Last year, the Great Bend High School wrestling team qualified eight athletes for the Class 5A state tournament.
Panthers head coach Norbert Muth said he hopes his team can qualify even more this season.
“I’m excited to get everybody back in competition after more than a week off,” Muth said. “We’ve got everybody healed up. We’ve had a little break, and I’m hoping that will bode well for us.
“We’ve been practicing well. It’s just like any other postseason. It’s different than the regular season. It’s hard to prepare for. I think our kids will be ready.”
First, Great Bend will have to make it through Saturday’s regional tournament, where the top four wrestlers in each weight class earns a spot in the state competition.
What’s more? The Panthers, who are ranked No. 8 in the latest Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association poll, will be hosting their regional at the Panther Athletic Center, something Muth said can be both good and bad.
“I think it’s a double-edged sword,” Muth said. “I hope we have a good crowd, and I hope our kids want to go out and wrestle hard in front of our crowd. We don’t get to do that a lot. I think they will.
“There’s added things for wrestlers and coaches to do. There’s a lot more preparations that go into it rather than just load up on the bus and go.”
Great Bend senior wrestler Chris Burley, who was a state champion his sophomore year in the 120-pound weight class, is glad to have the tournament on their home turf.
“I feel pretty confident,” said Burley, who is ranked No. 1 in the 126 weight class after finishing second at the state meet last season. “I’m happy that it’s here. We don’t have to wake up very early to travel anywhere. We have our home crowd. That’ll help me out.
“There will be some tough competition. I’ll have to be on my game.”
Fellow senior Brett Roberts (145) says he believes that Great Bend has what it takes to contend for a regional title.
“We have a good team going into regionals,” Roberts said. “We have some good freshmen. (Cody) Liles is doing pretty good this year. I don’t know. Hopefully we can overcome some of our opponents this year and come away with a team title.”
Teams attending will be Hays, Liberal, Maize South, Newton, Salina Central, Salina South and Valley Center. Newton is ranked No. 4, and Valley Center is No. 5.
“I think team-wise, you have Newton, who is ranked really high, and Valley Center, which has a great team from top to bottom,” Muth said. “Then you have, just looking through the different kids in different weights, they’re all tough. This is a tough regional. They are all going to have to work hard to get through the regional into state.”
The Panthers have four wrestlers who are ranked in the state.
Joining Chris Burley are No. 2-ranked Kade Sander (138), No. 3-ranked Bryce Hofmeister (160) and No. 4-ranked Greg Burley (132).
Great Bend High School wrestlers
106 — Ryan DesLauriers
113 — Arturo Sanchez
120 — Cody Liles
126 — Chris Burley
132 — Greg Burley
138 — Kade Sander
145 — Brett Roberts
152 — Emerson Campbell
160 — Bryce Hofmeister
170 — Darion Yager
182 — Joe Lindenberger
195 — Justin Henry
220 — Gunar Brewer
285 — Jacob Crane