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3-2-1A preview: Plainville a little more shorthanded than Cardinals expected

By KLINT SPILLER
kspiller@dailynews.net

Prior to the Class 3-2-1A regional wrestling tournament at Norton, Plainville High School was the state favorite to win the title at
Gross Memorial Coliseum this weekend, but like many teams, the Cardinals had a rough road through the brackets at Norton.

Six wrestlers made it through, but two ranked wrestlers didn’t escape the regional: three-time state qualifier Trevor Axelson, a senior ranked No. 5 at 126 pounds in the Feb. 12 KWCA poll, and freshman 106-pounder Gunner Kerns, ranked No. 6 in the same poll.

“I’m very, very proud of the six that we got, but I’m a little disappointed,” said Plainville head coach Corey Dobson. “I really thought we had a legimate shot of getting eight or nine guys through. That regional is just gosh-darn tough. If you make one mistake, then you’re just not going.”

Prior to the regional, Plainville was ranked No. 1 as a team, and in the pre-state rankings, Plainville dropped to No. 2.

The Cardinals still qualified four ranked wrestlers: seniors Harrison Gilliland (22-1), ranked No. 1 at 195 pounds in the Feb. 17 poll, and Bradey Chard (30-1), ranked No. 2 at 285 pounds, and juniors Dylan Wiesner (33-6), ranked No. 2 at 160 pounds, and Trevor Desair (31-9), ranked No. 6 at 145 pounds. They even got through seniors Andrew Malin (25-9), 182 pounds, and Colton Wise (30-12), 170 pounds, who are each unranked.

However, Dobson admitted Plainville’s road to a possible state championship did get tougher without Kerns and Axelson.

“To be quite honest, it is definitely going to hurt us,” Dobson said. “Those were two state placers. I thought they were for sure state placers all year long. Especially Trevor Axelson, he is our senior leader, and he has been a staple to our program.”

Nevertheless, Dobson said his team still has a shot, especially if everyone wrestles well at state.

After the regional Dobson said he called a meeting with all the wrestlers and told them not to change their expectations.

“Prior to regionals, (a state title) was definitely our goal,” Dobson said. “Even though we are without a couple here at the state tournament that should be there, it’s still our goal.”

Chard, who described Axelson as his best friend, said it was tough to see Axelson finish his prep career at the regional.

“It was pretty devastating to me,” Chard said. “... It hurts us, but we just have to keep going and moving on.”

Plainville’s best wrestlers had to deal with trials and tribulations of their own this season.

Chard, who broke his fibula in his right leg, missed the last three games of football season and the early part of wrestling season.

His one loss came at the hands of Hays High junior Vincent Scott while he was still recovering, but since winter break, he hasn’t been stopped.

“I’m wrestling the same as I was last year,” Chard said. “It hasn’t been bothering me at all.”

Gilliland had nerve damage in his right arm and biceps he has battled throughout the season. As a result, he only wrestled 23 matches this season He only lost one of those matches.

Gilliland, who qualified for state in 2011, missed state last year due to off-the-mat issues, but is the favorite to win the state title at 195 pounds this season.

“We definitely need him at the state tournament,” Dobson said. “I’m sure it was a struggle for him trying to work through that injury.”

Without Axelson and Kerns, Plainville’s chances might look dimmer. In fact, Dobson said he believes Norton, which qualified nine wrestlers, is the favorite now, along with Oberlin-Decatur Community, Hoisington, Marysville and Plainville.

“Norton is definitely the front runner,” Dobson said. “Coach (Bill) Johnson really had his team wrestling well at that regional. To qualify nine is pretty phenomenal.”