Wristen: Freshmen are good, but Flynn still rules
It seems a bit silly to even consider this, but it's quite possible that senior Nick Flynn has been the most overlooked Lansing High wrestler this season.
Yes, that's correct: most overlooked.
Not by his competition; it'd be foolish to think that. I'm talking about the fans and, in particular, the media.
That's right. Call me guilty as charged.
Let me be absolutely clear about this: Flynn never has uttered a word about feeling overshadowed, undercovered or anything of the sort. I'm willing to bet he doesn't care if his name makes the headlines or not. His heart is on the mat, not in the papers. This column was spawned solely by my realizing how little attention this dominant wrestler has received this year.
It has been hard not to buy into the rampant - and much deserved - hype surrounding Lansing's freshman class of wrestlers. The anticipated impact they'd have on the program has been a major topic of discussion in the LHS wrestling room since the first week of practice last year.
They've largely backed up the hype week in and week out. Eight of those freshmen have been varsity regulars all season. Five of them medaled at the Kaw Valley League Tournament on Saturday, and three of them - 125-pounder Spencer Blew, 145-pounder Tyler Baughman and 171-pounder Nathan Wessel - were individual league champions.
The freshmen have been a treat to watch compete, and they have no bigger fan and cheerleader than Flynn. The senior captain can almost always be found mat-side during their matches cheering them on and barking out instructions. In interviews, he routinely raves about how talented the freshmen are, how hard they work and how much he enjoys watching them wrestle.
There is no question the Lansing freshmen have deserved every bit of the attention they've received this year.
But Flynn deserves more, and folks like me are as guilty as anybody in overlooking what he has accomplished at times this year.
The guy is a three-time state qualifier, a two-time state medalist, two-time Kaw Valley League champion and returning state finalist.
His 140-25 career record is among the best in program history, and his 35-3 mark this season has him ranked third in the state at 152 pounds.
By the end of the season he likely will secure a spot among the state's 20 winningest wrestlers all-time.
Simply put, there's no reason he should be the sideshow. He is the big show for Lansing wrestling, and during the last two years of his career he has been the real deal.
After making a surprising run to the state finals as a junior, he is now poised to do it again.
The past month has been rough on Flynn. He suffered his only losses of the season during tournaments at Basehor-Linwood, Holton and Baldwin, but those losses came to wrestlers with No. 1 and No. 2 rankings.
Rather than doubting himself after those defeats, Flynn said those matches prepared him to finish the season strong.
"The way I see it is in the middle of the season you need to be hitting those matches where you're losing, where you're getting beat, and then you get cushioned again right before state," he said. "I think that's how you peak. Without those losses, I don't think I'd be as prepared as I would if I just had puds all the time and pinned everyone."
Flynn won his second straight league championship on Saturday with a pin of Bishop Ward's Aaron Quisenberry in the finals. Quisenberry's no pushover, either. He took a 26-3 record into his match with Flynn.
Flynn's postseason push should continue with little trouble at Saturday's Class 5A regional tournament at Seaman High School in Topeka. Flynn has gone unblemished on his way to three regional championships so far in his career. A strong showing there would secure him a top seed at state and put him in good position to make another run at the state finals.
Lansing likely will qualify anywhere between eight and 10 wrestlers for state. Of those that go, Flynn stands the best chance of winning a championship. That should make him awfully difficult to overlook.