Lawrence High's wrestlers hope their next appearance in the Free State High gym will be as successful as last week's 47-27 dual victory against the Firebirds.
Free State will play host to the Sunflower League championships Feb. 10, and the Lions will be hoping to improve on last year's second-place finish in the team standings.
"The league meet will be interesting," LHS coach Mark Dulgarian said. "Shawnee Mission East, Olathe East and Shawnee Mission South all have good teams, and Free State will be tough at home."
Free State boasts quality in the lower weight classes - notably Koty Russell (112 pounds) and Marc Somers (145) - but may not have the depth to challenge for the team title.
Lawrence High, meanwhile, is solid in all but a couple of weight divisions, as evidenced by its 9-0 record in dual meets.
¢Lions on a roll: More than a month ago, the Free State High girls basketball team flattened Lawrence High, 59-36, in the first of this season's two city showdowns.
Since that meeting, it has been a reversal of fortunes for the two programs.
While the Firebirds (8-5) have stumbled to just a 2-4 mark in their last six games, the Lions have, record-wise, assumed the designation as the city's top program, improving to 9-4 after winning four games last week, including three in three to win the Capital City Classic in Topeka.
"That seems like a long time ago," Lions' coach Kristin Mallory said, reflecting on the Free State setback. "I think we're a different team now. Five wins in a row has to boost our confidence."
"We're playing more as a team now than we ever have," added LHS senior Abby Vestal said. "We have good team chemistry."
¢Shaking it up: Free State High girls basketball coach Bryan Duncan altered his starting lineup Saturday against Hutchinson in the third-place game of the Firebird Winter Classic. Sophomore forward Taylor Manning started in place of senior guard Allie Hock.
"We decided to go with a bigger lineup," Duncan said. "We didn't press as much and played more zone and half-court man. It really doesn't matter, though. We feel like we have seven starters."
Both players responded to their new roles in buzzer-beating fashion. Hock drained a three-pointer to cut the Hutchinson lead to 15-9 as time expired in the first quarter. Manning grabbed a rebound and put back a layup as time expired in the third quarter.
Even though she didn't start, Hock still played considerable minutes Saturday. She accounted for five points and grabbed six boards.
¢Stiff competition: Of the eight teams in the Firebird Winter Classic, four of them were prominently ranked in the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association poll entering tournament play. Junction City, which won the tournament, was No. 2 in Class 6A; Washburn Rural was No. 3 in 6A; Free State was No. 8 in 6A; and Hutchinson was No. 2 in 5A.
Those four teams also finished in the top four places, with Junction City beating Rural for the title, while Free State downed Hutchinson in the third-place game.