Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 10 at Mill Valley.
Lansing has been the league runner-up for the past two years and last won a KVL title in 1996. Buehler said he's ready for that to change.
"I don't think I've ever lost a league match, but every year we've come about as close as possible to winning," he said. "It just gets real old. Our team's not quite as strong as it was last year, but I don't think Santa Fe is or anybody else is either. We've got a legitimate shot at it."
Flynn said he believes the Lions will win the title this year, and he said he knows the reason why.
"Over the years people have just peaked at the wrong time, and this year we're all peaking at the right time," he said.
For a preview of the Kaw Valley League Tournament, pick up the Feb. 8 edition of The Current or log on to lansingcurrent.com.
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