High School Sports

High School Sports

Free State sophomore wrestler Spencer Wilson eager for dual

Free State High sophomore Spencer Wilson, the No. 2-ranked wrestler at 160 pounds in the state, will lead the Firebirds into a dual against rival Lawrence High on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011.

Free State High sophomore Spencer Wilson, the No. 2-ranked wrestler at 160 pounds in the state, will lead the Firebirds into a dual against rival Lawrence High on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011.

January 26, 2011


Don’t be fooled by the smiley face-printed pajama bottoms he wears during practice.

On the mat, Free State High sophomore Spencer Wilson isn’t one to goof around.

Wilson, the soft-spoken, second-ranked 160-pound wrestler in the state, will lead the Firebirds into their annual dual against Lawrence High — 6:30 tonight at FSHS — with an air of quiet confidence.

“I thought it was going to be a lot harder,” said Wilson, who is currently in his first year at FSHS after transferring from LHS.

The transition from JV to varsity has been smooth for Wilson, who holds a 14-2 record. It’s no overnight success either; Wilson spent all summer putting in the work.

He competed in dozens of Greco-Roman and freestyle matches, and placed eighth at a national Greco-Roman tournament in Fargo, N.D.

Wilson said another area of his development was learning the nuances of cutting weight and, as he put it, “still live.”

Cutting weight isn’t always the most appetite-friendly experience, but it hasn’t been a problem for the sophomore, who dropped down from the 171-pound slot earlier this year.

“It’s pretty much just don’t eat bread or drink sugary drinks,” Wilson said. “Beyond that, it’s pretty easy.”

Especially considering the Firebirds’ training digs — the balmy upper gym at FSHS — and Wilson’s choice of long-sleeved shirts and sweatpants during practice.

“I only have to lose four more (pounds),” Wilson said.

FSHS coach Mike Gillman said he feels Wilson is a bit quicker and stronger at 160 than at 171.

“We feel like (160) is a pretty good spot for him to compete for a state championship,” Gillman said.

“He’s great at throwing people around,” LHS coach Pat Naughton said. “He definitely is exciting to watch.”

That’s high praise, because Naughton knows talent when he sees it.

Among the many skilled wrestlers at LHS, Naughton has the top-ranked 171-pounder, and last year’s Class 6A state champion at 160 pounds — Reece Wright-Conklin — as the centerpiece of his squad.

“(Wright-Conklin) kind of reminds me of Nolan Kellerman (who won back-to-back state titles for Lawrence in ’05-’06) a bit, except he’s a better wrestler,” Naughton said.

“I don’t know if Nolan would admit it, but deep down he probably knows.”

Naughton added that Wright-Conklin, a junior, still has plenty of room to grow, but his undefeated start to this season at 171 pounds and his all-around skill set drew similarly lofty praise from Gillman.

“There’s some kids that come around (who) are once-in-a-lifetime,” Gillman said. “And Reece is one of those kids.”

The respect for Wright-Conklin and the Lions, currently ranked No. 6 in Class 6A by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association, was evident, but Gillman said his team has a “bring it on” attitude for anyone standing on the opposite side of the mat.

A clash at 171 pounds between former teammates would have been one of the evening’s highlights had Wilson not moved down a weight class earlier this year.

Still, there is a slight chance two of the city’s premier wrestling talents could square off tonight.

“What the word is, over at Lawrence High is they’re dropping Reece to 160,” Gillman said. “That’s kind of been the word going around.

“We’ve got Spencer there, so if he wants to wrestle at 160, that’s fine with us.”

Wilson, too, couldn’t hide the excitement when asked of a potential matchup with Wright-Conklin.

“That’d be fun,” he said, grinning widely.


Clickker 7 years, 4 months ago

So, having to read between the lines, since the story doesnt really say it, it looks like Spencer transfered because a) he was in the same weight class as Conklin, b) his family moved north of 15th street, c) He didnt get along with the coach at LHS, d) etc etc????

It would be interesting to know the whole story, and if it is anything besides b) above, how easy is it to simply transfer for sports?

benward 7 years, 4 months ago

From what I gathered, the decision by Wilson to transfer had little to do with sports. He simply wanted to be at FSHS to attend school with some of his closer friends.

Thanks for reading!

Clickker 7 years, 4 months ago

Great! Thanks! It just seemed that the article was not very clear. Thanks for clearing that up. Makes sense.

hail2oldku 7 years, 4 months ago

His family has lived north of 15th for quite awhile. He "transferred in" to wrestle for LHS last year because of the coach, but switched back to Free State because he lives in the district and that's where his friends from West go to school. One could assume that he cut weight to avoid Conklin not change teams (he never did change schools) since he could have cut weight and avoided Reece while attending LHS if that were the school he was going to attend.

Amy Bartle 7 years, 4 months ago

Is the headline supposed to say "duel" as opposed to "dual"?

WrestlingFan99_us 7 years, 4 months ago

Thanks LJworld for the article! Good props to Spencer who put in the work during the summer, "Summertime wrestlers make wintertime champions!" Although LHS brings in 6 ranked wrestlers and a #5 ranking, both teams have a lot of good younger kids to make it for an enjoyable evening to watch wrestling.

hail2oldku 7 years, 4 months ago

I know LHS has a strong base up and running for the long run. How does the Free State program look? Are they trailing LHS by a couple of years or is there a long way to go? What's the state of kids club wrestling in the area?

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