Weekend regionals to determine who books state passage

The penultimate weekend of the 2017-18 wrestling season is upon fans and spectators alike, but most importantly, it represents the one and only chance for prep grapplers to make a move toward a hoped for state finals berth.

All four area teams should have plenty of representation that gets through to their respective state tournaments next weekend at various sites, but how well they will do is still up in the air.

Lansing and Leavenworth, at Turner Regional, Friday at 1 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m.

The Lions had an incredibly potent finish to the campaign, including an impressive 42-33 win at Leavenworth to capture their first win in the rivalry since 2015.

They parlayed a strong freshmen class combining with some solid junior leadership into a team that could make some serious noise this weekend.

“This has been a great season for us,” Lansing High head coach Nick Flynn said. “I absolutely love this team and what they are about.  We have a pretty simple recipe for success: Hard work, believe in continuous growth and in matches focus on effort, performance over result, and trusting in yourself.  These guys have really bought into that and are getting better every single day.  We are definitely competing well across the board and I very happy with what my team has done up to this point.”

Flynn’s goals remain the same as it did four months ago – get all 14 wrestlers to the Class 5A finals and Park City and he believes it can happen despite a tough road ahead of them.

Juniors Joseph Irwin, Claye Howard and Braiden McKee, sophomore Tyler Green and freshman Camden Maestas is where the Lansing engine is centered around.

“These guys have really stepped up this year and have really dominated,” Flynn said. “I can't wait to watch Claye at regionals.  He has a very competitive bracket that runs deep.  The thing about Claye is that he dreams of opportunities like this.  He is an absolute warrior that will never take the slow lane or the easy way out.  He wants the best, and the best only.  Simply giving him the opportunity to compete with the best is all he needs to find motivation to get the job done.”

The Leavenworth Pioneers had plenty of highlights, but the struggles existed after losing so much heavy artillery from the previous edition of the boys in blue and white. 

“Our season has been up and down like they normally are,” LVHS head coach Jacob Beck said. “We have been steadily improving and look forward to showing that off this weekend. Our younger athletes are maturing and getting better by the day.

“I really love this group. They have come together as a family and feed off each other. This group walks up the stairs to the room every day in a positive mood ready to battle, that´s the recipe for improvement and success.” 

Beck still has high expectations regardless of who wrestles no matter the year.

“I expect our athletes to go lay it all on the line and compete hard,” Beck said. “They all love to wrestle so it’s another day for them to show off the work that they put in to something that they are passionate about.

“We have focused on letting it fly and doing what we have worked on all year. If the effort, attitude, and mental toughness that they display in the room every day is there, we will end the weekend with a lot of smiling faces and trips to Wichita.”

The team’s captains have come up big including senior Etena Tuivaiti (22-13) and juniors Joey Hancock (27-2) and Dylan McLain (21-12) while sophomore Hartwell Taylor (32-11) continues to make strides.

“They all have set goals that they are focused and working non-stop to attain,” Beck said. “I look forward to them setting the tone for the rest of our team, and powering the Pioneers to a successful weekend.”

Basehor-Linwood, at Holton High School, Friday at 2 p.m., Saturday at 9 a.m.

The Bobcats of Basehor-Linwood continue to battle low numbers, but that doesn’t mean that high expectations don’t abound.

Just ask Jason Puderbaugh, the first-year coach of this impressive outfit.

“We have improved along the way,” Puderbaugh said. “We have less overall numbers of kids on the team then expected before the season started.  As far as the success that we have had, I would say we are right about where I expected.  The unexpected would be dealing with the number of kids absent from competitions/practices because of being sick.”

The Bobcats realistically expect four wrestlers to advance to state with others also possible as that number is low-balling the anticipation of what could come out of the weekend.

“However, we don't enter into a tournament with the mindset that certain guys are guaranteed and certain guys don't have a chance,” Puderbaugh said. “I'll leave that thinking for the outsiders looking in.  Our team goal, our belief, our mindset is that we will qualify all 10 to state.”

The top wrestlers this season has been senior Jonny Trowbridge (170) and classmate TJ Williams (182), sophomore Kaden Jacobson (145) and freshman Dawson Lamberd (106).

“Jonny is team focused, the hardest worker in the room, a team captain and currently ranked No. 1 at 170 pounds,” Puderbaugh said. “He has only one loss…and he knows it takes one match at a time and also has the expectation of himself  to bring home his second state title. TJ has his eyes on winning state… while others don't see him as a contender, our team knows what his capabilities are and he set the goal at the start of the season to end up standing on top of the podium at 182 pounds.

“Dawson’s goal at the start of the season was to be the 4A champ and himself and our team believes he as the ability to do that and has proven himself this season to be a contender. Kaden is another team member with his eyes set on the state title (currently ranked second in his weight class).  He has proven throughout the season he can compete and dominate anybody that steps into the circle with him.”

 Pleasant Ridge at Silver Lake High School, Friday at 2 p.m., Saturday at 9 a.m.

The Rams will be one of 22 teams at Silver Lake and the small Pleasant Ridge contingent will once again hold big hopes.

“I believe that each week we have improved throughout the entire season beating opponents that had beaten us earlier in the year,” Pleasant Ridge head coach Darren Weber said. “Our expectations for regionals are simple: Get wrestlers into the state tournament.”

The team’s low numbers makes the overall unit’s finish moot, but they will have plenty of talent on hand to well represent Easton, including Luke Oatney who recently recorded his 100th career win.

“He has a strong chance to return to the state tournament,” Weber said. “Trevor Ragland has been solid all year is currently ranked fourth in the state.”

Weber also noted potential top performances by Seth Beying, Nate Wilburn and Robert Gwartney.