HHS wrestlers 2nd at Hoisington Tourney

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Hillsboro High’s young wrestling team capped a challenging stretch of three tournaments in eight days with a second-place finish in its first appearance at the Hoisington Cardinal Classic Invitational on Friday.

The host team won the eight-school competition with 168 points while HHS posted 129.5 points. Russell was third with 117. The tournament featured a round-robin format within each weight class.

“This is a new tournament on our schedule this year, and I’m really glad we added it,” coach Scott O’Hare said. “For one thing, it gives our kids a lot of matches against a number of teams we normally do not see in the course of a season.

“Also, by doing it on Friday afternoon and evening, it gives varsity wrestlers at least one Saturday off as we head into the final portion of the season. Since I have been coaching here, I can think of only a few instances where the varsity hasn’t had a tournament on a Saturday in January or February.”

The Trojans wrapped up the runner-up team spot by managing six second-place individual finishes: Robby McClelland (3-2) at 112 pounds, Nicholas Mueller (4-1) at 130; Toby Jones (3-1) at 135; Tyler Jones (4-1) at 140; Sean Leihy (4-1) at 145; and Jacob Yoder (2-1) at 171.

“I was pleased with having six guys finish in the top two, especially with only one being a senior,” O’Hare said. “However, it was a little disappointing that we did not have any individual champions. We let a few opportunities slip through our fingers.”

Also competing for HHS were: Alex Jost (2-2), third at 103; Jared King (1-3), fourth at 125; Grady Stultz (3-2), third at 152; Frankie Martin (1-4), fifth at 160; and John Hein (0-4), fifth at 189.

“I felt pretty good about our overall performance for the day, but the effects of the schedule began to show by late evening on Friday,” O’Hare said.

“After wrestling as many as six matches on Monday and Tuesday at the Halstead tournament, many of these guys wrestled another five matches on Friday with only about one hour rest between each.

“Although a few guys still looked strong, some were really beginning to show signs of fatigue as well as being mentally exhausted.

“I know this stretch of the schedule was difficult, but I do not want these guys to use that as an excuse for losing,” O’Hare added. “We need to accept those challenges and work to overcome them. I think one lesson we need to learn from this is that when things get tough, great wrestlers find a way to persevere.”

Halstead-Hillsboro wrestlers continued their strong showing as a team in tournament competition by placing third at the 21-team Halstead Invitational last Monday and Tuesday.

The tournament, originally scheduled for Jan. 12-13, had been postponed because of bad weather.

The Trojans compiled 137.5 points to finish behind Circle (181.5) and Smoky Valley (145.5).

Leading the Trojans was Jacob Yoder. The junior earned the team’s only individual championship by winning the 171-pound class with a 3-0 record.

“Jacob wrestled pretty solid to get (to the title match), but had to pull out a close, one-point match in the quarterfinals,” coach Scott O’Hare said. “He was in total control the entire championship match.”

Two other Hillsboro wrestlers made it to the title match of their respective weight classes: sophomore Nicholas Mueller (2-1) at 130 pounds and senior Sean Leihy (2-1) at 145 pounds.

“Nicholas had an exciting come-from-behind win in the semifinals to advance to the finals for the fourth time in as many tries this season,” O’Hare said. “He lost, for the second time this season, to (Tommy Knapp of Lincoln), who is ranked fourth in the state.

“Sean avenged two losses from earlier in the season by defeating (Nick) Thibault from Halstead in the semifinals to earn his way back into the championship match.”

Five other Trojans finished among the top six in their respective weight classes: Alex Jost, sixth at 103 pounds (2-3); Robby McClelland, fourth at 112 (2-2); Tyler Jones, third at 140 (3-1); Grady Stultz, fourth at 152 (3-2); and John Hein, sixth at 189 (1-3).

“I would say Alex Jost and Grady Stultz are two wrestlers who have made the greatest improvement over this past week of competition,” O’Hare said. “If they continue to show those same signs, they will be looking pretty strong down the stretch.”

Also competing for HHS were Jared King, 2-2 at 125 pounds, and Toby Jones, 2-2 at 135.

Beyond the team score, O’Hare said the greatest accomplishment for his team was its mental toughness and physical endurance to compete in a major tournament with only a day’s rest after a tournament in Eureka over the weekend.

“This tournament was a grueling stretch of four competition days in less than one week,” he said. “Many guys wrestled as many, or more, matches in this six-day stretch than they had wrestled all season to this point.

“Physically and mentally, it was challenging on the guys, but they responded well. I felt like, despite only one practice during the past week, we improved in a lot of areas.

“If we stay healthy, push each other hard, and continue to improve, we should be in for an exciting end of the season.”

Coming-The Trojans will return to tournament competition Saturday when they compete at the Southeast of Salina Invitational. The format is a round-robin dual matchup with each of the other competing schools.

Matches will begin at 10 a.m.

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