The spotlights and all of the pageantry that surrounds the state wrestling tournament can be a distraction.
Some wrestlers can get caught up in all of the hoopla, but if you listen to Great Bend head coach Norbert Muth, there’s 11 Panthers headed for Wichita that are determined to make an impact. The state meet begins Friday and winds up on Saturday evening at Hartman Arena in Park City on the outskirts of Wichita.
“The coaches have talked to the guys all week that you have to take it one match at a time,” Muth said. “All we can really do is concentrate on our matches, and we’ve got some tough first-round matches up-and-down the line.
“We’ve got some young guys, four freshmen that are going, and we don’t know how they’re going to handle all of the pressure. All the glitz and glamour of being at the state tournament, we’ve been trying to talk about that but you just can’t replicate that here in practice.”
The Panthers had two regional champions from last week’s meet in Hays in Kade Sander (130 pounds) and Jake Schridde (160).
“Looking at both of their weights and their brackets and where they’re set up (for state), they’ve got good draws,” Muth said of Sander and Schridde. “They have good draws and we just hope that they go out there and continue to wrestle well.
“Even though he’s a senior, Jake has never been to the state tournament before so it’s something new to him. He’s wrestling really well right now and it’s just a matter of keeping the momentum going into the state tournament.”
Three others placed second in Chris Burley (112), Louis Burley (152) and Simon Sullivan (171).
Top-4 finishers from the regional who round out Great Bend’s state squad include Ryan DesLauriers (103, third), Brett Roberts (119, third), Greg Burley (125, fourth), Willie Godfrey (135, fourth), Damian Pflughoeft (140, third) and Taylor Meitner (145, third).
“I think we’ve got some guys that have a shot of doing some really good things and for some guys, it will be a learning process for them,” Muth said.
Chris Burley enters the state tourney with a 30-4 record and a No. 2 ranking in the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association’s latest poll. Chris Burley lost in a regional final, but still figures to make a strong push for a state crown.
“He’s No. 2 right now,” Muth said of Chris Burley. “The only rankings that matter now is where you wind up on Saturday night. He’s put himself in a little bit more difficult position because of the side of the bracket he’s on.”
Louis Burley, Chris’ older brother, embarks on his fourth state tourney. He has a 32-10 record thus far. Greg, a freshman with a 10-6 record, is taking part in his first state competition.
Schridde is ranked No. 3 in his weight class and owns the team-best number for wins in establishing a 39-8 record. His state appearance comes one year after suffering a broken hand, denying him a shot at state as a junior. He agrees that it makes it even more satisfying for him making it his final time around.
Sander, who has been unranked all season, has slipped under the radar from most opponents.
“It’s kind of hard, being a freshman and going in there, just knowing that there are a lot of seniors and everybody is bigger than you and much more developed,” said Sander, who has a 17-7 record. “Yea, I feel like the underdog.”
Class 6-5A State
At Park City (Wichita)
Great Bend qualifiers
Wt Name Class mark
103 — Ryan DesLauriers 9 8-12
112 — Chris Burley 10 30-4
119 — Brett Roberts 10 25-13
125 — Greg Burley 9 10-6
130 — Kade Sander 9 17-7
140 — Damian Pflughoeft 12 24-18
145 — Taylor Meitner 11 5-3
152 — Louis Burley 12 32-10
160 — Jake Schridde 12 39-8
171 — Simon Sullivan 12 30-12
(Year in school in parentheses)