Wood, Buehler, Flynn punch ticket to the finals; Demarest, Hinckley still alive
Wichita The quest for a state championship continues for three Lansing High wrestlers.
Junior 103-pounder Dennis Wood, senior 140-pounder Kyle Buehler and junior 145-pounder Nick Flynn all will compete at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night in the championship finals at the Kansas Coliseum.
It's the second year in a row LHS has landed three wrestlers in the finals.
"I told the guys, 'that's exactly what we had to do if we expected to have three state champs," Lansing coach Ron Averill said. "You've got to have three guys in the finals, and all three of 'em have got to win. We did exactly what we needed to do to fulfill that part of our prophecy."
Led by the three state finalists, Lansing is in fifth place in the team standings after day one. Wichita Bishop Carroll is in first place with 108 points, St. Thomas Aquinas slipped to second with 99, Hutchinson is third with 98.5, Arkansas City is fourth with 78 and Lansing has 67.
Wood was as dominant as any wrestler in the tournament during the first two rounds. He recorded the tournament's first pin of the day in the first round when he stuck Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carmel's Mark Burrus in 46 seconds. Wood also earned a 46-second pin in the quarterfinals against Blaine Smith of Salina South.
Wood's finest performance came in the semifinals, however. That's when Wood, ranked No. 2 in the state, squared off with No. 1-ranked and previously unbeaten John Keller of Wichita Bishop Carroll.
Wood scored an early takedown for a 2-0 lead, but Keller scored on an escape and takedown late in the first period. Keller rode Wood throughout the second period, but Wood earned an escape point with four seconds left in the period and tied the match at 3-all.
Keller went up 4-3 at the start of the third period when Wood cut Keller loose at the start. Wood then spent the rest of the match working for a takedown. He finally earned one with 14 seconds left in the match. Then he hung on until the clock ran out.
"I expected it to be tough," Wood said. "I'm just glad I came out on top. He's a really good wrestler."
Keller dropped to 32-1 with the loss. Wood improved to 40-1.
Any concerns that Wood might lack focus in the finals after knocking off Keller are unfounded, Wood said. After all, his finals opponent is Tyler Stokes (35-3) of Gardner-Edgerton. Wood defeated Stokes earlier this season when Stokes was disqualified for punching Wood during the match.
"I was hitting a stand-up, and he didn't like it, so he made a fist and he hit me," Wood said. "I've been wanting a rematch with him since he hit me. That made me real mad, so I'm going to go out there twice as hard."
Buehler had no trouble reaching the state finals for the second straight year. The defending state champ and No. 2-ranked wrestler in the state, Buehler pinned Sammy Sanders of Hutchinson in the first round in 2:31. Then Buehler pinned Erick Cordero of Turner in 56 seconds in the quarterfinals. His toughest match of the day came in the semifinals against Jeremy Plott of Salina South, but Buehler was in control of that one from start to finish. He scored an early takedown and three-point near fall for a 5-0 lead in the first period. He added another takedown early in the second period to extend his lead to 7-0 before ultimately cruising to an 8-2 victory.
For Buehler, it was a good thing he made quick work of his opponents. After battling mononucleosis three weeks ago, his strength still isn't all back.
"(My strength) is about the same as it was at regionals," he said. "We've got that air mattress downstairs (in the arena), and I've pretty much been on that all day long. I'm doing everything I can to not exert any excess energy."
By advancing to the 6:30 p.m. championship finals on Saturday against Mitch Arnold (37-2) of Bishop Carroll, Buehler will have plenty of time to sleep in and rest during the day. He'll also have company on the late van to the arena. In addition to he and Wood, Flynn also will get to sleep in and rest up for a finals match.
Flynn earned a 9-2 decision over Kyle McGoldrick of Valley Center in the first round and then rolled to a 7-0 decision against Greg Curtis of Gardner-Edgerton in the quarterfinals. Flynn's semifinal match against M.J. Bland of Turner was much tougher. In fact, the match was notched at 1-all after three periods, so it went to a one-minute overtime period. Flynn patiently waited for an opportunity to strike. That opportunity arose with three seconds left, but that was just enough time for him to score the winning takedown and advance to the finals.
"(Bland) wrestled a completely different match than I've ever seen him wrestle," Flynn said. "He really stepped it up. It was the most important match of my life at the time, and I just knew that I'd rather be safe and hit my shot when it's there rather than make a mistake forcing things and give up points."
Flynn will face Kyle Detmer (35-1) of Bishop Carroll in the finals. Flynn said he's excited about the opportunity to compete for a state title, and he said he's happy he's not the only Lion who has that chance.
"I'm feeling great, and especially with Woody and Buehler behind me, all three of us, I think we help each other out and we can all go to the finals feeling good," he said.
Two other Lions still have a shot at medaling. Freshman Cullen Demarest lost his first-round match but then won his first match on the consolation bracket at 125 pounds. Sophomore 160-pounder Grant Hinckley won his first match before losing in the quarterfinals to Paul Markey of Aquinas. Both Demarest and Hinckley will need to win two matches Saturday to qualify for the medal rounds.
The important thing for everybody, Averill said, is that they realize they have an opportunity to win and they capitalize on it.
"The state's always the craziest tournament of the year," he said. "Anything can happen, so we want them coming in with the mindset that if anything can happen, I'm going to make it happen."
Buehler said he and his teammates understand the opportunity in front of them, and he said they're having fun in the process.
"This is the payoff," he said. "All year long we've been working and busting our butts in the practice room. I know it's going to be tough, but this is what it's all about. We're having fun, and we should be."
Three other Lions' season ended at state. Senior 119-pounder Scott Keller, sophomore 130-pounder Wes Appleget and junior 215-pounder Brad Terron all went 0-2 on Friday and were eliminated from the tournament. In addition, senior 152-pounder Kyle Grape qualified for state but took an injury default after having complications with his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.