Tai Newhouse ‘catching people by surprise’ during first season with FSHS wrestling

photo by: Courtesy photo

Free State junior Tai Newhouse pins Mill Valley senior Ethan Kremer during a match in the 285-pound weight class Saturday afternoon at Tonganoxie High School on Jan. 23, 2021. Newhouse is 11-0 and No. 3 in Class 6A during his first season with Free State's wrestling program.

In his debut season of high school wrestling, Free State junior Tai Newhouse has surprised plenty of tough opponents — including the top-ranked wrestler in Class 5A, whom he defeated last Saturday.

He’s also been surprising himself.

The standout football player was talked into joining the wrestling squad by some of the other wrestlers in early December. And he never could have foreseen that he would go 11-0 and climb to the No. 3 rank in 6A’s 285-pound weight class over the next two months.

“This is not at all what I thought was going to happen,” Newhouse said. “I thought I wouldn’t be awful, but I just thought I would get outclassed by a ton of people.”

Instead, Newhouse has been a dynamic performer for the Firebirds, who are ranked No. 7 in Class 6A and have raced out to an 18-0 start to the 2020-21 season. His victory at Saturday’s quadrangular at Tonganoxie was no exception.

In what he considers the biggest win of his career so far. Newhouse pinned Mill Valley senior Ethan Kremer, who is the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class in Class 5A and has won back-to-back state titles.

The pin came about 40 seconds into the second round, and Newhouse used some misdirection throughout the match to make it possible. He mixed up his pace to keep Kremer off balance, and ultimately finished the match with what he described as a “sort of a switch” move.

“I was just trying to catch him off guard, basically,” Newhouse said. “In that moment, it was just incredible. My teammates were screaming, and everyone was cheering. It was definitely something that I can’t forget.”

The element of surprise has been one of Newhouse’s main weapons so far this season.

Newhouse’s athleticism is evident because of his football background. This past fall, he led the Free State football team in total tackles with 45 in six games. He also played left tackle for the offensive line. He can squat more than 500 pounds and bench 300 pounds.

His strength and speed are on display whenever he’s stepped on the wrestling mat this year. But opponents might not know to prepare for that in advance, because Newhouse hadn’t wrestled since he was in junior high.

“It’s really just catching people by surprise,” Newhouse said. “I’m a lot stronger and a lot faster than a lot of these guys, so I’m just overpowering them.”

After his upset win over Kremer, Newhouse likely won’t be overlooked anymore. And he understands that he can’t rely solely on his athleticism forever.

“I know that I’m still a pretty inexperienced wrestler,” Newhouse said. “I didn’t just beat (Kremer) and automatically win a state championship. There is a lot more that has to go into it.”

He’ll have some skilled teammates, including his workout partner Preston Tran, to help him hone his skills for next month’s postseason meets. And he said the new coaching staffers — head coach Randy Streeter and assistants Jonathan Inman and Brent Hoffman — also have his back as he prepares.

“Just an outstanding coaching staff. They just know wrestling,” Newhouse said. “We have a ton of talented wrestlers, too. Just that combination. Free State has had a ton of talent wrestling-wise, and I feel like this is the year we are able to bring everything together.”

In addition to Newhouse, five other FSHS boys wrestlers are ranked in the latest poll by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association, which was released on Tuesday: sophomore Nolan Bradley (No. 2 in 106), sophomore Eric Streeter (No. 4 in 113), junior Darius Shields (No. 2 in 120), senior Caleb Streeter (No. 2 in 138) and sophomore Matthew Marcum (No. 5 in 170).

Free State will be back in action on Saturday in a quadrangular at Blue Valley High School. The event is slated to begin at 9 a.m.


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