OLATHE — After finishing third in 2016 and second in 2017, Free State High's wrestling team had hopes of finishing its climb to the top at the Sunflower League tournament on Saturday at Olathe East.
Free State was neck-and-neck with six-time defending league champion Olathe North going into finals, but came up just short of dethroning the Eagles. Freshman Caleb Streeter and senior Elijah Denmark won their respective weight classes to lead the Firebirds to a second-place team score of 209.5. Olathe North pushed its streak to seven after finishing with 220 points.
Free State coach Mike Gillman — who was named the Sunflower League Coach of the Year — was pleased with the efforts from Streeter, Denmark and the rest of his squad, but acknowledged that there were some missed opportunities that the Firebirds didn't take advantage of.
2018 Sunflower League Wrestling
Caleb Streeter and Elijah Denmark won their respective weight classes to lead the Free State wrestling team to second place at the Sunflower League tournament on Saturday at Olathe East. Logan Farrell garnered a fourth-place finish to lead Lawrence High to 14th.
"When you get six kids in the finals, you've got to make more than two (champions). But I'm proud of the two we had," Gillman said. "We gave ourselves a chance. We just need to finish. I think that's going to be our goal for the next two weeks is that we've got to finish the matches that we've got to win."
The Firebirds only trailed the Eagles by a half-point following Streeter's third-period pin of Olathe Northwest's Quintin Talbert in the 113-pound title match.
"It felt great because I was down pretty much the whole match," Streeter said. "Coming back was a great feeling."
Streeter won by decision in his first match before winning by fall in the semifinals and finals. The Free State 113-pounder said it was an honor to win a league title as a freshman, but he doesn't want to become complacent with regionals and possibly state on the horizon. Streeter has one area in mind where he feels he needs to clean some things up next week in practice.
"I'm not very good on my feet yet, but I'm working on it," Streeter said. "I know that if I can get better on my feet, I can win those tough matches."
Gillman assured the Streeter and his teammates that tougher matches would likely be coming at the 6A West regional tournament at Wichita South. The Firebirds (ranked No. 8 in Class 6A) saw some stiff competition in Olathe North (No. 3 in 6A) and Olathe South (No. 10 in 6A) on Saturday, but they'll have to go up against No. 1 Derby, No. 2 Washburn Rural, No. 4 Manhattan, No. 5 Dodge City, No. 6 Garden City and No. 7 Wichita South at regionals.
"The west is tough. It's a tough bracket," Gillman said. "These kids have got to realize that it's not the Sunflower League championships. This is the western regional that's really tough."
Denmark said that he is up for the challenge that the regional tournament will bring. The Free State senior pinned his way to the 195-pound weight class crown with three wins by fall.
"It's really exciting because I've never been first place in a varsity 'A' bracket. I've got first place in the 'B' bracket, but I don't really count that," Denmark said. "It's pretty cool. It's league, so that's not just any other tournament. It's really cool that I got first."
A great deal of Denmark's success this season has come from his ability to capitalize on sub-par takedown attempts by his opponents. Even when Denmark was taken down by SM North's Tanner Willmon in the championship match, the Free State senior was able to get a reversal and then got the pin during a scramble later in the period.
"I work a lot of defensive moves," Denmark said. "So when people try offensive things on me, I'm able to catch them on a mistake and like you saw there, I got the pin."
Isaiah Jacobs (132 pounds), Tate Steele (138), Elijah Jacobs (145) and Joey Eddis (160) all finished second in their respective weight classes.
Other placers for the Firebirds included Garrett Bradley (fifth at 120), Andrew Park (fourth at 126), Charlie Bermel (fourth at 152), Gabe Smith (sixth at 170), Devin Beers (fourth at 182) and Joey Schmidtberger (fifth at 220).
"It kind of comes to the whole point of conditioning in practice and stuff and if you're willing to do the last two, three, four sprints extra and make sure you push through it. We've got to get those extra points," Gillman said. "We've got to get those extra scorers. That's important for us. We're going to be going back a little bit more this week and make sure we finish everything from school work to finishing sprints. That's what our goal is."
Farrell leads short-handed Lions
Lawrence High coach Pat Naughton wasn't the least bit concerned about the team standings, as he only had five wrestlers competing due to illness, injury, taking the ACT and competition points limit.
"We had a lot of our others guys who don't normally see varsity action in for today, which is good because now they get to see what it is like to be on the big stage and be in the big tournaments and to go through all that and experience it," Naughton said. "I think it opened a lot of their eyes up a little bit."
Freshman Logan Farrell paced the Lions with a fourth-place finish at 106 pounds. Farrell opened the tournament with a win by fall over Olathe South's Tyler Johnson, but the Falcons' 106-pounder got the last laugh with a 7-4 win by decision in the third-place match.
Farrell had also defeated Johnson earlier in the season, but Naughton noted that his freshman grappler had a tough task at hand in the third-place match.
"The third time of wrestling somebody is always the toughest one," Naughton said.
With Olathe South and Lawrence High being two of 11 Sunflower League schools that will be at Friday and Saturday's 6A East regional at LHS, Naughton knows there is a chance that Farrell and Johnson could meet again. Naughton hopes that Farrell will be able to break down what went wrong in the third-place match while preparing for regionals.
"He did really well against him the first two times. This time it was a closer match, but as a freshman there are some things he has to learn about and go through and prepare," Naughton said. "All of this is just a learning process for next week, which is the big week."
Fransoir Jones and Justin Miller added a win apiece to help the Lions to 14th place in the team standings with 22 points.
