Trio of Free State wrestlers bracing for the end of an era while hoping to go out strong and together

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World photo

After competing together for more than a decade, Free State wrestlers Nolan Bradley, left, Matthew Marcum, center, and Eric Streeter are preparing to enter the final month of their prep careers with more trophies and memories to collect.

More than a decade of racking up memorable wrestling experiences together will come to an end this month for Free State High seniors Nolan Bradley, Matthew Marcum and Eric Streeter.

Free State wrestling coach Randy Streeter has watched the trio immerse themselves into the sport since 2009, when his son, Eric, was just 4 years old.

Before taking over the Free State program three years ago, Randy Streeter did not anticipate getting a front-row seat to watch all three grind out their high school years on the mat. But he has enjoyed watching them grow into title-contending Firebirds the way he always did when they competed in his Sunflower Kids Wrestling Club all those years ago.

The Free State coach said the three seniors — Bradley at 113 pounds, Eric Streeter at 144 and Marcum at 215 — have set an intense standard for the program during their time as Firebirds. They’re hoping to finish strong during the next three weeks, with three more titles on the line, starting with Saturday’s Sunflower League meet at Olathe South. Class 6A regionals and the state meet will follow.

“They’re looked up to because they win a lot,” Randy Streeter said. “But how they carry themselves off the mat, out of the wrestling room and when they’re traveling to tournaments with other teams, it’s nice to see the reaction and the respect. We haven’t actually had a lot of leadership here. Especially with kids, too many feelings get hurt. We’re trying to change that a little bit, saying ‘Hey, these guys are paving the way, these guys have been wrestling for 12 years straight, these guys have been doing the right things.'”

photo by: Journal-World file photo

Current Free State wrestlers Matthew Marcum, left, Eric Streeter, center and Nolan Bradley, are pictured here at age 7 in 2012, with the Sunflower Kids Wrestling Club. The trio that has been wrestling together for more than a decade will compete at its final high school meets this month.

Bradley and Marcum, who both won state championships in 2022, said they struggled to remember the last time Eric Streeter was not wrestling alongside them. However, when he sustained a high ankle sprain at Junction City just before the holiday break, Bradley and Marcum entered the new year wrestling out of their comfort zones.

And Bradley, who has committed to continue wrestling at Cloud Community College, said getting his friend and teammate back on the mat is long overdue. Eric Streeter is aiming to return to competition at regionals later this month.

“It’s been weird wrestling without him,” Bradley said. “I haven’t done a lot of that, so it’s sure going to bring the energy up when he gets back. We’re pretty much used to being right next to each other on the mat, neither of us has had a big injury like that.”

Both Bradley (120-26) and Marcum (101-23) enter Saturday’s league meet already having passed the 100-win mark for their careers. Eric Streeter sits at 97-26 and is hoping to join them in passing the century mark before his prep career is over.

All three have been vocal leaders throughout the Firebirds’ preparation for the postseason. And that leadership, which Eric Streeter has contributed to even while injured, has helped the three Firebirds rekindle their chemistry on the mat.

Regardless of the outcome during the next three weekends, Eric Streeter is motivated to map out his own future in the next few months. He’s planning to join Marcum on visits to schools in Nebraska and Iowa.

“Everything we work on, it just happens out there,” Eric Streeter said of the trio’s live action at duals and tournaments. “It just depends on how hard you work in here and that’s the result you’re going to get. In the house, out of the house, we’re always wrestling. It’s kind of sad, but I’m kind of ready for the next chapter. I feel like I’ve been here enough, and made enough memories. I don’t really regret anything. It’s been pretty awesome.”

With the spring semester under way and the wrestling season winding down, the three Firebirds who have competed together in both wrestling and baseball throughout their time at Free State, know the end is near. But they, along with their coach, are trying to keep those last-match emotions from settling in.

“We’re not talking about it yet,” Randy Streeter said, grinning. We had a senior night and that was tough enough. There are some solid wrestlers in that room and they’ve always looked up to that group, and I think, while they’ll be missed, it’ll be time for other guys to step in, just like anything else. You see it all the time; who’s next?”


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