ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Five wrestlers from Hillsboro’s team qualified at the regional tournament in Eureka this past weekend for a state berth at Hays on Friday.
Leading the way with second-place finishes in their respective weight classes were Eric Cress (3-1 at 140), Matt Brown (2-1 at 145), Andrew Bina (3-1 at 152) and Jacob Yoder (3-1 at 160).
Three of the four runners-up lost their title matches by close decisions. Cress lost 4-1 to Spencer McGlothlin of Cherryvale, Brown lost 7-6 to Michael Frank of Cherryvale and Bina lost 8-6 to Marc Madison of West Elk. Yoder lost by fall to Cody Austin of Remington.
Also qualifying for state from Hillsboro was Ric Johnson, who finished fourth at 130 pounds with a 4-2 record. Johnson lost a 1-0 heartbreaker in his third-place match against Grant Fergus of Wichita Independent.
Cress, who represented Goessel at Eureka and will do the same at Hays, is a senior, as are Brown, Bina and Johnson. Yoder is a sophomore.
In the team competition, the Trojans finished in fourth place with 105 points. Eureka won the title with 163.5, followed by Burlington with 116 and Wichita Independent with 106.5.
Hillsboro would have placed second with the addition of the 24 points Cress scored for Goessel.
“We had a really good day Friday, with seven (wrestlers) in the semifinals first thing Saturday morning,” coach Scott O’Hare said. “We put four of those seven into the finals. That was a great way to start the day.”
O’Hare said the Trojans led the tournament after Friday evening and were still within a half-point of Eureka after Saturday’s semifinals round.
“Then we kind of hit a dry spell,” he said. “We had a couple of guys lose matches that were certainly winnable. It kind of had a reverse domino effect on us for a little while. We got on a bad losing streak and lost some close matches, so we kept falling behind a little bit throughout the day.
“A fourth-place finish, when you look at the season we’ve had, is a little disappointing,” he added. “But at the same time, we lost the points scored by one of our quality wrestlers (Cress). That certainly made a big difference for us in that team race.”
Also competing at Eureka for the Trojans were: Alex Jost, 0-2 at 103 pounds; Zach Magnuson, 2-2 at 112; Chris Jensen, 2-2 at 119; Nicholas Mueller, 1-2 at 125; Sean Leihy, 1-2 at 140; Grady Stultz, 1-2 at 145; John Hein, 1-2 at 189; and Kurtis Shaw, 0-2 at 275.
“I’m certainly pleased with the five who we qualified (for state),” O’Hare said. “I think we’ve got five really quality kids going down there who can hopefully turn some heads.”
Friday’s first-round matches at the Class 3-2-1A tournament at Hays were released on Sunday.
Johnson (31-8) will square off against Bret Swoyer (35-2) of Rock Creek; Cress (31-4) will go against Martin Hojda (22-6) of Osborne; Brown (30-6) will face Adam Montgomery (21-6) of Smith Center; Bina (33-2) will meet Brian Blackwell (35-7) of Herington; and Yoder (22-15) will battle Bryant Speer (15-3) of Atchison County Community (Effingham).
“With us kind of struggling late in the day on Saturday and losing those medal matches, it didn’t necessarily make things easier because the matches in the first round of state are based on how you finished in the regional,” O’Hare said.
“But I feel pretty good about most of our draws. We’re certainly are going to have some pretty tough first-round matches. But when you get down there, they’re all going to be tough.”