State preview: Young Free State squad, LHS seniors pumped for wrestling championship

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Free State senior D'onte Goodman grabs ahold of Dodge City's Gabriel Aguilera during a home dual on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, at Free State High School.

A school-record 12 Free State wrestlers and seven more Lawrence High wrestlers are slated to represent the city on the state’s biggest stage in Park City after strong team performances at their regional tournaments last weekend.

The Firebirds opened the west regional at Wichita North with a 15-1 record on their way to a fifth-place team finish headlined with second-place finishes by Grayson Hagen (150 pounds) and Gabe Swoyer (157 pounds) in close finales.

Eight juniors landed their way onto the FSHS state squad: Michael Hernandez (106 pounds), Brayden Wilcox (113 pounds), Drew Streeter (126 pounds), Otto Reece (138 pounds), Hagen, Swoyer, Cole Wright (165 pounds) and Zane Larkin (215 pounds).

Hagen and Swoyer opened the regional meet with a combined 7-0 showing, each going on to punch their state tickets in the championship round. The pair of juniors agreed that, in some facets, regionals can be even more nerve-racking than the actual state championship.

“You can tell it’s a lot more serious at regionals because this could be your last tournament if you don’t perform well,” Hagen said. “It really does get the team prepared.”

“It was definitely a confidence builder,” Swoyer said.

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Free State junior Grayson Hagen adjusts his hold on Dodge City’s Emanuel Quezada during a home dual on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, at Free State High School.

After climbing his way to the first-place title match, Hagen fell to Topeka-Washburn Rural’s Kristjan Marshall by sudden victory. Then the Junior Blues got the best of the Firebirds again when Brody Byrne defeated Swoyer in his championship finale.

Additionally, senior D’onte Goodman (144 pounds), sophomore Zane Shaw (175 pounds) and freshmen Coghlan Odom (120 pounds) and Xander Swoyer (285 pounds) made the final cut.

There’s a lot of experience to be gained for such a young group, especially on the heels of former Firebirds Matthew Marcum and Eric Streeter’s respective state title runs a year ago.

Eric’s younger brother, Drew, said business is far from finished for the underclassmen.

“There’s a little pressure on my end to live up to my brother’s footsteps of being in the finals and winning it,” Streeter said.

photo by: Contributed photo

Free State junior Drew Streeter blasts off during a match at the Leavenworth Challenger on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at Leavenworth High School.

“I feel like this is just our warmup year. Next year, after taking 12 guys to (state), everyone’s going to be good next year and already have done Hartman (Arena) so they’re going to be prepared.”

Seven Lions hungry for a taste of state magic

Although its contingent is half the size of the Firebirds’, Lawrence High’s ambitions are just as high entering this year’s state championship with seven names on the bracket.

The Chesty Lions locked up state slots for four seniors – Andrew Honas (132 pounds), Arlo Collier (150 pounds), Harrison Kirkwood (165 pounds), and Brandt Wollesen (175 pounds) – as part of their ninth-place team finish at Olathe West.

Junior Reece Meyer (190 pounds) and sophomore Jadin Harrell (215 pounds) will join sophomore Lou Elsten to round out the Lions’ state lineup. Kirkwood, who placed fifth individually at regionals with a win over Olathe South’s Logan Sell by fall, said spirits are still high headed into Park City.

“We had seven guys all go into that (qualifying) round and we had all seven guys come out,” Kirkwood said. “I’m just enjoying spending the time around them. I remember, as a freshman, the seniors were great to me and I just hope I add that atmosphere for everyone else.”

photo by: Contributed photo

The Lawrence High boys wrestling team poses for a group picture after placing second overall at the Joel Rios Invite at Shawnee Mission South High School on Jan. 5, 2023.

Honas carried the torch for LHS, claiming a first-place title over Olathe North’s Blake Samuelson by decision and improving to 36-4 on his senior campaign. Elsten also made a big regional run, finishing with third-place honors after winning by a major decision over Blue Valley’s Kai Hedgecock.

Expectations are also rising for Collier, who placed fifth individually at regionals with a win over Shawnee Mission Northwest’s Colin Cummings by fall, heading into the state tournament. After rejoining the Lions’ program last season, Collier is well aware of just how much is up for grabs this time of year.

“This is make-or-break,” Collier said. “You leave nothing out there and don’t regret anything because, if you do, you’re going to leave empty in your stomach.”

The opening round is set for 5:15 p.m. on Thursday at Hartman Arena.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.