Grapplers fall to Emporia; down DeSoto

The only way for an athlete or a team to measure how good they really are is to take on the best. It’s cliche, but individuals or teams only grow and get better by taking on opponents that are better than they are. Sometimes the underdog comes out on top, most of the time the favorite wins, and that was the case Thursday evening, January 14, 2010, as the Paola Panther Wrestling squad hosted the state’s number one ranked 5A squad, Emporia, and fellow Frontier League foe, DeSoto.

WLH0383 The Spartans of Emporia came into the PHS Gym with a Number One Ranking by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association, and featured four top ranked wrestlers in their weight class and three others ranked in the top six of their respective weight divisions.

The Panthers were no match for the Spartans, as Emporia breezed through the match, handing the home team a 64-4 team defeat, but the Panthers, while tasting the sting of a one sided defeat, did enough good things to make Head Coach Russ Hermreck happy.

“I’m very happy with the effort the kids gave,” Hermreck said. “We knew we were in for a battle, but we stressed all week long that we were not going to lay down, they’re a very tough team, but that will make us better.”

The Panthers efforts on the mat, belies the lopsided nature of the score, as the overmatched Paola wrestlers did exactly what the Panther Coaching staff asked of them, each and every wrestler who took the mat against Emporia gave a solid effort, and while some matches resulted in quick pins by the Spartans, no Panther wrestler went down without a fight.

The match order was re-arranged to allow the 130 pound class to be the final match of the night. The match featured #1 Ranked and undefeated Brandon Charbonneau of Emporia against the Panthers best wrestler of the season, and’s Panther Wrestler of the Month for December, Dylan McKinney.

McKinney, fresh off a Dick Burns Mat Classic championship at Bonner Springs gave Charbonneau all he could handle, as the two battled to a scoreless tie after the first two periods. McKinney took the lead on Charbonneau with an escape early in the third period, and the match stayed at 1-0 until about a minute to go, when McKinney made an aggressive move for a take down, only to have Charbonneau gain the upper hand with a take down of his own to grab a 2-1 advantage. McKinney made a great effort to escape late in the match to gain a tie, but was unable to, and the match ended with Charbonneau escaping with a 2-1 decision.

“We try and pick a match in an event like this that will show the two best wrestlers,” Hermreck said. “Dylan is certainly our best at this time, so we wanted to showcase the best talent.”

Overall, Hermreck was pleased with McKinney’s efforts against a very talented wrestler, and he said the competition will make McKinney a better competitor as the season rolls on.

“Against the best competition, at the state level, a takedown can mean the difference in advancing to the final, or wrestling for third,” Hermreck said. “That was a state semi-final kind of match, we had a game plan with Dylan to take away two of his (Charbonneau) best takedowns, Dylan didn’t need to force the action then, but he was aggressive and that’s okay.”

WLH0102 The most unlikely hero of the night for the Panthers, came in the diminutive form of 119 pound junior Josh Wade. Wrestling in the third from the last match of the night, with his team facing a 55-0 deficit, the fireball Wade hung a 14-1 major decision on his Spartan opponent to give the Panthers their only team points on the night, and keep Paola from being shut out for the first time in just about anyone’s memory.

“Josh Wade, what can you say, we’re going to celebrate him tonight,” Hermreck said. “He picked the team up and kept us from being shut out.”

Wade, who has very little wrestling experience, has made tremendous strides on the mat this year. He jumped out Emporia’s Lester Gonzales with a 4-1 first period advantage, he stretched his lead to 9-1 after two periods, and then opened a 14-1 lead early in the final period and wrestled out the match to the 14-1 major decision and four points for the Panthers.

“It was fun, but I really wanted to pin him,” Wade said after his match. “The team was happy, I got a lot of high fives, and it felt good, but there wasn’t really any pressure, I’m just doing this for the fun of it.”

That last statement by Wade is what Hermreck and the rest of the Panthers like so much about Wade.

“The really great thing about Josh is he really doesn’t know any better,” Hermreck said. “He doesn’t really care about who an opponent is, he doesn’t know any of them, he just goes out and wrestles, he thinks he’s going to win every match.”

Until Wade came through and broke the scoring ice for the Panthers, there was very little to show for the evening but a bunch of pins through the opening half of the bouts, but as the evening progressed and the goose egg loomed larger, the Panthers put together several close matches, and finally broke through with points in one of the four matches Hermreck and the coaching staff thought the Panthers had realistic chances to win in.

