ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The finish couldn’t have been much closer, but the Hillsboro Trojan wrestling team, waging battle on its home mats, won its third MCAA title in the five-year history of the tournament Saturday.
Hillsboro finished with 1791/2 points to squeeze past runner-up Nickerson at 178. Haven, the next closest team in the six-school field, scored 112.
“I knew after the fourth round, when I saw how close Nickerson was, it was going to get close,” coach Corey Burton said.
“We knew they were going to be the ones who would be pushing us. I thought Halstead would be there, too, but they left a couple of their key kids home, and that hurt them.”
The Trojans technically clinched the title when Wade Sorensen defeated Jimmie Nelson of Halstead in the fifth and final round of the 189-pound division.
But Round 3 in the round-robin format, a head-to-head matchup against Nickerson, may have been the most pivotal. The Trojans came into the tournament with wrestlers in all 14 weight classes, but Nickerson had wrestlers only in 10.
Unlike a traditional dual, a wrestler with no opponent was not awarded points for forfeit. Some of Hillsboro’s top wrestlers faced no opponent in Round 3, but had no chance to gain points against their team’s primary competitor.
Nickerson wrestlers prevailed in six of the 10 matches played out on the mat, but every win was important.
The league title may have turned on the 215-pound match between Hillsboro’s Ronnie Davis and Nickerson’s Justin Mathias. Mathias was leading Davis on points in the third and final round before Davis scored a reverse and then pinned Mathias for the win.
“We came up with some big wins against (Nickerson),” Burton said. “Our head-to-heads were huge in that round. If we lose any of those matches, it would have been a big enough swing to get second.”
Davis, who was 2-0 on the day, was one of six Trojans who won his respective weight class.
The others were Bri Ratzlaff (2-0 at 103 pounds), Ryan Janzen (1-0, 112), Danny Yoder (3-0, 125), Carson Greenhaw (3-0, 145) and Sorensen (3-0, 189).
The scoring system at this tournament was more complicated than most. Each pin was worth 3 points, a technical fall (a win by 15 points) was worth 2.5, a major decision (a win by 8 points or more) was worth 2 points, and a decision by 7 points or less was worth 1 point.
At the end of the competition, a team received 14 points for a first-place finish in a weight class, 10 points for second, 7 points for third, and 4 points for fourth.
Burton was pleased with the way Hillsboro hosted the event.
“We had some great parent help this last weekend in getting this pulled off, both the setting up and tearing it back down and running hospitality rooms,” he said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”
Coming-The Trojans will vie for state tournament berths next weekend at the Class 1-2-3A regional tournament in Garden Plain.
The field of schools includes Central-Burden, Cheney, Cherryvale, Chase County, Eureka, Garden Plain, Halstead, Hesston, Hillsboro, West Elk, Hutch Trinity, Leon-Bluestem, Marion, Neodesha, Flinthills, Sedgwick, Stafford, Remington and Wichita Independent.
“We want our kids to be wrestling aggressively right now, and with confidence,” Burton said. “That’s been our goal the last few weeks, and the kids have done that. We want to carry that right into the regional tournament and the state tournament.”
Burton is optimistic about qualifying several of his wrestlers for state. To do so, they must finish among the top four in their respective weight classes.
“We should have seven wrestlers ranked in the top three (when class pairings are announced this Friday),” he said. “I have a couple of other kids who have a chance, if they wrestle really well in that tournament, to sneak in there for a third or fourth.”