The fun and games are finished.
The idea of using this week's meet to build for next week no longer applies.
It's go time for high school wrestlers, who will begin competing at regional tournaments throughout the area today.
For city schools Lawrence High and Free State, Saturday's Class 6A regional tournament at Leavenworth High represents an opportunity to atone for a long and disappointing season.
"The whole season up to regionals is practice," said Free State coach Paul Lappin, who will fill just seven of the 14 slots on Saturday. "No one remembers how you do in the regular season or how you finish at this tournament or that one. The only thing people remember is how you do at regionals and how you do at state."
Of the seven Free State wrestlers competing Saturday, juniors Jack Caywood and Julian Kuszmaul figure to have the best shot to advance to state. The top four finishers in each bracket earn a berth to state, and Caywood and Kuszmaul are seeded in the top four heading into the meet.
Caywood is seeded third in the 140-pound weight class. Caywood (11-7) missed nearly 25 matches this season due to an injury and is just now starting to hit his stride. He finished fifth at last week's Sunflower League meet, and Lappin expects him to be in the mix Saturday.
"He's been in a little funk the last couple of weeks, but I'm really looking for him to break out of it this weekend," Lappin said. "He's capable of beating anybody in his regional."
Kuszmaul (9-10), the No. 4 seed in the 189-pound weight bracket, also has the potential for big things this weekend.
"If he wrestles up to his potential, he'll be sitting just fine and in good shape going into state," Lappin said. "He's a real strong, athletic kid."
Across town at LHS, Lions coach Patrick Naughton will take a more highly acclaimed group to Leavenworth.
Juniors Jake Pfannenstiel (29-3, 130 pounds) and Blake Greenfield, who missed the Sunflower meet, each earned No. 1 seeds at regionals. Junior Brian Cain (24-8), who earned a hard-fought third-place medal at league, enters Saturday as the No. 2 seed at 160 pounds.
Although Naughton was thrilled to see his wrestlers earn such high praise, he emphasized that none of them has accomplished a thing yet.
"It is nice to be seeded, but it doesn't mean a lot if you don't show up to wrestle on Saturday," Naughton said. "We go into each tournament expecting to wrestle everyone. Nothing is guaranteed because you were seeded. If you want to go to state, you have to win."
In addition to Lawrence's two 6A schools, the area also has several teams with shots to win regionals and advance to state.
Baldwin High has four wrestlers seeded in the top four in its Class 4A regional at Eudora. Included among these four are brothers Alan Callahan (junior, 112 pounds) and Kevin Callahan (senior, 130 pounds). The two enter the regional with a combined career record of 288-33.
Nick Rockhold (119 pounds) and Gabe Mason (171 pounds) are Baldwin's other two top-four seeds at the regional event, which features Class 4A area schools Eudora, Ottawa, Santa Fe Trail and De Soto. Each of those schools has a couple of wrestlers who expect to challenge for a regional title, as well.
Two area schools - Class 4A Perry-Lecompton and Class 5A Mill Valley - will hold regional events, with Tonganoxie attending the Perry regional. And Class 4A schools Oskaloosa and Wellsville will wrestle at Rossville High.