Despite last-place finish, Bobcats take pride in tourney showing
Last weekend, Basehor-Linwood High School hosted one of the most anticipated wrestling tournaments every year in the state of Kansas.
On the surface, The Bobcat Wrestling Classic was not kind to the entertainers.
The Bobcats finished 27th out of 27 teams, posting an aggregate score of 10 points (the winning team, St. Thomas Aquinas, scored 234) and failed to put a wrestler in the top six of any bracket.
BLHS coach Scott Neil was encouraged, however. He saw a young team making strides against top-flight competition.
"I was actually pretty happy with them," Neil said. "This is the toughest tournament we have been to this year.
"I saw a lot of things that I liked. We are so young it is hard for us to compete with kids at this level. We went out there and we wrestled pretty well."
The Bobcats were forced to compete shorthanded. They were devoid of wrestlers in three weight classes -- 103, 140 and 152.
Martin Buck posted the best weekend amongst Bobcat wrestlers, going 2-2 in the 125-pound weight class. Joe Johnson (119), Austin Call (145) and Josh Bowen (215) each finished 1-2.
"We didn't place any kids, but all of our kids made improvement and did a good job at the tournament," Neil said.
Buck knew the challenge would be formidable. He began Friday by losing to Alex Hardman of Lawrence Free State. Because of the double-elimination format of the tournament, he was moved to the lower portion of the bracket.
Buck then defeated Mitch Mosley of Paola and Chase Wells of Santa Fe Trail. His run ended with a loss to Joey Lutz of Shawnee Mission East. Lutz won out and was awarded third place in the 125-pound weight class.
"It was a big tournament," Buck said. "Everyone knew it was going to be hard."
Buck was quick to credit his success and wrestling style to others.
"My technique comes down from my brother and my family," Buck said. "What Coach Neil teaches really helps us, too."
Buck's coach believed his wrestler was not competing in ideal circumstances.
"I think that Martin would have done better, but he had to cut his weight at the last minute," Neil said. "He went to a lower weight class. That played on him physically. He was a little drained. So I don't think that we saw his best performance, by far."
Neil was pleased with other individual performances.
"I was very happy with the improvement that Matt Prgomet made in this tournament," Neil said. "He wrestled well. I was also very pleased with the improvement that Joe Johnson has made."
Prgomet wrestled in the 171-pound weight class.
Johnson recognized the valuable undertaking of wrestling against the top competition in the state.
"It doesn't really matter if I win or lose," Johnson said. "It is a good experience for me. It helps me in the future when I compete in big tournaments like this."
The young Bobcats realized their situation as a heavy underdog heading into the competition. Six of the 11 BLHS wrestlers were freshman. They had no seniors. The Bobcats understand the future will be brighter.
"We're a real young team, and we don't have the experience that most of the older teams have," Johnson said. "We lack the numbers. Next year I think we are going to be a better team."
Neil was realistic about his team's biggest weakness.
"Inexperience is huge at a tournament like this," Neil said. "All of these kids are pretty seasoned that were here."
The Bobcats are ready to learn from this experience.
"We will watch the film of our matches," Neil said. "We will look and see where they are making their mistakes. After you watch the film, you start to see those mistakes that you make against those good wrestlers, and the mistakes that they don't make against you, and you learn off of that."
Neil is looking forward to putting this learning tool into action.
"I think next week we will probably have a better weekend," Neil said.
Next up the Bobcats will take part in the Paola Tournament, which begins on at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20.
"It isn't quite as big a tournament as this," Neil said. "I fully expect to bring back some medals from that tournament. We should, or I will be very displeased. I think we are ready to start bringing home some medals."