As much as Lawrence High’s wrestlers felt positive about many of their performances Saturday at the Sunflower League championship tournament, the Lions couldn’t keep their competitive natures from making them a little disappointed, too.
No complaints existed about freshman 170-pounder Alan Clothier’s league title, nor third-place medals for juniors Xavier Kenney (106 pounds) and Alex Jones (285) at LHS. But something about finishing fifth in the team standings, behind champion Olathe North, Leavenworth, Shawnee Mission East and Shawnee Mission South, didn’t sit well with the Lions or their coach, Pat Naughton.
Sunflower League Wrestling Championships
Lawrence High and Lawrence Free State competed Saturday in the Sunflower League Wrestling Championships at LHS.
“We had some good things with a lot of guys today,” Naughton said, “but we definitely need to improve going through the back side (consolation brackets), especially if we want to start winning these tournaments.”
Seven of Lawrence’s 11 wrestlers finished in the top four of their weight classes, but Naughton said, “We would like to have it a lot better.”
Both senior Caden Lynch (138) and junior Ryan Bellinger (152) reached their championship matches before falling and placing second with 2-1 records. Senior Tim Thongone (120) and junior Garrett Girard (126) both advanced to the consolation finals and finished fourth.
Said Bellinger: “In years past, we’ve done a lot better than that.”
Clothier agreed Lawrence needed to win more matches after combining to go 18-16 as a team. His 3-0 day came to a close with a finish uncharacteristic of a freshman. Shawnee Mission West senior Jordan Dillard had Clothier in a 4-1 hole entering the second period. After evening the score, the LHS freshman saw his chance.
“I knew I needed to go,” he said after pinning Dillard with 23 seconds on the second-period clock. “I got up, and the head lock was right there, and I just went for it.”
After the official slammed his hand on the mat, signifying the pinfall, Clothier ran to the middle of the circle, pumping his right fist at his side in celebration.
“I’ve been working for eight years to get here,” Clothier said of his title. “To win it as a freshman, I’m pretty proud.”
Both Kenney and Jones overcame early setbacks before closing their days with victories. Kenney won his first two matches before losing in the semifinal. Bounced to the consolation bracket, Kenney pinned his next two opponents to finish with a 4-1 mark. Jones lost his first match of the day before winning three straight via pinfall.
Naughton said his team needs similar efforts headed into next Saturday’s Class 6A regional, at Free State.
“Everything throughout the year has been about not quitting,” the coach said, “and finding something deep inside that says, ‘I’m not gonna let this guy take me down, I’m gonna score a point here or there or be able to hang on.’”
Soukup takes third to lead ninth-place FSHS
Free State didn’t send any of its wrestlers to the championship finals, but six of the Firebirds reached the consolation finals, sending them to a ninth-place finish.
Senior Ben Soukup, who lost to Bellinger in the 152-pound semifinal, finished 3-1. His third-place medal marked Free State’s best performance, but he said the young team was excited to go 6-2 in consolation semifinal matches.
“It’s really great, because league will help seeds for regionals next week. It’s a good preview to see who’s gonna go to state,” Soukup said. “Getting into the consolation finals is gonna help the team morale.”
Joining Soukup in reaching the third-place matches were freshman Quailan Fowler (106), freshman Sid Miller (113), junior Colton Steele (145), freshman Sam Skwarlo (160) and junior Sterling Ozark (285). All five lost in the consolation finals.
Still, Free State coach Mike Gillman saw the advantage of having top-four finishers.
“I love that we got three freshmen in fourth place,” Gillman said. “Kids at the beginning of the year, it was a happy to be on the team type thing.”
The coach will make sure no one gets too cocky about their medals headed into next Saturday’s regional, at FSHS.
“There’s no guarantees in this sport,” he said.
Junior Firebird Maurice Jacobs (132) and senior Nick Vidoli (170) both lost their fifth-place matches.