On Saturday, Great Bend Middle School hosted the “Battle at the Bend,” wrestling tournament.
Junction City, Concordia, and Garden City were among nine teams which converged on the Panther Athletic Center to try their skills against top-level competition.
The teams were divided into pools of three teams with the top finishers in the pool going competing for the championship.
Great Bend drew Concordia for the first round and quickly defeated them 75 -29 and followed that performance by defeating Dodge City Comanche 87-21.
“These teams did not have full teams but their kids are talented and strong,” said Panther coach Norbert Muth. “The dual scores do not reflect how good the matchups were.”
As the winning team in their pool, Great Bend went to the champion pool to face Hays and Dodge City Middle School, which also won their respective pools. Great Bend and Hays both defeated Dodge City Middle School pitting the two rival schools against each other for the championship.
“The last time we faced Hays we lost by a couple points,” Muth said. “We are evenly matched teams. It comes down to who wrestles better.”
Great Bend led early, but Hays closed the gap quickly at the higher weights. The suspense could not have been more intense as both teams poured heart and body into the battle. The score after 17 matches was GB 48, Hays 44. Hays earned a forfeit at the next weight for a 50-48 Hays lead.
The championship boiled down to Panther 215-pound D.J. Lamb against a Hays wrestler who pinned him the first time. Both teams were on their feet as the action went back-and-forth for three periods. Both had opportunities to pin and to be pinned, which built the tension and worked the crowd.
In the third period, D.J. trailed in points and was in the down position. But D.J. was determined not to let down his team and with seconds remaining on the clock, D.J. was able to capture his opponent’s wrist and leverage him to his back with a “Peterson roll.”
As his teammates screamed encouragement, D.J. worked in a half nelsen and pined the Hays wrestler. The Panthers won the championship 54-50.
After congratulating the Hays team on their runner-up finish, pandemonium broke out in the Panther Athletic Center. The team came together and began chanting D.J. in support and recognition of his epic comeback victory.
Parents hugged their athletes, photos were snapped, and Athletic Director Myron Ellegood presented Coach Muth with the first-place award.
“It’s so great for my son to be a part of a team and have this experience,” said Steve Wolf, father of 105-pound Panther wrestler, Avery Wolf. “These kids will have this memory forever. They did this together.”
After the celebration quieted, coach Muth spoke to the team. He expressed how proud he was of the day they had.
“Every one of you contributed to this today,” Muth said. “You put D.J. in a place where he was able to make some things happen and he was able to do that. Be proud of that but next week at the WAC tournament will be the challenge. Be sure you’re ready, do the right things, focus in, and be smart this week.
The Great Bend team travels to Hays Saturday to compete at the WAC Tournament.