Even in the moments after Jon Inman walks off the wrestling mat inside Gross Memorial Coliseum, his night is not done.
Inman had just pulled the Fort Hays State University wrestling team within one point in a dual with No. 3 Nebraska-Kearney with a convincing 9-4 decision. But off came the headgear as Inman rescinded behind the Tiger bench and spent several minutes biking and jump roping.
His post-match workout, which head coach Chas Thompson instructs all of his wrestlers to perform, serves as an overtime period to continue the conditioning of his athletes beyond the seven-minute match.
“It just pushes our shape into deeper waters,” Inman said. “You wrestle the seven minutes — I was really tired. If I just quit there, I don’t get any better, then I only wrestled that seven minutes. That just helps your shape, bit by bit, and starts to show at regionals and nationals.”
While the goal for Inman is to bring a full team with him to nationals this year, Thursday showed work still remained for the young squad. Despite gaining six free points due to a forfeit, the Tigers fell, 23-15, an opportunity Thompson felt his team let slip away.
“They gave us six (points) and I wanted us to capitalize and beat them at home,” Thompson said. “It didn’t happen, but I’m not gonna say I’m mad because the dual was relatively close. They’re a really good team. … I feel like we can beat a team like them. I know we can.”
The Tigers’ Adam Ludwin got things started against Connor Bollig, the No. 6 wrestler in Division II at 125 pounds.
After being down 4-3 midway through the third period, Ludwin was awarded a tying point due to Bollig stalling. Bollig came back with a takedown with 30 seconds remaining to take the match 6-5 after a late Ludwin escape.
Nebraska-Kearney’s Daniel DeShazer won by decision (10-5) over Anthony Calderon to pick up his 21st win of the season and solidify his No. 1 national ranking. It was matches like this where Thompson was disappointed and felt some of his guys failed to stick to the strategy in place.
“Strategically, we’ve gotta be a little bit smarter,” Thompson said. “I thought we played into a couple of their better guys, to the way they wrestled, and probably should’ve followed more to our scouted film; we had strategy, and a couple guys didn’t follow our strategy.”
After Noah Killip won by forfeit at 141, Bradley Little picked up six points for FHSU with a pin in 4 minutes, 15 seconds, giving the Tigers a 12-6 lead.
Back-to-back decisions over Joey Dozier (157) and Matt Ziegler (165) pulled the Lopers ahead of the Tigers by one with four weight classes to go. UNK’s Calvin Ochs picked up a 3-0 decision at 174 to put the Lopers ahead 16-12.
But waiting matside was sixth-ranked Inman of Fort Hays at 184 pounds. At 21-1 on the year, Inman started his junior campaign 15-0 before dropping his lone contest to Adams State.
Inman used a first-period takedown to go up 2-1 after his opponent, Zach Stodden, was awarded a point for escape. After escaping from the bottom position early in the second, Inman reeled in Stodden, who tried to escape the mat, and earned another two-point takedown. Stodden later escaped, giving Inman a 5-2 advantage heading into the final period.
Inman eventually emerged victorious with a 9-4 decision.
“I always have in the back of my head to get as many bonus points as possible,” Inman said. “I went out … and it ended up being a lot closer match and it was tougher for me to get bonus points. I had to wrestle to win at that point.”
No. 1 Romero Cotton of UNK proved too much for Hays High graduate Cash Drylie at 197 pounds and secured a 13-4 decision.
AJ Cooper took the mat at 285 pounds with the Tigers facing a five-point deficit, 20-15. In the first period, Cooper nearly reeled in Luke Petersen for a match-clinching pin but was unable to force down both shoulders. But Petersen proved too much for the freshman, as he dropped an 11-4 major decision, giving UNK the 23-15 edge in the dual.
Though a win by fall would have given the Tigers the match, Thompson could not be more proud of Cooper’s effort. A freshman redshirted by the Tiger football team, Cooper decided to join Thompson’s squad just before winter break and got his first heavy dose of practice upon return. Even against the No. 3 team in the country, his inexperience was not on display.
“He got in some situations where he dang near won us that dual,” Thompson said. “That would’ve made my night if he would’ve got that pin.”
Now the Tigers travel to Wichita for Sunday’s Kansas Cup, where the grand prize is a traveling trophy. With the hardware currently in Thompson’s office, he hopes it returns to Hays on the Tigers’ bus Sunday evening.
“We wanna keep the cup,” Thompson said. “The goal is to put a team out there that can win it.”
Nebraska-Kearney 23, Fort Hays State 15
125 — Bollig (UNK) over Ludwin, Dec. 6-5.
133 — DeShazer (UNK) over Caldron, Dec. 10-5.
141 — Noah Killip (FHSU) forf.
149 — Little (FHSU) over McCauley, Fall 4:15.
157 — White (UNK) over Dozier, Dec. 5-3.
165 — Aguirre (UNK) over Ziegler, Maj. Dec. 16-6.
174 — Ochs (UNK) over Wiesner, Dec. 3-0.
184 — Inman (FHSU) over Stodden, Dec. 9-4.
197 — Cotton (UNK) over Drylie, Maj. Dec. 13-4.
285 — Petersen (UNK) over Cooper, Dec. 11-4.