Holton wrestlers claim third straight state trophy
While a third straight team championship might not have been in the cards for the Holton wrestling team at the 4A state tournament in Salina over the weekend, what the Holton wrestlers did on Friday and Saturday may have been equally as impressive.
For the third straight year, the Wildcats claimed a team trophy at the state tournament, finishing third in Class 4A this season after back-to-back titles. To get that trophy, the team needed every wrestler still alive in the consolation bracket on Saturday to make it to the medal rounds. The Holton wrestlers passed that test with flying colors and got some key breaks on the way to that finish.
“For this group, it’s amazing. You look back two weeks ago and we finished second in our league tournament. That was a gut check moment for this group. Obviously it’s different settings and different types of competition, but this is a tough group of boys and they showed their toughness Saturday in several matches,” HHS coach Cullen Jackson said. “They’re gritty, they’re tough and they’re stubborn. They knew what they had to do to get it done and they didn’t want to accept anything less on Saturday and it showed.”
After Mason Baum, Tyler Price, Justin Pool and Justin Rieschick all locked up medals in the consolation bracket, the Wildcats had a shot at a trophy following Abilene’s lack of success in the final round and senior Lucas Lovvorn helped put the exclamation point on that finish for the Wildcats.
Lovvorn claimed a second straight individual state title, something only one other Holton wrestler (Jesse Strawn) has ever done, to help Holton lock up its third-place team finish.
While Lovvorn went unscored upon on his way to an individual title at 152 lbs. last year, the road to the 160-lb. title was a little tougher this season. The senior entered state competition as the top-ranked wrestler in his weight class and also faced the third, fourth and fifth-ranked wrestlers in his class on the way to a championship.
In the finals, against Chanute’s Brady Vogel, Lovvorn even got behind early after giving up a takedown, but the senior wrestler quickly regrouped.
“I knew after that first takedown, it went through my mind that I have to get going. I can’t just let this happen. I thought to myself, ‘I have to get out of here and I have to get some points,’” Lovvorn said. “That’s not how I wanted to end my season. That’s not how I wanted to end my high school career.”
“It’s a lot of hard work to get a state title. Wrestling, I think, it’s one of the toughest sports in the world. You have to have determination. It’s a lot of heart and a lot of hard work. It’s all in the practice room,” Lovvorn added.
“He doesn’t miss a workout. He’s excited to be in the practice room every day and I’m excited to see where the sport’s going to take him in the future. He’s got a bright future ahead of him,” Jackson said of the senior.
Lovvorn’s hard work put him in some elite company with Strawn and in the same position as someone who young Holton wrestlers can look up to as an example of that commitment paying off, something that could be said of all of the Wildcats’ state medalists.
Two more Holton wrestlers, Justin Pool and Justin Rieschick, claimed third-place medals on Saturday and both will also be coming back to the team next season.
Pool in particular could have a lot of momentum on his side as Jackson noted the junior really turned a corner a month and a half ago and made himself a strong all-around wrestler, which paid off in the consolation finals.
Facing Hugoton’s Pedro Ordonez in an ultimate tiebreaker, Pool got a key reversal in the first tiebreaker period, but Ordonez matched that in the second tiebreaker. With just 13 seconds left, though, Pool worked his way out for an escape that gave him a 5-4 victory and earned him a third-place medal.
“All the work every day for 165 days is just exhausting, but it pays off in the end,” Pool said.
That work is something that Jackson sees paying off for Pool next year as well.
“He’s going to be a dangerous athlete next year when we start the season. He’s going to be a valuable asset to us and a great senior,” Jackson said.
The same could be said of Rieschick, who seemed destined for a match-up in the finals with Chanute’s Adam Cole. While Rieschick was tripped up by the slimmest of margins (5-4) against eventual state champion Reno Hughey (El Dorado) in the semifinals, he left no doubt in his third-place match.
Having beaten Smoky Valley’s Brandon Archuleta by a close 2-1 decision earlier in the season, Rieschick said he decided he wouldn’t let this match-up be as tight and came out looking quicker, more aggressive and in control on the way to a win by 7-3 decision.
Just missing out on a shot at a state title is something both coach and wrestler alike said would push Rieschick going into his senior season.
“He will be motivated, I can guarantee you that. I can’t wait to see how dominant he’s going to be,” Jackson said.
“It hurts to not be on top this year, but it just gives me something to work for next year,” Rieschick added. “Not being on top, it hurts, so you just have to come back and work harder.”
Another Wildcat who seemed to be wrestling with a chip on his shoulder was sophomore Tyler Price. After a tough 9-7 loss in overtime in the quarterfinals to Abilene’s Trey Hoerner, the sophomore seemed like a man on a mission on Saturday.
“Tyler’s dangerous because it doesn’t matter what the score is, he can pin you,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is, he’s going to wrestle to the end and he’s going to find a way to beat you and he did that Saturday on several occasions.”
Most impressively may have been in the consolation semifinals, when Price faced a large deficit against Wamego’s Dalton Carley, a wrestler he had lost to twice this season, before coming back and pinning him to get into the consolation finals. Price went on to take fourth at 138 lbs.
Senior Mason Baum blazed a similar path through the consolation bracket, though it has become old hat for Baum who has pushed through adversity in the consolation bracket with much success the past two seasons.
“When he’s determined and he’s on his game, he is extremely difficult to wrestle,” Jackson said of the fifth-place medalist.
Even two seniors who didn’t medal, Nathan Shields and Kegan Meister, showed some toughness at the state tournament after some difficult draws, especially with Meister facing eventual state champion Jason Zook of Chapman in the first round.
While the Wildcats will have a solid core of state medalists back next year, Jackson noted the team will still be fairly young and will feature several freshmen and sophomores. This year’s group of state qualifiers set a good example, though, and left a good path for the young Holton wrestlers to follow.