ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro High School capped arguably the most successful wrestling season in school history by bringing home two individual medals from the Class 3-2-1A state tournament in Hays this weekend.
Officially, only one medal was awarded to a Trojan: senior Andrew Bina won the silver medal in the 152-pound class, becoming the first Trojan ever to wrestle for a championship title at state.
Eric Cress, a member of the Hillsboro squad all season, represented his home school of Goessel High in the post-season. He earned the fourth-place medal at 140 pounds.
Bina made it to the finals by defeating Brian Blackwell of Herington 12-0 in the first round, Michael Schamberger of Hoxie 8-7 in the second round and Matt Heyman of Beloit 6-3 in the semifinals.
Schamberger had been ranked No. 1 in the state all season and was the state runner-up at 145 pounds last year.
Once in the title match, Bina lost to Luke Pfannenstiel of Norton 10-3.
“Having Andrew making it to the finals was an awesome feeling,” said coach Scott O’Hare. “Knowing how difficult that state tournament is, and witnessing Andrew work his way through the championship side of the bracket, was amazing. I am so proud of him. It is nice to see a person who is so focused on something, and has worked so hard for something, be rewarded for it.
“Even though he fell short of his ultimate goal, I know he will look back and appreciate what he earned and deserved.”
In addition to earning his first state medal-and only the second one ever awarded to a Trojan-Bina (36-3) accomplished two other goals along the way, breaking the school season records of 35 wins and 77 takedowns. Both were set by his brother James. Andrew finished with 36 wins and 80 takedowns.
Cress (34-6), meanwhile, won his first-round match against Martin Hojdah of Osborne by fall, then pinned Jordan Meyer of Sabetha in the second round-both pins coming in the third period.
In the semifinals, Cress lost to Jonathan Richards of Oberlin 9-0, then came back to pin Tony Ceman of Phillipsburg to make it to the third-place match, which he lost to Blake VanEaton of Norton, 10-3.
“Eric showed his persistence by never giving up,” O’Hare said. “He was down in both of his first two matches, but stayed calm, and when opportunity presented itself, locked up his dangerous cradle and pinned both of them.
“That cradle has been a signature move for Eric for as long as he has wrestled for me,” O’Hare added. “Throughout the year, we had worked on ways to make it even better.”
Cress finished his high school wrestling career by tying the HHS record for pins in a season.
Hillsboro’s three other state qualifiers fell short out of the medal round.
Ric Johnson (31-10) went 0-2 at 130 pounds, Matt Brown was 1-2 at 145 pounds and Jacob Yoder was 1-2 at 160 pounds.
Johnson, a senior, was pinned in the first round by Bret Swoyer, who went on to take second in the weight class. Johnson was then pinned by Marshall McCall in the consolation bracket.
Brown lost a heartbreaker in overtime, 4-2, to Adam Montgomery of Smith Center in his first match. The HHS senior came back to pin Robert Binning of Atwood in the consolation bracket before losing a 5-1 decision to Cody Hazard of Lyons.
Yoder, making his first state appearance as a sophomore, was pinned in the opening period of his first match by Bryant Speer of Atchison County Community, then pinned Trent Stevenson of Ellsworth before losing to Aaron Rowley of Burlingame 4-1.
“I felt badly for Ric and Matt finishing out their seasons and careers without bringing home a medal from state, but they both wrestled so well all season and have nothing to be ashamed of,” O’Hare said.
Johnson was competing in his third state tournament while Brown was in his second straight in his two years at Hillsboro.
O’Hare said Yoder competed well in his state premiere.
“Although we never wanted him to be satisfied with just qualifying, I think the experience he gained at Hays will serve him well the next couple of years,” O’Hare said. “I look for him to be in the mix for bringing home a medal his junior and senior years.”
Beyond the individual accomplishments, Hillsboro enjoyed its best team finish in school history-even without Cress’s points. The Trojans tied for 22nd among 85 schools with 25 points. Norton won the team title easily with 185.5 points.
If Cress’s points had counted for Hillsboro, the Trojans would have tied for 11th.
“I am so proud of these five guys and the rest of the team for the way they worked and competed this year,” O’Hare said. “Having Eric and Andrew earn medals at Hays could be a very big boost for the Hillsboro wrestling program.”
Marion’s three state qualifiers won two matches wins during their stay at Hays.
One of those wins came from Charlie Holub (18-14), who defeated Spencer Hinson, 7-4, in the opening round at 135 pounds. In the next round, Holub was pinned by Kade Bloom of Phillipsburg, then lost to Jon Harding of Norton 14-0 in his first consolation-bracket match.
Marion’s other win was earned by Casey Nelson (25-12), who won his opening round match at 171 pounds by defeating David Obermeyer of Hoxie, 4-1.
Nelson then lost Matt McGinty of Southeast of Saline by technical fall on a 16-0 score, then was defeated by Justin Labarge of Ellsworth, 9-3, in the consolation bracket.
Gavin Moore (20-18), wrestling at 152 pounds, lost to Brian Faught of Atchison County Community 13-8 in the opening round, then finished with a 16-3 loss to Ryan Swatzell in the consolation bracket.