When Greg Buckbee came to Arkansas City from Emporia, the Bulldogs knew exactly what they were getting. Buckbee had won a state title with Arkansas City in 2003 before winning a title with the Spartans in 2009. For Emporia, Buckbee’s last year was the first of back-to-back titles. But what were the chances the coach would be able to start another dynasty just three years later with the Bulldogs?
Well after the dust, blood, and marathons run in sweat suits of the 2013 had all settled, Ark City’s 177.5 points were more than enough to give the Bulldogs their second-straight state title. Ark City outscored second-place St. James Academy by 36.5 points, making the Bulldogs the run-away champion.
“We got out there and focused on what we've been doing all year long,” said Buckbee. “We didn't want to make anything special. Don't do anything different, and you're going to come out just fine.”
Last season’s state championship was an unusual one, with the Bulldogs making the trip back home with a team title, but no individual champions. This season that was not a problem. Ark City placed three wrestlers in the finals, and all three went home with state titles, stuffing the bus with enlarged brackets.
Click to see complete results from 6A & 5A.
Logan Terrill ended any suspense about an Ark City individual champion early. The top-ranked 106-pounder kicked off the finals with a bang, pinning Andover Central’s Dakota Rodd a minute and 14 seconds into the match.
“I just slipped up and escaped,” said Terrill. “I remember last year, losing it, and that wasn't happening again.”
Click here to view photos from the 5A state tournament
Cody Eastman had a steep challenge for the Bulldogs at 145 pounds, facing Reis Humphrey from Shawnee Mission South. Humphrey struck first in a big way with a reversal in the second period. Eastman got a reversal of his own. The two were tied at 3-3 in the third period.
Eastman had been determined all year to avenge his loss in the finals last season, and late in the match, he showed the state how serious he was. In the final 10 seconds, Eastman took a shot and took Humphrey down on his back, holding him there for 3 back points for good measure in an 8-3 win.
“Last match of wrestling for the Bulldogs, and I got a first,” said Eastman. “I love it.”
With the show his teammates had put on, Wyatt Villers almost had no choice but to hold up his end of the bargan for the Bulldogs. Right after Eastman’s win, Villers took the mat to face Josh Ortiz from Valley Center at 152 pounds. In the second period, Villers stuffed an Ortiz shot, and then grabbed the right leg of Ortiz for a takedown to take a 2-1 lead. Villers never looked back, completing a perfect record in the finals after being blanked a year ago.
“It's the Bulldog Magic,” said Villers. “Toward the end of the year, it's the Bulldog Magic.”
“Three champs. Ten placers,” said Buckbee. “All seven of the seniors that have been on the team this year placed at state. That was awesome.”
The Best of the Best Welcome a New Member
In the world of high school wrestling, joining the four-time state champion’s club is as good as it gets. And when it happens, you know you have seen something special. For Andover Central’s Zac Gentzler, four titles has been the goal all along.
“It's awesome,” said Gentzler. “Everything I've worked for my whole life. I've been dreaming of this as a kid. It's become reality now. I couldn't be more proud.”
After his 120-pound match with Dakota Leach from Goddard, his high school resume will include four titles. Through four championship finals, Leach is only the second wrestler Gentzler has faced. His previous three championships came at the expense of Javier Vieyra from Salina South.
But while Leach provided a new finals opponent, the results remained the same. Leach held Gentzler off for a time in the first period, but once the Andover Central grappler got one of Leach’s legs, the bout was over.
“Me and (Dakota) have been growing up since we were four, and we started wrestling together,” said Gentzler. “We've always been best friends. It sucks that we met up in the finals.”
Gentzler got a takedown and 3 back points in the first to go up 5-0. In the second, he quickly escaped and got another takedown to go up 8-0, putting the match well out of reach on the way to a 10-2 win to become one of the greatest Kansas wrestlers of all time.
“It's awesome,” said Gentzler. “I could've be more blessed … It feels great to be in that company.”
There Can Be Only One
While winning four state titles is extremely rare, it is not at all uncommon for a defending champion to return to the finals to take on a challenger. But when you get two defending champions on the same mat in a bout where one of them isn’t going to get another, buckle up.
At 195 pounds, defending champion Dillon Archer from Newton took on defending 170-pound champion Preston Weigel from Hays.
“It feels great,” said Weigel. “A lot of hard work and dedication put into this to get to where I'm at.”
While Weigel moved up in weight and Archer stayed put, it was Weigel that took control of the match. The Hays wrestler didn’t lose his speed with the extra weight, and shot quickly to go up 2-0 early in the match with a takedown. Weigel escaped in the third to take a 3-0 lead, leaving Archer little time to make up the gap.
With about 30 seconds, Archer took a shot and got a leg, but Weigel fought him off. Archer made one last attempt at a takedown, and got one at the end of the match, but the Weigel escape was the difference. Weigel picked up another state title while Archer came up a point short.
Gentzler and Weigel weren’t the only ones to string together multiple state championships in a row.
After 2013, Great Bend’s Chris Burley, Topeka Seaman’s Bryant Guillen, Shawnee Heights’ Nick Meck, and Leavenworth’s Nathan Butler are now all multiple state champions.
For Butler, his mantle is going to be full. The senior completed an undefeated season with a 285-pound heavyweight championship. Butler smoked Dylan Hall from Topeka Seaman to end the season with a 9-2 win. The win is Butler’s third state championship, with 6A titles at 220 pounds in 2012, and 215 pounds in 2011.