Sunflower League tournament
Saturday at Olathe East
Team scores — 1. Olathe North, 220; 2. Free State, 209.5; 3. Gardner Edgerton, 178; 4. Olathe South, 169; 5. Olathe Northwest, 158; 6. Leavenworth, 115.5; 7. Shawnee Mission East, 82; 8. SM Northwest, 56; 9. SM North, 48; 10. Olathe East, 46; 11. SM West, 43; 12. Olathe West, 41; 13. SM South, 33; 14. Lawrence High, 22.
Free State results
113 — Caleb Streeter (FS) won by decision over Caleb Delp (ON), 8-6; Caleb Streeter (FS) won by fall over Kaydn Humphrey (GE), 4:17; Caleb Streeter (FS) won by fall over Quintin Talbert (ONW), 5:44.
120 — Dallas Koelzer (OS) won by tech fall over Garrett Bradley (FS), 18-3; Garrett Bradley won by fall over Kye Humphrey (GE), 3:34; Hartwell Taylor (LV) won by tech fall over Garrett Bradley (FS), 15-0; Garrett Bradley (FS) won in sudden victory-1 over Brady Pellman (ONW), 10-8.
126 — Andrew Park (FS) won by tech fall over Zack Jordan (SMN), 16-1; Jace Koelzer (OS) won by fall over Andrew Park (FS), 1:40; Andrew Park (FS) won by fall over Jeremiah Blevins (LV), 0:52; David Martinez (ON) won by fall over Andrew Park (FS), 2:15.
132 — Isaiah Jacobs (FS) won by tech fall over Christian Wyatt (SMW), 19-4; Isaiah Jacobs (FS) won by fall over Brayden Ratcliffe (GE), 1:48; Jerad Habben (SMNW) won by fall over Isaiah Jacobs (FS), 5:51.
138 — Tate Steele (FS) won by tech fall over Bobby Thomas (OS), 15-0; Tate Steele (FS) won by fall over Kyle Divine (SMS), 0:21; Tate Steele (FS) won by fall over Danny Malekani (0:32); Jevon Parrish (ON) won by major decision over Tate Steele (FS), 17-9.
145 — Elijah Jacobs (FS) won by fall over Julian Gutierrez (SMNW), 3:31; Elijah Jacobs (FS) won by fall over William Calixto (ON), 2:26; Elijah Jacobs (FS) won by decision over Taven Ewbank (GE), 5-4; Gavin Brown (OS) won by decision over Elijah Jacobs (FS), 7-3.
152 — Charlie Bermel (FS) won by fall over Alec McKernan (ONW), 4:13; Conner Greig (GE) won by fall over Charlie Bermel (FS), 1:36; Charlie Bermel (FS) won by decision over Brandon Stowe (OS), 8-3.
160 — Joey Eddis (FS) won by fall over Jarek Braden (OS), 1:20; Joey Eddis (FS) won by decision over McCoy Stoker (ON), 3-2; Jensen McDermott (Gardner-Edgerton) won by tech fall over Joey Eddis (FS), 17-2.
170 — Gabe Smith (FS) won by fall over Tate Ewbank (GE), 1:58; Terrell Garraway (ON) won by fall over Gabe Smith (FS), 0:18; Gabe Smith (FS) won by decision over Danny Sublette (SMW), 5-2; Wyatt Mackley (OE) won by fall over Gabe Smith (FS), 0:50; Carson Lucas (LV) won by fall over Gabe Smith (FS), 2:29.
182 — Devin Beers (FS) won by fall over Caden Rodriguez (GE), 0:41; Nick Jouret (OS) won by fall over Devin Beers (FS), 6:00; Devin Beers (FS) won by decision over Jeffrey Downey (SMN), 9-4; Brandon Medina (ONW) won by decision over Devin Beers (FS), 4-2.
195 — Elijah Denmark (FS) won by fall over Noah Short (GE), 0:14; Elijah Denmark (FS) won by fall over Ryan Huck (ON), 1:43; Elijah Denmark (FS) won by fall over Tanner Willmon (SMN), 2:20.
220 — Jordan Baker (ON) won by fall over Joey Schmidtberger (FS), 2:48; Joey Schmidtberger (FS) won by fall over Sam Verhulst (OW), 1:47; Etena Tuivati (LV) won by fall over Joey Schmidtberger (FS), 2:25; Joey Schmidtberger (FS) won by fall over Griffin Wilson (OS), 2:33.
Lawrence High results
106 — Logan Farrell (LHS) won by fall over Tyler Johnson (OS), 2:48; Caden Howard (ONW) won by fall over Logan Farrell (LHS), 3:51; Logan Farrell (LHS) won by fall over Kole Nhingsavath (GE), 2:44; Tyler Johnson (OS) won by decision over Logan Farrell (LHS), 7-4.
138 — Jevon Parrish (ON) won by fall over William Maas (LHS), 1:06; Kyle Divine (SMS) won by fall over William Maas (LHS), 2:09.
145 — William Calixto (ON) won by fall over Solomon Wakhungu (LHS), 1:00; Julian Gutierrez (SMNW) won by fall decision over Solomon Wakhungu (LHS), 4-0.
152 — Alec McKernan (ONW) won by decision over Fransoir Jones (LHS), 9-5; Fransoir Jones (LHS) won by fall over Jerald Young (SME), 2:13; Brandon Stowe (OS) won by fall over Fransoir Jones (LHS), 4:58.
160 — Justin Miller (LHS) won by fall over Sam Sanabria (SMNW), 3:29; McCoy Stoker (ON) won by fall over Justin Miller (LHS), 3:13; Alex Baiza (ONW) won by fall over Justin Miller (LHS), 2:20.