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Palic wins MHS's 1st state wrestling title

Staff writer

In 16 years, the Marion High School wrestling program has had its share of accomplishments, but it had never crowned a state champion.

Until Saturday.

Senior Kyle Palic erased years of heartbreak and near-misses by capturing Marion’s first individual state championship for 3-2-1A in the 220-pound division Saturday at Hays.

Head coach Chad Adkins’ squad has featured highly ranked wrestlers over the years, but only two have made it to championship matches.

After qualifying for state competition three years, and finishing second in 2014, the third time was the charm for Palic, who became not only Marion’s first state winner, but Marion County’s as well.

“Kyle sets his mind to something, he really works hard to achieve the goals,” Adkins said. “Nobody expected us to make the finals last year, but this year he just decided he wasn’t going to be coming back with anything but a first-place medal.”

With the help of Palic’s title and fellow senior Adam Janzen’s fourth-place finish, the Warriors’ 59 points were good for sixth place — the best finish ever for MHS.

Coming off a crushing 3-2 finals loss a year ago to Oakley’s Dylan Gassman, Palic needed little motivation for his last hurrah.

“Last year really fueled me,” Palic said. “Everyone was expecting me to win it this year and the pressure was really on. I couldn’t ask for a better way to end my career than going out with a championship.”

Other than a self-inflicted defeat caused by pinning himself early on, Palic remained perfect heading into the Jan. 10 minefield at Norton.

In arguably the stiffest test prior to Hays, Palic’s bracket featured several well-known adversaries in Cimarron’s A.J. Cooper, Wyatt Eitel of Scott City, and Gassman.

Palic avenged his title loss by scoring a pin on Gassman before what would be the final loss of his career — a 5-4 decision to Cooper, then the top 220-pounder.

The two would meet again 20 days later at the formidable Hoisington Tournament. This time it was Palic getting the upper hand with a 9-4 decision, replacing Cooper atop the rankings.

The wave of destruction would continue all the way to Hays with Palic, the top seed, carrying a 45-2 record.

Palic kept it rolling, dispatching eventual sixth-place finisher Eitel and Hesston’s Juan Guzman via pinfall to pull to within a match of the finals.

The last person with a chance to thwart Palic’s hopes of wrestling for the title was the 6-foot-5 Cooper.

Much like the first two meetings, their final match was one to remember, with Palic this time coming up on the top side of a 3-2 decision.

“Getting into the finals was probably the toughest match I’ve ever had,” Palic said. “Cooper’s probably been my toughest opponent, too”.

A Gassman-Palic rematch loomed, but Phillipsburg’s fourth-ranked Luke Jacobs spoiled that, posting a 5-0 win over the defending champion.

Palic put the finishing touches on one of the greatest careers in school history, making short work of Jacobs in 1:51, ending his career at 49-2 on the year and 109-20 overall.

“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, Adam (Janzen), Chad (Adkins), and Andy (Hansen),” Palic said. “I’d say I owe quite a bit of it to Adam. We wrestled each other every day and we both pushed each other. A lot of my credit goes to that kid.”

Palic’s wrestling success dates all the way back to his days in Marion’s junior wrestling program.

At 6 years old, he was already heavily involved, and two years later, he captured fifth in the 88-pound-and-under class.

His biggest achievement in junior wrestling came at 10 years old, when he snagged his first silver medal in the 110-and-under division.

Palic stayed involved all the way through junior high before arriving as a freshman with high potential.

The junior wrestling days paid dividends with Palic qualifying for the 170-pound class as a freshman, going 27-13 on the year.

Even with an 0-2 finish, Palic got his first experience of competition on Kansas wrestling’s grandest stage — one that paid off in his last go round.

With Janzen and Palic the lone Warrior seniors, the duo leaves Marion a strong foundation so a solid nucleus of underclassmen may follow.

“I’m real proud of (Palic) and of our team,” Adkins said. “This season has been our best overall.”

Last modified March 4, 2015

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