Gary Steffan has mixed feelings about his No. 1 wrestling ranking.
Steffan, a Eudora High junior and defending state champion, is currently the top-ranked 145-pound wrestler in class 3-2-1A in the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Assn. poll.
"It's something to be proud of," Steffan said. "But everybody's coming after you. They read the paper. They think, `He's the state champ. I can take him.' It makes it harder."
Steffan nonetheless has managed a 9-0 record with seven pins to start the season. He's one reason the Cardinals are picked sixth in the coaches' poll.
"We're doing better than I thought we would," Steffan said. "We've got a lot of younger guys. I was thinking our dual record would be about even. Now I think a 10-1 season dual record is possible. We're all working hard. A couple of guys are getting beaten up regularly, but they're sticking with it and working hard."
SO FAR, the Cards are 3-1 in dual meets. They also finished second at their own invitational and fifth at Louisburg's meet. They'll travel to Tonganoxie for a a double-dual with Tongie and Perry-Lecompton today, then head to St. Marys on Friday for a two-day tournament.
Despite its apparent youth there are just two seniors, five juniors, four sophs and two freshmen on its varsity roster four EHS wrestlers have state experience.
Four Cardinals graduated from last year's team, which finished 10th at state.
"I think our overall strength is our depth," said EHS coach Brian Kraus. "We have four or five people who are real consistent. Everybody else, sometimes they win, sometimes they don't, but we don't have a real weakness at any one weight class.
"What has hurt us, our overall weakness, is team experience. We have so many young kids on varsity. We are fairly young. The junior class is our overall strength. But we've been getting pretty good effort team-wise."
THE OTHER Cardinals with state experience are Dustin Andrews, 125-pound class, junior, with a 6-3-1 record; Andy Lorenzo, senior heavyweight, 7-4; and Matt Martin, 7-2-1 and ranked No. 3 in the 171-pound class. Another reliable contributor is 103-pound Bryan Longacre, a junior who's 7-0.
Kraus said he's pleased with the Cards' record, especially since he intentionally schedules larger schools.
"We try to make the schedule as competitive as we can," he said. "It pays off when we get to sub-state. Last year, we were 10th at state. We hope to improve. If we finish as we're ranked, we should move up to fifth, sixth, seventh. Our goal is to be in the top five."