Burley skipped a year to get his second title. In 2011, the Great Bend wrestler took home a 112-pound title, but lost to Isaac Dulgarian in the 120-pound final last year. This year, Burley had a battle on his hands with Quinton Harrison from Newton, a state placer a year ago.
Burley nearly rode Harrison for the entire second period in a scoreless tie, but Harrison escaped at the very end for a 1-0 lead. Burley escaped in the third to force overtime in a 1-1 tie.
Harrison nearly got an escape in overtime that would have won the match, but Burley just caught his foot at the buzzer to prevent the score.
Burley escaped in his sudden-death period to pick up a dramatic second state title with a 2-1 win.
After winning a 182-pound title last year, Nick Meck from Shawnee Heights was looking to defend the title at 182 pounds against Valley Center’s Chad Blair. Blair held a 3-2 lead after a reversal in the first 30 seconds of the second period. But Meck escaped to tie it up. In the first 30 seconds of the third, Meck escaped to go up 4-3, and defended against Blair for the remaining minute and a half to get the 4-3 win and back-to-back 182-pound titles.
Guillen was a 160-pound champion last year, and moved to 170 pounds this year, facing Jared Langley from Newton. In the second period, Langley had a chance to get an escape in a scoreless tie, but didn’t take the easy escape and went for a reversal instead. Guillen thwarted the reversal attempt and Langley was left with nothing. The score was 0-0 after two periods.
In the third, Guillen got a reversal that Langley escaped. The 2-1 lead stood as the difference in Guillen’s second title in a row.
The Kapaun, Andover Connection
In the world of elite wrestling, kids grow up together wrestling on teams in various tournaments and events from kids wrestling on. In the state finals, they know each other.
But for the wrestlers at Kapaun, it had to be a little weird to watch Lukas Maki in the finals. Last season, Maki was a key cog for the Crusaders, finishing fourth at 126 pounds. But this year, Maki took the mat at a different weight, 132, and a different kind of blue singlet. This year Maki was representing the Andover Trojans.
His opponent, Sawyer Like from Blue Valley Southwest had a tough go against Maki. After a couple of points were awarded to Like for stalling that made things interesting down the stretch, but Maki picked up a state title with a 4-3 win.
Maki scored first with a last-second takedown in the first period to go up 2-0. Like escaped in the second and Maki got another late takedown, this one right at the buzzer to go up 4-1 after two. The points for stalling were awarded in the third, but it wasn’t enough to take the hardware from Maki.
“It was really close,” said Maki. “Going into the end of the first, I thought it was going to be 0-0, but he opened up with just a few seconds left, and I managed to get the lead with a takedown right at the end of the first. Another real key takedown at the end of the second to make it 4-1 after he got the escape. Then, I'm on bottom playing it safe. I didn't want to get turned. He was riding me awfully tough, so it was hard to get away from him. I was able to hold him off and get the win.”
While Maki was earning a state title for Andover, Kapaun was winning a title of its own. At 113 pounds, Parker Howell had the unenviable task of following up Terrill’s explosive start to the finals.
Add to it that Howell broke a bone in his elbow in the second match of the season, and the task ahead of him seemed close to impossible.
“It's been tough,” said Howell. “Rehab was pretty hard. I just had to battle through it.”
Howell took the mat across from Kansas City Turner’s P.J. Cheney, and picked up a pin even faster than Terrill’s.
Howell got Cheney in a cradle to end the match just a minute and four seconds into the match. The Kapaun wrestler attempted a takedown earlier but couldn’t stay in bounds. But Howell was persistent, getting a takedown that resulted in the pin.
“There was a lot of rust,” said Howell, “especially after those first two practices. It came back pretty quick. The main thing was conditioning. It was really hard to get back in just a few weeks.”
Defense Wins Championships
Sometimes, low scoring isn’t the result of a lack of trying. The 220-pound final between Ben Ewing from St. Thomas Aquinas and Kade True from Salina Central was a good example.
“I knew I wrestled him at Hays and I beat him 6-1,”said Ewing, “but I knew state was going to be a lot different.”
Ewing escaped in the second period to go up 1-0 and the defense came into play. After escaping, Ewing went after takedowns furiously, but the sprawl of True was too much for Ewing to deal with.
In the third, True escaped to tie it up. Ewing shot in, but once again, True used the sprawl to set up an opportunity to spin around Ewing. While True was mounting the offense off the sprawl, Ewing held him off with a whizzer. The two quick stuffs in the same sequence led to a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation.
After a scoreless first overtime, both wrestlers rode for their 30-second chances. Then Ewing got an escape with five seconds left in an overtime to get the sudden-death win 2-1.
“It still hasn't sunk in yet,” said Ewing. “It hasn't hit me.”
Emporia Picks up a Spectacular Win
At 160 pounds, Tony Bluml from Valley Center was coming in to the finals trying to stop Noel Torres from avenging a fourth-place finish last year. And in the first period, Bluml held his own, and was even the aggressor.
Bluml took a couple of good shots in the period, but Torres was defensively sound.
With Torres on top to start the second in a 0-0 tie, Bluml’s time with a chance was running out. In the second period, Torres grabbed Bluml’s arm and used it to roll him to his back. With four seconds left in the second, Torres finished the pin to complete a state championship season.
One Point Is All You Need
At 138 pounds, Daemeion Gay from Topeka Seaman and Andrew Tujague from St. James could not figure out how to score. In a 0-0 tie at the end of two periods, time for a score was running out.
Tujague was on the bottom in the third period, and showed why those little escapes can sometimes be huge. Tujague got out to take a 1-0 lead, that stood as the final of a state title.