Overland Park There’s this poster that has been hanging over Dustin Walthall’s bed for some months now, and it’s in dire need of a replacement.
The photograph features all eight Lawrence High wrestling state qualifiers from last year, Walthall included, and has served as a reminder each morning for Walthall of the sacrifices and dedication it took to make that state tournament.
“I wake up every day, and I think, ‘What do you do to get better? What are you doing right now to be a state champ?’” Walthall said.
When Saturday afternoon’s regional tournament was completed, it became official. Walthall now needs a new Lions photo. And he’ll be featured prominently in this one, too.
Walthall joined LHS teammates Blake Greenfield and Reece Wright-Conklin as Class 6A regional champions at Shawnee Mission South. All three earned top seeds at state, and they will be accompanied by four more Lions who qualified in the top four of their weight classes.
“It’s nice,” Walthall said of having so many teammates make state. “You want people in the practice room who are going to be motivated before you go to state that are also going to be wrestling and trying to get better.”
Walthall pinned his opponent in the championship match in 1:24 to take the 171-pound title, improving to 26-12 this season. He earned a bit of redemption after losing in the title match a week ago at the Sunflower League meet.
Saturday meant business as usual for both Greenfield and Wright-Conklin, who picked up conference titles a week ago. Wright-Conklin’s performance also earned him the outstanding-wrestler-of-the-region award.
“It’s just another tournament for me,” said Wright-Conklin, who won at 152 pounds and improved to 23-2. “It’s just the next step for state. ... My coaches told me, ‘Go out there hard and show everybody what they’re going to get next week.’”
Greenfield spent a grand total of five minutes, 46 seconds combined on the mat during his three regional matches at 140 pounds. He earned pins in every match. secutive matches in which Greenfield has won by pin dating back three tournaments.
He blew through the league meet last week with three straight pins as well.
“I have a lot of pins in a row, I don’t know,” said Greenfield, whose best finish at state is fourth. “I just stay on my toes and keep the pressure on.”
Also making state for the Lions was Tien Troung (112 pounds), Chris Lane (119 pounds), Jake Pfannenstiel (145 pounds) and Ben Seybert (160 pounds).
Free State High’s wrestlers also put on a good showing, as three Firebirds qualified for next week’s state tournament in Wichita.
Senior Jack Caywood made his final regional meet one to remember, scoring a technical fall, 17-2, in the third-place match at 152 pounds.
Caywood earned a No. 3 seed at state.
“The last two years when I’ve qualified for state, I was the fourth seed, and I’m down from the get-go,” Caywood said. “(At three), you don’t have to wrestle the one seed right away.”
Spencer Chestnut also won a third-place match for the Firebirds at 189 pounds, winning a 6-2 decision.
Ammon Austin became the third and final Firebird to qualify for state at the heavyweight division in the last match of the day. Austin dropped an 11-6 decision in the title bout.
Austin sprained his ACL more than a month ago at the Basehor-Linwood Invitational and had been relatively limited in competition but came on strong on Saturday.
“I’ve been working hard all year,” Austin said. “Getting here was pretty cool.”