Leavenworth Apparently, seven is the magic number for the Lawrence High and Free State wrestling teams.
After competing all day Saturday at the Class 6A regional wrestling tournament, seven Lions and seven Firebirds are bound for the state meet starting Friday in Wichita.
The 14 city wrestlers are one of the largest groups ever of state qualifiers. Like last year, Free State finished third out of eight teams with 115.5 points, and Lawrence (107) was fourth. Leavenworth, the event host, led all schools with 141 points.
LHS coach Mark Dulgarian was satisfied that seven of his wrestlers qualified, but he was looking for a few more.
"If we would have done what we were capable of we could have nine," Dulgarian said.
The seven Lions who qualified for state were freshman Chris Coons (103-pound class), junior Pharouk Hussein (130), sophomore Marc Albers (135), sophomore Brendan Halpin (140), sophomore Nolan Kellerman (145), senior Clayton Kellerman (215) and junior Blake Hegeman (275).
Hussein, Halpin and Clayton Kellerman all earned No. 1 seeds by winning their weight classes.
Clayton Kellerman joined the team in mid-January after being burned out at the end of last season. He said this year's match against Free State rekindled his competitive fire.
"It feels absolutely awesome," Kellerman said. "There's no other word for it."
Hussein went against Free State senior Matt Somers in the championship round of the 130-pound class. After being down 6-2 at the end of the first period, Hussein was able to get the best of Somers for a 15-7 decision by outscoring Somers 13-1 in the final two periods.
Somers will be joined in Wichita by his brother, Marc, a freshman who won at 112. Jesse Hardy also claimed a championship for the Firebirds, winning at 189.
Sophomore Mike Goble (119), junior Dale Sipple (145), sophomore K.J. Siebert (152) and senior Ryan Williams (171) also qualified for state.
Free State coach Darrell Andrew was pleased with his seven qualifiers given the overall lack of experience on the squad.
"I'm extremely happy with these guys," Andrew said. "They're young. They're talented. They look like they've been wrestling for four years."
The next stop for the fortunate 14 is Friday at the Kansas Coliseum, where seedings can mean nothing and momentum everything.
"Anything can happen," Andrew said. "It's nice going in as a one (seed), but it's all about who wants it the most. A lot of matches will be won with heart and soul, sweat and blood."
Dulgarian agrees with his coaching counterpart.
"When you get there, it depends if you're ready at that time," he said. "Everybody that goes has the potential to win."