WICHITA — Eight Dodge City Red Demon wrestlers qualified for the Class 6A state meet Saturday after competing at regional action at Wichita Northwest.
The Red Demons finished fifth as a team in the final standings; but what was more important for the squad was to get as many wrestlers into the state meet at Hartman Arena. The number of state qualifiers doubled from the tally in 2013.
"I thought we wrestled really tough," said Dodge City head coach Lars Lueders. "We talked to them about taking it one match at a time; and they didn't look ahead and relax at all. They wrestled as best as they could and they wrestled tough. The hard work these last couple of weeks has really paid off.
"I think the kids mentality was that they were going to go to the state tournament, and that's the mentality we're getting back to as a team. I think our mentality has changed through the course of the year and that's a good thing. I hope this leads to a successful state tournament for us."
Two wrestlers won the individual regional title in their divisions: Jaquan Graves at 120 pounds and Clay Weil at 126.
Weil, the top seed in his weight class, returns to the state tournament with a chance to win another medal after finishing fourth at 120 last year.
The sophomore opened Saturday with a 6-0 decision over Garden City's Thomas Marquez; then won by a 16-1 technical fall over Hutchinson freshman Dakota Grover. Weil completed his run by beating Maize senior Jake Wilgers 4-1 in the final match.
"This year, the goal is a lot higher," Weil said. "The goal is to make it to the state finals. I'm really happy that I'm chugging along."
Graves had never qualified for the state meet in his previous three years; but made his senior season special after claiming his regional title.
Graves, a second seed, won by a 10-1 major decision over Khalil Franklin in first round action; followed pinning Hagen Kent of Hutchinson at 4:56 in the semifinal round. Graves closed out the day by beating top-seeded Masen McCracken (Maize) by a 7-5 decision to claim his title.
"After the last four years of working and seeing my practice partners go to state; it's a great feeling to go to the coaches and say 'Hey, I'm a state qualifier,'" Graves said. "I just went out a little groggy (in the first two) matches and the coaches told me that if I wanted to go to state, you need to accomplish your goals."
Three other wrestlers reached the championship match in their weight divisions: freshmen Devon Asebedo (132) and Tylor Garcia (138) and junior Jhett Ostrom (182). All three went 2-1 on the day.
Asebedo was a four-seed in his regional bracket and opened up by beating Wichita North's Nathan Miller-Ayala by pin at 1:13, then upset top-seeded Alec Castillo of Garden City by a 6-5 decision to qualify for state. He lost to Wichita Northwest's Shane Brock by a 10-6 decision in the final.
"This is the greatest feeling I've had since I had made kids' state two years ago," Asebedo said. "This was pretty big."
Garcia qualified for state after beating Robert Lopez (Wichita North) 7-4 and Sean Taborsky (Campus) 17-10 in the semifinals. He lost by technical fall (20-5) to Tevin Briscoe in the final.
"It's really good and was one of my goals since I met Coach Lueders," Garcia said. "He encouraged me to work hard and get big and to exceed over my limits."
Ostrom pinned Ryan Green (Hutchinson) at 3:56 in the first round to win his opener; then won by a 14-0 major decision over Parker Hartley (Campus) in the semifinals to punch his ticket to Hartman Arena. He lost to Andre Turner (Wichita Northwest) by a 14-2 major decision in the final.
"I really wanted to make it to state last year, but it didn't happen," Ostrom said. "I put in the work in the offseason and it's finally paying off."
Three other Demons went through the losers bracket to qualify at the state meet at four seeds: sophomore Nick Killion (152), freshman Dylan Servis (160) and junior Zack Cook (170).
Killion beat Campus' Blake Dickey at 2:52 in the first round, before falling short in a 4-3 decision to Jesse Nunez in the semifinals. Killion pinned Lucas Dunbar at 3:46 to qualify for Hartman Arena, then lost to Kevin Folsom (Wichita Northwest) 7-4 in the third place match.
Servis pinned Hutchinson's Lukas Schweigert at 4:41 in the first round to open his day; before losing a 10-6 decision to Garden City's Zac Finch in the semifinals. He then beat Wichita South's Adam Deiter by a 12-1 major decision to qualify for the state meet; before getting pinned by Alonzo Samilton of Wichita North at 55 seconds in the third place match.
Cook, a six-seed, lost his first round match to Maize's Devon Baker 14-8; then won by a 13-0 major decision over Drew Townson (Maize) and Taylor Crumley (Wichita North). Cook lost 4-3 to Baker in the third place match.
The Red Demons scored 117.5 points as a team. Garden City won the team regional title with 189.5 points, followed by Wichita Northwest (160), Maize (118.5), Hutchinson (117), Dodge City, Campus (82), Wichita North (62) and Wichita South (25).
Action at the state meet will start at 9 a.m. Friday, with the finals expected to start late Saturday afternoon.