The Warriors were a juggernaut Friday and Saturday at the 321A regional tournament in Marion, winning the team championship and qualifying seven wrestlers for state.
Marion harvested a whopping 165 points cutting down opponents from 24 other teams to finish 67.5 points ahead of the more than distant runner-up Chase County.
Coach Chad Adkins said it wasn’t hard to get the Warriors motivated for the regional tournament.
“They were pretty ramped up,” Adkins said. “They always want to wrestle well in front of family and friends.”
Bryce Shults and Tyler Palic won the 138- and 195-pound brackets by pinning all of their opponents, which included quick pins in the finals.
“They’re wrestling at the top of their game and that’s where they’re supposed to be,” Adkins said. “Bryce just runs a cradle so well, and Tyler is great at transitioning take-downs from his feet to putting guys right on their backs.”
After executing a slide-by takedown and executing a cross-face cradle to pin his finals opponent in just 31 seconds, Shults said it felt fantastic to win regionals.
“I was excited,” Shults said. “I just wanted to do my best for Coach Adkins in his last year, wrestle well for our home crowd, and I knew our team needed points.”
Adkins has resigned his coaching and teaching positions effective at the end of the school year.
A normal wrestling match includes three two-minute periods. Palic spent a little more than six minutes wrestling all three of his opponents combined. He also managed to pin his finals opponent 10 seconds faster than Shults did using a nearside cradle.
“At the beginning of the season, coach Adkins asked me to give him just one more year,” Palic said. “I felt like I owed it to him to make it to state.”
Palic said he was excited to win regionals but he feels like he needs to win state for his coach, too.
Adkins said that their championship finishes should put both wrestlers at about a No. 4 seed in their state brackets.
Jarrett Johnson, Ezra Darnall, Remington Putter, and Charlie Nordquist all racked up second-place finishes.
Johnson defeated two 126-pound opponents, pinning one, before a hard-fought 7-1 loss in the finals.
Darnall pinned three 132-pounders before an emotional 9-1 loss in the finals.
Putter pinned two opponents and defeated one in a 17-2 technical fall decision before he lost 4-0 in the 160-pound finals.
Nordquist pinned two 182-pound competitors before he was pinned in the finals.
At 145-pounds, Noah Albin won his first match in a 19-4 technical fall decision. Pinned in his second match, he came back to take third by pinning two more opponents.
Adkins said the team always tries to pin opponents even when wrestlers are ahead because of the bonus points pins contribute to the team score.
“We always try to score max points,” he said. “Everyone wrestled right about where we expected they would but there were a couple guys who we thought might’ve had a chance to go to state that just came up a little short.”
With a little “fine tuning,” he believes the seven wrestlers going to state have a good opportunity to make great things happen, and he hopes the team can do as good as or better than last year’s sixth place finish.
With regionals being Adkins’s last time to coach the entire wrestling team, there was an added degree of emotional intensity for some wrestlers.
“Ezra was upset about his finals match,” Adkins said. “When I was talking to him afterward I found out he was more upset because he wanted to win it for me. I told him, ‘don’t put that on me. You were awesome. You’re going to state.’”
Adkins said it’s difficult for him to talk about leaving Marion and the team without a “bittersweet” feeling washing over him because of the family-like connection he feels with the wrestlers and their parents.
“I’ve known it was coming but it’s been hard,” Adkins said. “I’m going to miss it. I love these kids and they know I love them.
“These kids taught me tons. They taught me patience. They taught me that what we do really means something to them.”
The 321A state wrestling tournament starts at 10 a.m. Friday in Hays.