Colby second to Holton; Reed gets third title
By HAROLD BECHARD
Special to The Hays Daily News
SALINA -- There will probably be more state wrestling champions in the future at Smoky Valley High School, but senior Trevor Whittaker can always say he was the first.
Whittaker made history Saturday afternoon at the Class 4A state tournament with his victory over Andrew Taylor of Colby at the Bicentennial Center.
The victory in the 170-pound weight class capped a 40-1 season for the Viking senior.
"It just feels incredible," said Whittaker, whose smile seemed to stretch from one side of the arena to the other afterwards. "I can't even begin to explain how awesome it feels."
Whittaker used a takedown in the second period to break a 2-2 tie with Taylor (38-6) and then added a takedown at the start of the third to take control of the match.
"I was pushing the tempo, trying to capitalize off his mistakes and do the best I can," Whittaker said. "So many people have supported me here. It's just amazing to do this."
Whittaker, whose only loss this season came against 3-2-1A state champion Nick Wuthnow of Sacred Heart, said his state tournament experience last year -- a fourth-place finish at 170 -- helped him this year.
"I knew my goals were going to be higher this year. I knew I had to train harder and try to achieve those goals," he said. "I knew this was going to be a scrap. I knew I'd have to wrestle 150 percent the whole time."
Skyler Hittle of Concordia also won a state title and Dustin Reed of Colby made history as well on a day that saw the Holton Wildcats claim their first-ever team championship.
Hittle wrapped up a 39-win season with a 7-3 decision over Gavin Houser at 195 pounds. The Concordia junior placed third at 195 a year ago as a sophomore and had a season-long goal of moving up two spots on the awards stand.
"It's the greatest feeling in the world that all your hard work all season has paid off and now you can call yourself number one in the state," Hittle said. "When I started this year, that was my one goal -- to be a state champion. There were some bumps in the road, but we kept pushing through, worked hard every week and now it's true."
Hittle (39-3) was leading 5-3 midway through the final period when he was caught with an inadvertent low blow. He spent nearly all of the allotted two minutes for an injury timeout before finishing off the match.
"Got a little low, he hit me pretty good," said Hittle, who knocked off Julius Coats of Tonganoxie in a morning semifinal match. "I figured I better take an injury timeout and get things back together for the next couple minutes."
Reed for three
Reed became just the second Colby Eagle ever to win three state titles and the first to reach the championship match four times. He finished off a remarkable 49-0 season with a 7-3 decision over Bryce Morgan of El Dorado. He joins former Colby Community College coach Steve Lampe as the second Eagle to win three titles.
"It's awesome," Reed said. "And, it's just awesome to be the first to get to the title match four times."
Reed, who will wrestle at Newman University next year, jumped out to a 6-1 lead after the first period. He was called for a pair of stall points in the final period, but was never threatened despite competing with a sore right elbow that was hyperextended in late December.
"I was just working on my stuff," he said. "I love takedowns. (Morgan) is a long kid and I used an outside single on him to put him down and put him to his back early. I thought, 'You know, I can do that again.'I was a little banged up and got called for a couple stall calls, but that's wrestling I guess."
Best of the rest
Junior Morgan of Abilene (36-3) and Colton Cooper of Goodland (33-14) finished second in their weight classes. Morgan dropped a 7-4 decision to Hunter Price of Holton at 120 pounds and Cooper was pinned in the first period by two-time champion Levi Eck of Andale at 182.
Zane Baugh of Abilene (113), Spencer Bird of Smoky Valley (160) and Zell Bieberle of Colby (285) bounced back from semifinal losses in the morning to place third in their respective weight classes.
In addition to Reed, three wrestlers -- Jake Goldenstein of Augusta (39-0, 106), Aaron Puckett of Bonner Springs (44-0, 160) and Justin Scott of Jefferson County West (39-0, 220) -- finished the season unbeaten, while Buhler's Jake Gehring lost for the first time in 43 matches at 152 against Jonathan Blackwell of Bonner Springs.
Holton, which won the 4A football title in Salina three months earlier, used its success in the consolation rounds on Saturday to pile up points and finish with a tournament-high 104.5 points -- 8.5 ahead of Colby.
"Our young kids really stepped up and wrestled beyond their years," Holton head coach Cullen Jackson said. "It was really fun to watch. It was fun to see them respond. We talked all season long about finishing in February and having some grit and some toughness, and that's what today was about. How we responded showed that the things we do throughout the season really paid off."
Holton found itself in eighth place after the first day of the tournament with just 31.5 points. The Wildcats would eventually have just one state champion -- Price at 120 pounds -- and one fourth-place finisher, but five Wildcats won their fifth-place matches, including two by injury default.
"We had a tough round (Friday), and it really tested our kids' mental toughness," Jackson said. "We were down and dragging and I was worried about them. We got them together this morning and talked about a lot of things, and they responded. It was a lot of fun to watch these guys persevere through some tough adversity and come through with this performance. It's a testament to their toughness."
Price loved what he saw after his match ended at 120 pounds.
"I knew it wasn't going to be easy," Price said. "You talk about team magic, wow. We just had team magic."
Colby was second with 96 points and two-time defending state champion Andale, with just five state qualifiers, edged Bonner Springs for third place. Still, second place wasn't quite where the Eagles and coach Matt Sims wanted to finish.
"The thing about a state wrestling tournament is you can't play defense and Holton wrestled real well," Sims said. "They have a top-notch team. Cullen Jackson does a good job with that crew, and I had them on my radar all season long. Everyone wanted to talk about Bonner (Springs) and Andale, and they have quality kids, but I thought Holton was wrestling very well.
"You can't win tournaments on Friday, but you can lose them. I don't really think anything was wrong. I'm really proud of our kids. I thought they battled hard. I love each and every one of them and, in the end second place isn't going to be horrible. I love them to death and they did a good job."