Between bodies smacking against the mat, whistles blowing from all around, and the dozens of parents, teammates and coaches barking out directions, the noise in the gym was tremendous.
Somehow, Free State High sophomore Drew Botello managed to find tranquility in the center of all the ruckus.
“I just block everything out except for my coaches,” Botello said. “I really don’t hear anybody else except for my coaches telling me to work stuff.”
Botello, a scrappy 103-pounder, won two of three matches, both by pin, to head up the Firebirds’ fourth place finish in the Firebird Duals Wrestling Tournament on Thursday night at FSHS.
FSHS opened the night by blasting Washburn Rural, 64-16, before falling to Blue Valley North, 53-15, and Louisburg, 38-29.
On the strength of back-to-back pins at the 215 and 285-pound slots, BVNW edged Manhattan, 42-31, to take first place.
“We did well against some pretty quality teams,” FSHS coach Mike Gillman said, adding that he hoped the Firebirds would build on Thursday’s effort with Sunflower League and Regionals ahead.
With Botello leading the way, the Firebirds jumped out early against Rural.
Botello came out assertively, clasping at his opponent’s head before scoring a few takedowns and securing a second-round pin.
“He’s just an animal when he’s on the mat sometimes,” Gillman said. “He sets the tone for our team (when he does that).”
FSHS kept the line moving, getting pins from Maurice Jacobs, Andrew McLees, Ben Soukup and Jake Brown.
Mitch McClune and Dylan Ediger both impressively recorded tech falls — wrestling’s equivalent of a mercy rule.
“I told the kids, come out hard, aggressive and fast,” Gillman said.
Pitted against BVNW with a shot to advance to the finals, the Firebirds showed promise early after a pin from Botello and a 13-9 win from Seth Orcutt, but lost six straight (including forfeits at 119 and 140).
Spencer Wilson, the fourth-ranked 160-pounder in 6A, easily flattened his opponent to end the streak, but the Huskies won out to advance.
With open slots at 119 and 140 already forcing to essentially give away 10 points, an unexpected injury ended up costing the Firebirds five more.
Junior Marcus Bones injured his shoulder during his first match, leaving the Firebirds with a vacant spot — and thus another forfeit — at 189-pounds.
Those points proved costly in FSHS’s hard fought, 38-29 setback to Louisburg in the third place dual.
The teams exchanged wins early, with the Firebirds scoring on a pin from McLees and lopsided wins from Orcutt and McCune.
Then it was Wilson’s turn, where according to coach Gillman, he was aiming to notch his fifth tech fall of the season and get into the school’s record book.
Wilson simply outclassed and overpowered his opponent on the way to a 16-0 tech fall and the school record for tech falls in a season.
Using a bevy of moves, Wilson swiftly and repeatedly slammed his foe to the mat and nearly pinned him several times. During one of his many pin attempts, Wilson looked up and grinned at the crowd while his foe struggled beneath him.
“Every day we’re making improvements in practice,” Botello said. “And I just think things are going really well for us right now.”
The team’s five seniors — Brown, Ediger, Fraser, McCune and Porscha Radford — were acknowledged with their families before the beginning of the meet.