Augusta was supposed to have difficulty figuring out how to replace eight seniors from the 2012-13 wrestling squad that set a record for state qualifiers with nine. Coach Brandon Terry admitted he figured there would be more bumps along the road this season with so many new faces.
“You think that you’re going to have growing pains. It’s a tribute to our kids. They battled…,” Terry said. “All the way up and down, there are kids wrestling above their heads, I guess you could say.”
Instead, the Orioles shattered all expectations. At the Class 4A Regional in Winfield this past weekend, Augusta broke its record by qualifying 12 Orioles—they called themselves the “Dirty Dozen”—for the state tournament in Salina this coming weekend. Augusta also won its first ever Regional championship.
“I think as much as anything, the kids believed,” Terry said. “We got on a roll Saturday morning. One of them wrestled with heart, and that carried over….The kids just took care of business, and really it’s a tribute to the group of kids I have. They’re just hard-working, hard-nosed kids.”
The Orioles didn’t just win the tournament. They dominated. Augusta finished with 229 team points, 90 points better than runner-up Andover Central (139). The Orioles had seven finalists and three regional champions.
Jake Goldenstein (113 pounds) topped Pratt’s Trae Foreman 6-2 in the semifinals and Andale’s Zach Eck 8-4 in the championship to win his third straight regional title for the Orioles. He said this title was the sweetest of them all.
“I avenged two losses, both I’d say pretty soundly,” Goldenstein said.
Against Eck, Goldenstein landed a shot at his legs late in the first period for the match’s first points. He escaped for the only point of the second period. Eck tried to beat Goldenstein with a couple of scramble takedowns, but Goldenstein scored a reversal to clinch the match.
“I didn’t force anything,” Goldenstein said of his rematch with Eck. “I wrestled more defensive. I had a passive offense, let him make mistakes, going off what he does.”
Colton Clayborn won his regional championship also by avenging a loss earlier in the season. From the opening whistle, Clayborn dismantled Clearwater’s Curtis Rylant—who had just three losses all season—with a pin at the 1:46 mark to win the 160-pound title.
“Focus was different, determination. I was determined out there,” Clayborn said was the biggest difference in the rematch.
Ian O’Laughlin may have had the toughest final of them all at 220. He had to wait until overtime before getting a takedown of Central’s Doug Hoffman for a 6-4 win near the edge of the playing mat. O’Laughlin said it took everything out of him and was exhausted afterwards, but he pushed through.
“Don’t be satisfied with second. Be hungry,” O’Laughlin said he told himself.
Tyler Hildibrand (106) had a dominant tournament until the championship match as Andale’s Bryce Garcia got the better of him in overtime for a 4-2 win. Wright Bosley (170) also had a dominant tournament by getting three pins to reach the final. But there, Mulvane’s Evan Elston handled him for a 9-0 win. Cody Thompson (182) and Blake Aitchison (285) also took second place for the Orioles.
What may make the Orioles’ tournament performance most impressive is that eight of their qualifiers are going to State for the first time as several of them only have wrestled varsity for one season.
“Just paying attention in the work room, learning everything that I needed to learn and going hard every match,” said Blake Watkins, who wrestled on JV a year ago and wrestled way up in his 195-pound division all season.
In the do-or-die round, Watkins might have had one of the toughest matches, but he was able to keep the lead through the third period before the ref was able to lift his arm for the victory in the circle.
“I just took my momentum and swung him around, got him in my little game, the chauncery,” Watkins said.
Other first-time state qualifiers who had to stay alive in the consolation bracket include Nathan Moore (120), Josh Moore (126), Connor Spellman (145) and Rob Winzer (152). Spellman said ever since he’s watched his brother, former Oriole Drake Spellman, compete at State, he’s been driven to get there himself.
“I was just thinking that all my hard work has paid off in this moment,” Spellman said after qualifying.
“Connor Spellman, the kid that he beat to go to State, majored him the first tournament of the year,” Terry said of Spellman’s 3-0 win against Pratt’ Devon Smith.
As Winzer has done all year, he used his combination of strength and speed to catch Mulvane’s Chase Miller off-guard while in the down position on a whistle move that led to a reversal and pin.
“I just felt him coming over the top, and I caught his head at the right moment and pulled him over. It felt great. Probably one of the best feelings I’ve had in my life,” Winzer said of qualifying for State.
Spellman, Winzer and both Josh and Nathan all settled for fourth-place medals after losing in the consolation finals. Still, the younger Orioles felt plenty of satisfaction.
“It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders,” Josh said. “I just reached my first goal of the year. That’s the goal I’ve had since freshman year.”
Josh said he and his brother Nathan talk wrestling at home all the time. They might be each other’s biggest fans. Josh certainly was Nathan’s biggest fan watching him at State last year. Now, they both get to go.
“I wanted my brother to qualify so badly this year, just bad as I wanted to [qualify],” Moore said.
To top everything off for the Orioles and their dominant, record-setting Regional performance, Terry was named the tournament’s top coach.
“We have a good coaching staff,” Terry said. “We’ve done this together for several years. We’re on the same page, and our kids are on the same page.”
Andover Central finished with two champions. Paul Suhr continued his tear this season with a convincing win against El Dorado's Gage Armstrong (152). Central's Nic Augustin edged Wellington's Andrew Pelkey 3-2 to win the title.
El Dorado had two champions. Reno Hughey earned a regional championship at 126 after pinning Central's Dalton Rodd with one second left in the second period. Jacobb Burnett got a pin in the heavyweight championship against Augusta's Aitchison.
Andale's Tyler Mies, a three-time state medalist who won the 138-pound title with a tech win against Rose Hill's Jake Wilson, was voted the wrestler of the tournament.
The Class 4A state tournament will be at the Bicentennial Center in Salina this coming Friday and Saturday.