While waiting for first place to be announced at the Hesston Invitational Wrestling Tournament, Marion High School wrestling coach Chad Adkins said his team still has a long way to go. The grapplers’ skill and talent has yet to match their work ethic.
Then the Warriors were announced as first-place winners of the tournament. The manner in which Marion compiled victories speaks to the fact that the Warriors are ahead of schedule.
Of the four Marion wrestlers in championship matches Saturday, three won by pin: Beretta Janzen at 113 pounds, John Nordquist at 195 pounds, and Evan Slater at 220. The Warriors went 4-for-4 in title bouts, with Brody Carroll defeating Lucas McMichael of Burden-Central, 5-1, at 152.
The Warriors did not just brawl their way to titles, each tournament champion showed technical ability.
Slater won all of his matches by pin, defeating Kaleb Lawrence of West Elk and Zach Nolan of Remington in his first two matches. His final match against Travis Simon of Garden Plain did not begin in dominating fashion. The first round ended with goose eggs still up on the board; each wrestler attempted shots, reaching for a leg, before halting the offense with the opponent in position to counter the attack.
Slater started the second round in the up position. Slater took what Simon gave him as the Garden Plain wrestler attempted to escape, which was his left shoulder and leg. The Marion grappler scored two near pins on cradle attempts before getting Simon’s back on the mat a third time.
“He’s knows he can take people by being the strongest guy and throwing people,” Adkins said of Slater. “But that’s what he has to do to win a state championship.”
For the last two seasons, Slater has been one of Marion’s most athletically gifted wrestlers, possessing strength that makes him a difficult matchup for nearly any opponent. Junior Nordquist at 195 pounds is making his case for that distinction.
Nordquist also won all of his matches on Saturday via pin, defeating Austin Williams of Garden Plain and Zac Ghahremanzadeh of Hillsboro in the first two rounds. He faced No. 1 seed Tristan Paulsen of Stafford in the final. The match began with a 0-0 stalemate in the first round. At one point, Paulsen tried to lift Nordquist after grabbing both of the Marion wrestler’s legs, but Nordquist was able to stay on the mat using his considerable leg strength.
Paulsen scored a takedown in the second round after wrapping himself around one of Nordquist’s legs and dragging the Marion grappler to the mat. Nordquist scored an escape a few maneuvers later. Down 2-1, Nordquist was again face down on the mat and Paulsen appeared to be in control. In a split second, Nordquist reversed the position, flipping the Stafford wrestler onto his back and holding him down for the pin. It was as if Nordquist bench pressed Paulsen off him and then in a smooth transition was able to grab Paulsen’s limbs for a partial cradle.
Adkins said the tournament victory was a validation of Nordquist’s hard work early on this season.
“That’s a huge achievement for him,” Adkins said. “He’s gotten a lot better.”
On the opposite end of the wrestling spectrum, Adkins similarly praised Beretta Janzen’s talent. In the theme of the day for Marion’s top wrestlers, Janzen won all of his matches by pin in the 113-pound class, defeating Austin Sims of Hesston and Daniel Valdez of Stafford in his first two matches.
Janzen began the championship match against Ethan Hertzler of Halstead with a step through takedown with 1 minute, 30 seconds remaining in the first round. Then Janzen stoked the ire of his coach when he let Hertzler up with 15 seconds remaining in the round.
Janzen responded to his coach’s challenge with an artful flurry of moves in the second round. Starting in the down position, Janzen exploded to his feet and then broke Hertzler’s wrists locked around his abdomen. He then executed his shot, taking Hertzler’s left leg and then stepping forward for the takedown. Janzen finished the match by flipping Hertzler over from his left side and laying over the Halstead wrestler’s head for the pin.
Senior Carroll had to use all of his veteran savvy to hold off McMichael in the final of the 152-pound class. Carroll won his first two matches against Trevor Kemp of Flint Hills and Preston Nelson of Hillsboro by pin, but the match against McMichael started with a 0-0 first round.
Carroll scored three points in the second round when he escaped down position. As Carroll was fleeing, McMichael nearly pinned the Marion wrestler by pushing Carroll’s head down as he was scooting away perpendicular to the mat. Carroll quickly recognized the move, slid out from under McMichael, and spun around the Central Burden wrestler for the reversal. McMichael stood all the way up with Carroll behind him trying to score a point at the end of the round but Carroll was able to throw him back to the mat to hold onto a 3-0.
McMichael escaped from a down position in the third round, but Carroll sealed the match when he used McMichael’s desperation shot against him, blocking the leg grab, spinning behind McMichael and driving him to the mat for the 5-1 victory.
Adkins said the match is indicative of the competition Carroll will see all year long.
Zac Lewman at 170 and Remington Putter at 138 each placed fourth. Adkins said Derrick Dvorak at 160 and Eric Regnier at 126 also had good tournaments.
“The important thing is all the wrestlers were better today than they were last Saturday,” Adkins said. “If that happens all the time, we’re going to be where we want to be at the end of the year.”