After a 2017-18 season that saw them send 10 wrestlers to the 6A state tournament, the Dodge City Red Demons got good news Tuesday.
Two wrestlers earned First-Team All-Conference selections, while three others were Second-Team selections. Head coach Lars Lueders was selected as the Western Athletic Conference’s Coach of the Year.
The Red Demons won the WAC this season.
Sophomore Anthony Mariche and junior Evan Darville took home First-Team Selections. Seniors Ansony Quezada and Cisco Soto, as well as sophomore Jashon Taylor earned Second-Team Selections.
Lueders said the boys’ selections were a testament to how consistent they were this season.
“Overall we were consistent in our WAC duals and against WAC opponents, so for a young team consistency was really great this season,” Lueders said.
The Red Demons concluded their season last weekend, finishing 11th at the state tournament.
It the final season for seniors Preston Moon, Weston Moon, Cisco Soto, Ansony Quezada and Carlos Marquez.
“They’ve been a great example of how to work in the offseason, how to be there for your team, how to show up consistently, how to work hard every single day,” Lueders said. “I think they were great role models and just showing our younger guys how to grind through a season and the day-in and day-out struggles of being a wrestler.”
Lueders coached all of them from freshman year on. He watched them mature mentally and grow phyisically.
“That’s one of the coolest things about being a coach is seeing ‘em (mature),” Lueders said.
He knew many of them even before they were high schoolers, he said.
“I’m really involved in the middle school, and so I knew these guys when they were in seventh and eighth grade, and to even see ‘em grow up from that stage in their life is pretty amazing and pretty cool and I’m excited to watch them in their next stages and see what kind of men they grow up to be as well,” Lueders said.
Lueders himself earned recognition for his efforts as a coach this season in the WAC.
“(I) feel honored that my peers voted me on for that,” Lueders said. “Anytime that you get an award that’s voted no by your peers, that really means a lot just because it shows a level of respect from the other coaches, not just maybe for me but for our program and our assistant coaches and just overall the whole wrestling program.”
Though the team finished 11th at state, Lueders said this season reminded him of another one not long ago, that ended similarly.
“This reminds me a lot of actually four years ago,” Lueders said. “We had (finished) 11th at state, we had a bunch of freshmen, and the next year we got third in state. So this group reminds me a lot of four years ago, and I think the experience level is gonna be huge for next year. I think having so many young kinds in the varsity lineup, and it’s not just the guys that went to regionals, we had other guys that really were varsity almost all year that didn’t go to regionals and are young.”
Just like that year, this year could end up setting the stage for a strong performance by the team next year.
“I think basically looking at next year, just the level of experience that we gained this year was huge,” Lueders said. “Like I said, (it) just reminds me a lot of four years ago, and that’s exactly what happened with that team that had a lot of freshmen (and) a lot of sophomores that got experience, and the next year they were ready to roll.”