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Trego's Staples looking for state at loaded regional

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Cameron Staples has a lineage of all-state wrestlers. His grandfather, Jack, placed at state. His grandpa's cousin, Mark, was WaKeeney-Trego Community High School's first state champion. His father, Tom, finished in the top six.

Staples has wrestled since he was 3 years old, and has competed at a high level. In junior high, Staples finished 5-0 with five falls at league.

"I always saw this potential in him," said Trego coach Jeremy Samson, in his first year as head varsity coach and the former head junior high coach.

In high school, Staples, also a standout football player and golfer, fell one match short of state his freshman and sophomore years. Last year, Staples missed the season because of a fractured orbital suffered in an accident while playing football with friends.

This winter, Staples started 4-4, but is 19-2 since mid-December. One of the losses was by injury default and the other came when he finished third at Bob Kuhn Prairie Senior Classic in Hays. Both of those defeats came to Oakley senior Jason Berkgren, who is ranked No. 3 in 170 pounds.

"That could be the best I have seen him wrestle in a long time," Samson said of Staples' third-place showing. "There was some stout competition."

He is ranked No. 6 at 170 pounds in Class 3-2-1A entering this weekend's Norton regional. The top four from each weight class qualify for next week's state meet at Fort Hays State University.

"Very excited just to kind of see where I am at and try to see if I can make it to the dance," Staples said. "It's been on my mind since May even and now that it's finally getting closer and closer, I am just ready to get on the mat and see if I can prove something."

As usual, the western regional is loaded with top wrestlers. Forty-four percent of the state's ranked wrestlers are at Norton. Every weight class has at least two ranked wrestlers, except for 113 pounds, which has just one.

"It would just be nice to just see some way that they could split it, and not throw every MCL school and every Northwest Kansas league school in the same regional," Samson said.

In the team rankings, No. 1 Plainville, No. 3 Norton, No. 4 and defending state champion Scott City, No. 5 Hoxie, No. 6 Oberlin-Decatur Community and No. 10 Phillipsburg are all at Norton.

"If we had our choice, I think a lot of us would be willing to drive east," Samson said. "Heck, last year, we drove three hours south (to Lakin) and still had to wrestle each other. A lot of us would have willingly driven three hours east to the Council Grove regional."

Last year, senior 285-pounder Dustin Zahn competed at state for Quinter, but had a cooperative agreement with Trego during the season. No Golden Eagle wrestler has qualified for the state meet since 2008. The last state placer for Trego was Michael Malay, who won a state title at 189 pounds in 2007 and is now the assistant coach.

"We have been on a dry spell," Samson said. "They know. It is painted on the wall in our wrestling room. It's there every day as a reminder. It's been since your assistant coach, since we have brought home a medal from up there. We have talked about that, and I think they understand and I think that's been a big part of this. We have made a little turn."

Staples suffered his eye injury when he playing catch with some friends. He was running a pattern and his friend released the football.

"He was trying to hit me in the back of the head, but I turned around right at that time," Staples said.

The ball hit Staples in the eye. It crushed his sinus and broke his eye socket. That night, the problem grew worse when Staples sneezed and grabbed his nose.

"It kind of blew everything up into my eye," Staples said. "Shot the bone fragments behind my eye, and the doctor said I could lose my eyesight, my eye could actually be pushing in the back of my head. I might be able to not play any contact sports for a really long time."

Staples took some medicine and rested.

"Some of it healed itself, but a lot of it is still messed up," he said. "But healthy enough that it won't get broken again."

Early on, Staples struggled some getting used to the speed. Every night, Staples and his dad drill after practice. Staples said everything "all came together" at the league tournament in mid-December.

"He is a total different wrestler than he was in those first two weeks in December," Samson said. "It was him deciding and figuring out, I haven't forgotten to wrestle. I am better than what I am showing right now."

Staples does fight illness because the crushed sinus doesn't allow him to get mucus out of his head. Several weeks ago, Staples ended up injury defaulting to Berkgren at the Western Kansas Tournament of Champions final.

"Since then, I haven't been quite up to 100 percent, but trying to get there again," Staples said.

Ellis has several on the bubble

Ellis has one of the area's top wrestlers in senior 152-pounder Gage Younger ranked No. 2 at 152 pounds with a 30-1 record. He is a two-time state placer. However, the Railroaders could qualify several other wrestlers, including junior 145-pounder Landon Younger (15-10) and junior 220-pounder Skyler Tebo (10-13). Sophomore 132-pounder Jared Pfeifer likely would have been in the mix, but is out for the season after he injured his elbow in December.

"Landon has taken a few losses this year," coach Casey Dinkel said. "They happen, and if we can just put them behind us, he could really change things up for that tournament. Tebo, same way. He has got a lot of matches that he has lost by one or two points. The majority of his losses are by one or two points, so he is in every match. He has just got to step it up a little bit more."