Tigers pay tribute during Open
By CONOR NICHOLL
Many members of the Fort Hays State University wrestling team were friends with Shane Gottschalk, a Thomas More Prep-Marian graduate and FHSU student athletic trainer who recently died from cancer.
On Saturday, the Tigers paid tribute to Gottschalk throughout the Bob Smith Open at Gross Memorial Coliseum. A moment of silence was observed before the matches started. Multiple wrestlers and fans close with Gottschalk wore green and white shirts that read "Team Gottschalk" on the front. The back side read "Driven for a Cure" and had a picture of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, one of Gottschalk's favorite hobbies.
"It was nice to remember Shane," senior 157-pounder Derek Koehn said. "I have known Shane for a long time. It was good to know that he was there with me on the mat and watching over me, keeping me safe during my matches.
"He had helped out with athletic training and I knew him through my roommate Travis Budke, who also went to TMP," Koehn said, referring to a Tiger teammate. "I became friends with him even before he had been helping out with wrestling."
Fort Hays continued its strong start with five placers Saturday, but didn't have a champion.
Junior 125-pounder Garrett Jones, junior 141-pounder C.J. Napier and Koehn finished in second place. Koehn's lone loss came against Air Force's Josh Kreimier, who earned wrestler of the meet honors. Napier took his first loss of the season in the final. At 149, junior Mitchell Means defeated Tiger teammate Bradley Little, a redshirt freshman, in the third and fourth place match.
"I am stinging right now," Tiger coach Chas Thompson said shortly after the three finals losses. "It's hard to put into words, to find an adjective of how I feel. I am proud. I have a sense of pride, but you want to end a day on a win. ... They all had very solid wrestlers in the finals, and they came up a little short."
Jones, an All-American at Labette Community College, transferred to the Tigers this year. He and Adam Ludwin had battled at 125 this season, but Ludwin is going to redshirt. Thompson said Jones "gave a match" away in the finals with a 7-6 loss. Before the title, Jones had won three matches by fall.
"It's time he did something, because we expect a lot out of him," Thompson said.
Similar to the past several years, the Bob Smith Open stretched more than 11 hours. Numbers were down slightly from past seasons as some teams, such as University of Nebraska-Kearney, went to Las Vegas. Thompson prefers not to be above 300 wrestlers and Saturday had around 315 wrestlers. Last year's tournament had 330.
Dylan Schumacher, a former four-time state champion at TMP and currently a freshman at NCAA Division I University of Wyoming, finished one match out of placing at 133 pounds. Colt Rogers, a former four-time state champion for Smith Center and currently at Bethany College, went 2-2 at 133. Schumacher, whose girlfriend is Shane's sister, wore a Team Gottschalk singlet. His family also had "Team Gottschalk" gear. Thompson believed approximately half the Tiger squad had a "Team Gottschalk" shirt.
"Really tough subject to talk about," Thompson said of Gottschalk. "He was just a guy who was around the guys a lot and supported us. He was in the room a lot and got close with a lot of wrestlers and this was before he was sick. It's hard to see someone lose a battle like this. We were all hoping that he would pull through. Supported him last year and wanted to remember him."