Hoxie dominates for Class 3-2-1A team title
Hoxie's wrestlers felt like they let a team state championship slip through their grasp a year ago.
More motivated than ever, the Indians left no doubt this time.
Hoxie dominated the Class 3-2-1A boys state tournament, racking up 154 points and finishing more than 70 points ahead of runner-up Hill City.
The Indians considered it redemption after coming up seven points shy of Norton for team title in 2020.
"Last year, we definitely were not as together as a team as we were this year," Hoxie sophomore Derek Johnson said. "That was the big difference. Last year, we lost some matches that we shouldn't have.
"This year, we were determined to not even let it be close."
Hoxie sent six into the finals and left with three state champions in Drew Bell (132), Drew Bretz (138) and Derek Johnson (145).
Tate Weimer (106), Dayton Bell (126) and Aidan Baalman (160) were runner-ups in their respective classes. All nine Indians who qualified took home medals.
Following the team runner-up finish last year, Hoxie coach Mike Porsch said his young wrestlers "really took ownership of the team."
"It wasn't a big push from me. It was all coming from them, feeling that unfinished business," Porsch said.
It was Hoxie's 11th team title overall and first since 2003.
"It's been 18 years since we brought one of these home, so it's time," Porsch said. "The kids worked hard and for the most part we got what we earned."
The Indians have had at least one state individual champion for 12 straight seasons.
"Getting those individual championships, obviously Hoxie has a great legacy for that," Bretz said. "Since coach Porsch hadn't won a (team) title as head coach, we just really wanted to get one for him."
Johnson and Drew Bell kept their undefeated records intact as both claimed state titles for the second straight year.
Drew Bell (43-0) pinned all three opponents, needing just five seconds in the final to get a fall against Atchison County's Mason Scholz.
Johnson (44-0) took a 3-1 decision in the 145 final against Rossville's Layne Hurla.
"Rode him out in the second, obviously that helped a lot," Johnson said. "And then forcing him to be the one that would have to make a scramble at the end was definitely a strong point in that match that needed to happen."
In the 138 final, Bretz met Oakley's Eric Cain for the seventh time of the season. They were 3-3 against each other heading into state.
Bretz (43-3) took a 6-4 decision over Cain to claim the title, avenging a 1-0 loss in the sub-state final a week ago.
Cain finished runner-up for the second straight year.
"Last week at practice I worked harder on my shots," Bretz said. "I knew I could take him down, that's how I beat him before. I had to score a lot of points. Ultimately, I just took him down, rode him out and hoped for the best."
Bretz also had a tough hurdle to clear in the semifinals, facing a past champion in Silver Lake’s Kai Allen. He took a 3-1 win over Allen.
Bretz said he was fueled by last year's disappointing sixth-place finish at state.
"It lit a fire under me to get my work in during the summer," Bretz said.
The Indians nearly got another individual champion in Baalman, but Eureka's Brennan Lowe rallied late to earn a 5-3 decision in the 160 final. Baalman finished his senior season with a 45-1 mark.
Weimer, a sophomore, met Jayhawk-Linn's Corbin White in the final, losing a 12-3 major decision. Dayton Bell was pinned in the third period by two-time state champion Kolton Field from Norton.
Other placers for the Indians included sophomore Wayne Shepard (fourth at 113), freshman Carson Ochs (sixth at 120) and junior Brandon Baker (sixth at 285).
Hoxie had the team title wrapped up early, opening the tournament with eight straight falls. They finished the day with 12 pins.
"When we see one guy win, it starts a domino effect," Drew Bell said. "We just kind of roll off of that."
The Indians should be set up well for the future, with underclassmen accounting for six of the nine medals earned Saturday.
"I just hope we stay hungry," Porsch said.