Three of a kind
Wood, Buehler, Flynn nab 2nd-place finishes at state tournament
Wichita It wasn't the three-for-three that the Lansing High wrestling team hoped for.
Three second-place finishes wasn't what the Lions had in mind after landing three in the finals, but that's what happened Saturday night at the Class 5A State Tournament at the Kansas Coliseum.
Junior Dennis Wood placed second at 103 pounds, as did senior Kyle Buehler at 140 pounds and junior Nick Flynn at 145 pounds.
"If you're going to come to the state tournament and get disappointed, I hope it's in the state finals that you're disappointed," LHS coach Ron Averill said, pointing out the quality of wrestling one must do in order to reach the finals.
The three runners-up highlighted a strong all-around tournament for Lansing. In addition to their medals, sophomore 160-pounder Grant Hinckley earned a spot on the awards stand with a fourth-place finish. As a team, LHS placed eighth with 80 points. St. Thomas Aquinas ran away with the team title with 168 points, Wichita Bishop Carroll was second with 134 and Hutchinson was third with 130.5.
"I just couldn't be more proud of all of our guys," Averill said. "I could be a little happier, but I couldn't be more proud."
LHS entered the tournament with the expectation of landing three wrestlers in the finals. Wood, Buehler and Flynn made that happen by storming through their early opponents and then earning close victories in intense semifinal matches.
Wood pinned his first two opponents in 46 seconds each. Then, in arguably the biggest upset in the state Friday night, he knocked off the undefeated defending state champion, John Keller of Wichita Bishop Carroll, 5-4, in the semifinals.
Wood's final match against Tyler Stokes of Gardner-Edgerton didn't go as well. He went for an early strike, but he was unable to complete his shot. Stokes took advantage of it and earned credit for a takedown and an early 2-0 lead. Wood spent the rest of the match playing catch-up and ultimately lost, 13-8.
"I couldn't move. I couldn't finish my shots," Wood said. "I didn't wrestle the way I wanted to."
Still, Wood ended his season with a 40-2 record, and the second-place performance earned him his first career state medal.
"He's just had an awesome season," Averill said of Wood. "It should be pretty easy to stay motivated now for next year, and I think I know him well enough to know he's already making plans."
Another wrestler making plans for another run at a state title is Flynn. He easily won his first two matches by decision. Then he sweated out a 1-all draw through three periods before scoring the winning takedown in overtime and advancing to the finals.
Strength was a big factor in Flynn's title match against Kyle Detmer of Bishop Carroll. Flynn wrestled aggressively and smart, but he was unable to earn a takedown and ultimately lost, 8-3.
"One key I need to work on this summer is strength," said Flynn, who ended his season with a 39-5 record. "This is just going to push me not only to be in the practice room (in the summer), not only in the weight room, but also to be pounding the pavement and just go out there and don't leave anything behind."
For Buehler, the loss in the finals marked the final match of his prep career. He was unable to defend his state title, falling 3-1 in the finals to Mitch Arnold of Bishop Carroll, but it was clear that the biggest culprit in his loss was fatigue.
Mononucleosis kept Buehler from competing at the league tournament, and it slowed him down during the regional tournament. Buehler's strength never fully returned for state, either, and he spent the entire tournament under the weather.
"It's been bothering me all week," he said. "Just to get to the finals with mono, I guess that's something to be happy about, but nobody likes to lose."
For Buehler, the second-place medal was the third top-four performance of his career. He ended the season with a 38-3 record.
"We love having him in the meets, we love having him in the practice room," Averill said of Buehler. "I just love having him around. He's going to be missed regardless of his wrestling."
In addition to the three finalists, Hinckley also climbed the medal stand. He went 1-1 on the first day of competition, but then won three straight matches on Saturday to advance to the consolation finals before ultimately placing fourth at 160 pounds.
Freshman Cullen Demarest also advanced to Saturday's competition after going 1-1 on Friday. Demarest went 1-1 again Saturday and came within one victory of advancing to the medal rounds.
"That's following in the footsteps of Dennis Wood," Averill said, pointing out Wood's 2-2 performance at state last year that inspired this season's march to the finals. "That's what Dennis did last year, so that's a pretty big thing for Cullen."
Three Lions' seasons ended on the first day of state. Senior 119-pounder Scott Keller, sophomore 130-pounder Wes Appleget and junior 215-pounder Brad Terron all went 0-2 at state. Another state qualifier, 152-pound senior Kyle Grape, took an injury default before the tournament. A former state champion and three-time state medalist, Grape tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during football season. He returned from the injury to compete in three tournaments, but elected to skip state and avoid causing further damage to the ailing knee.