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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Emotional ride: Nine Leavenworth wrestlers earn state spots in tough match-ups

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  • The Leavenworth High School wrestling team may be young, but it qualified nine of its 12 wrestlers for Friday and Saturday's 5A state tournament in Park City.
    Two freshmen, three sophomores, two juniors and two seniors placed in the top four at the regional tournament to earn spots at state.
    As a team, the Pioneers placed fourth.
    Head coach Jay Johnston said the home crowd helped the team.
    "I think it gave them a little bit of spark and a little bit of pep in their step," he said.
    Senior Mikey Harrington beat Lansing wrestler Juston Smith in overtime to make it to the third-place match.
    "It was crazy," Johnston said. "The crowd was into it and it was probably the most exciting match I've been around in a long time."
    Harrington lost in the third-place match, but the fourth-place finish earns him a trip to state.
    His younger brother, Jake, took fourth to earn a state qualification.
    Senior Danny Wilson and sophomore Elijah Hill each won regional titles.
    It will be Wilson's fourth trip to the state tournament.
    "It was a little nerve-racking the first couple of years, but last year and this year is just like any other tournament," Wilson said.
    Hill qualified last season when he was at Lansing High School, but went 0-2.
    "Last year, I felt sluggish and didn't really want to work as hard," Hill said. "But, now that I transferred over here, they strive for you to work harder and get better. It feels like I'm doing that and actually getting to the point where I'm getting better and bringing out all my skills."
    Hill beat former Lansing teammate Jordan Girard to win the title. He said it was emotional after the win and it was tough wrestling against a friend.
    "It was just emotional just because I got it and did it for myself, my coaches, and for my mom and my dad and my family," he said. "But, having to beat a teammate from last year, it was kind of emotional because when you go against a teammate, you just don't feel like beating them. I went out there acting like he wasn't a teammate, but at the end of the match, I helped him up, shook his hand, hugged him and said, 'Good job.'"
    The same matchup could happen at state.
    "I think he would try to come back and get revenge," Hill said. "But if I have to, I'll just take it like another match."
    Other state qualifiers for the Pioneers were freshmen Malieke Wright and Daniel Butler, sophomore Brad Young, and juniors Steven Martinez and Austin Tresner.
    "About halfway through January, after a few butt kickings, they finally started wrestling aggressive," Johnston said. "They started actually putting moves together and I think a lot of it, we can do it with technique and stuff, but unless you believe in it and believe in yourself, then nothing will work."
    Page 2 of 2 - The tournament gets started at 9 a.m. Friday and lasts through Saturday.
    Wilson said he won't just practice to get ready, but also watch "The Phantom of the Opera."
    "It's kind of a little tradition I have," Wilson said. "My freshman year, I watched it and won my first tournament after watching it, so I just started watching it before every tournament."

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