“We thought we had the best chance to win in the lower weights, 103, 112, 119 and 125 were all weights we felt we could compete in,” Hermreck said.

And, compete they did, Brian Ebeling and James Young came the closest to breaking the scoring drought for the Panthers, as they both pushed their Spartan opponents to one point decisions. At 103 pounds, Ebeling was the first Panther to hold an advantage over his opponent, as he jumped to a 3-1 lead in the first period over Robert Torres. Torres pulled back to even at 3-3 after one period, but Ebeling pulled out to a 10-8 lead after an action packed second period. Torres won the bout with an escape and takedown in the third period to win 11-10.

Young was able to take a 5-0 lead after one period of his bout against Nate Bailey at 112 pounds, only to see the Emporia wrestler pull to within one point at the end of two periods at 5-4 and again see a late take down in the final period seal the win for Bailey at 6-5.

Taylor Harris wrestled in the other match the Panther coaches had marked as a match which could produce points for Paola, but was pinned by his 125 pound Emporia opponent.

WLH0307 The opening matches against Emporia did not go well for the Panthers, as the Spartans flexed their muscles early and often. Parker Boyer was the first to take the mat in the event, and lost by a pin by Colby Walecki. Kurt Weaver suffered as similar fate, losing by fall to Tyler Trahoon, and Eric Timpe was pinned by the #1 ranked wrestler at 145 pounds Chase Sanchez.

Chris Edwards dropped the 152 pound match to #6 ranked Andrew Libe on a fall, and Brad Hall was also pinned by #4 ranked Nathan Flanagin. The Panthers were open at the 160 pound and 189 pound classes.

Another bright spot on the night for the Panthers was the performance of their two “big guys” Spencer Trumbly and Cale Karrigan.

Trumbly, at 215 pounds and Karringan at 285 pounds squared off against the top ranked wrestler in each class in the form of Mark Kolmer at 215 and Lorenzo Serna at 285. Neither Panther wrestler won, but both went toe to toe with their opponents, dropping nearly identical 8-0 and 0-0 decisions.

Trumbly wrestled to a 0-0 stalemate after one period, but Kolmer opened a 6-0 lead after the second period and tacked on two more points in the third period to take the victory.

Karrigan was well within striking distance after one period at 0-2 and after two periods at 0-3 in his bout against Serna, but the Emporia heavyweight added three more points in the final period to take the 6-0 decision.

“We have to become more focused, we’ve been stressing to the kids that we have to control the match, not the other way around,” Hermreck said. “We have to control the situations that we can control, not let our opponent gain control of the match.”

In the opening match of the evening, the Panthers jumped out to a big lead over Frontier League foe the DeSoto Wildcats, only to see the match tighten up in the upper weight classes before Trumbly and Karrigan again closed the door on the Wildcats chances.

Ebeling set the tone for the evening with a thrilling 15-13 overtime win over Shane Bunn in the 103 pound class. Josh Wade got is first pin of the night over Christian Zwahler at 119 pounds, Taylor Harris picked up a 14-1 major decision over David Irvin and Dylan McKinney wrestling up a class from his usual 130 pounds pinned Russ Pruss in the 135 pound class. James Young at 112, Caleb Wood at 130 and Kurt Weaver at 140 all won by default and with those results, the Panthers jumped to a quick 37-0 team score.

Then things started to get interesting. Eric Timpe dropped a 6-3 decision to Zack Atchison at 145 pounds, Chris Edwards was pinned by Cody Vukas at 152 pounds, Bradd Hall was pinned by Brandon Vukas at 171 pounds, and Keegan Suttti was pinned by Donny Parr at 189 pounds. The Panthers were open at 160 pounds, and with two matches to go the team score stood at 37-27.

The heavyweights were next, and there was no room for error. Two more pins would give the match to DeSoto, a pin and a major decision would tie the team score.

Spencer Trumbly at 215 sealed the match for the Panthers pinning Ryan Reichard with 19.7 seconds remaining in the first period to give the Paola a 43-27 lead. Cale Karrigan put the icing on the cake pinning Shane Schramm with just over two seconds remaining in the first period to give the Panthers a 49-27 win.

The Panthers will have little time to rest, as they will travel to Basehor to take part in the Basehor-Linwood Invitational on Friday and Saturday, January 15 & 16, 2010.