Free State’s Lou Fincher seeking state title in final trip to state tournament
Free State senior Lou Fincher is one first-place finish from finishing the sweep.
Fresh off capturing a Sunflower League title and a regional crown, Fincher enters his final state meet looking for more. With a win this weekend in the Class 6A state tournament at Hartman Arena, Fincher could become the third individual boys state champion in program history.
“It’s my last run at state, so I’m trying to win a state championship,” Fincher said. “That’s what I have been working for all year.”
Fincher (30-8) is one of 28 area wrestlers slated to compete in the state wrestling tournament, a two-day event that will begin on Friday. The Class 6A state tourney, which features both Lawrence High and Free State, will be held at Hartman Arena in Park City.
Baldwin, Eudora and Tonganoxie will all be in action at the Class 4A state tournament at Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina, which was the site of the first-ever girls state tournament on Thursday. Perry-Lecompton is slated to compete in the Class 3A state tournament at Fort Hays State University.
Fincher, who was one of five area athletes to win a regional title, is ranked No. 2 in the 132-pound weight class in Class 6A, behind only Mill Valley senior Zach Keal. With Keal being on the other side of the bracket, Fincher wouldn’t have to face him until the championship match.
“I just need to get rid of the butterflies,” Fincher said. “I just need to realize that I’m here to win it, like every match.”
But Fincher’s preparation to earn a state title began at the end of last year.
Fincher finished third in the 126-pound weight class, ending a 35-6 campaign. It marked the first state medal of his high school career. Yet Fincher wasn’t satisfied, and began training even harder in the offseason.
It was a sense of urgency that Fincher has seen from previous FSHS wrestlers, but one he didn’t fully comprehend until he was entering his final season.
“My teammates in the past have had that mentality,” Fincher said. “I wrestled three or four days a week every week, and then I was lifting four days a week. That’s something I hadn’t done the previous years.”
Fincher is one of five wrestlers attending the final meet of the season, which includes freshmen Nolan Bradley (19-11, No. 5 in 106) and Eric Streeter (15-16). Juniors Caleb Streeter (29-10, No. 6 in 138) and Austin Burenheide (15-15) are also going to be there for the Firebirds.
Lawrence will have three wrestlers looking to end the season on a high note. Kevin Honas, who is 30-8 and ranked No. 3 in the 120-pound weight class, is coming off a third-place finish at regionals. He also placed fifth at the state meet last year as a freshman.
Junior Trey Medina, who won a Sunflower League title earlier this season, enters the state tourney with a 28-9 record and is ranked No. 6 in the 152-pound weight class. Jack Elsten, a freshman, is 21-17 ahead of his first trip to the big event.
But there are multiple area wrestlers expected to be in the mix on Saturday in both Salina and Hays. Tonganoxie senior Connor Searcy, who won a state title last year, is the top-ranked wrestler in Class 4A in the 220-pound weight class and 40-1 on the year.
Sophomore Grayson Sonntag (40-2) is ranked No. 1 in the 120-pound weight class and coming off a first-place finish at regionals. Eudora junior Cael Lynch (27-8, No. 5 in 145) and Perry-Lecompton senior Grant Roush (31-4, No. 5 in 152) also won regional titles in their last meet.
Baldwin sophomore Nakos Benton (32-9, No. 5 in 106), Tonganoxie sophomore Gabriel Bailey (No. 6 in 145) and Perry-Lecompton junior Hayden Robb (18-4, No. 5 in 220) will also be looking to find the podium on Saturday.