Four Jay grapplers are state placers
The Sabetha Bluejay wrestling squad participated in the 2019 Class 3-2-1A State Wrestling Championships held at Fort Hays State University on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23. The Jays entered the tournament with six wrestlers who had qualified with a top four finish at the Rossville regional tournament held the previous weekend.
Sophomore 126-pound Kaden Dillon, senior 145-pound Kamden Brownlee, junior 152-pound Colby Tinklin, junior 160-pound Walker Lowdermilk, senior 220-pound Cauy Rokey, and senior 285-pound Elliott Strahm represented the Jays on the mat during the two-day tournament.
Dillon and Tinklin failed to place in the tournament, but the other four grapplers were able to earn top six finishes in their respective weight classes to bring home state medals. Brownlee finished in sixth place at 145 pounds. Lowdermilk and Rokey each captured fourth place at 160 and 220 pounds respectively, and Strahm placed third in the 285-pound division.
The Jays finished the tournament with 69.5 points and in seventh place in the team standings. The seventh-place finish ties for the highest finish for a Jay wrestling squad at the state tournament and the four state placers tie two other squads, 1993 and 2007, that brought home four medals. If the Jays had managed to score another 2.5 team points, they would have finished in fourth place.
“I was extremely proud of our guys this weekend,” said Head Coach Ricky Creek. “All of our kids had to overcome poor seedings and then work through the backside of the bracket to get where they ended up. We worked very hard all year long to get to this point in the season, and it paid off at the end.”
“We were so close to a top four finish and if we had gotten better bracket seedings, we would have seriously contended for the state title,” Creek said. “It is a long and hard season and to come away with four placers is a great way to end it. With the wrestlers we have coming up next year, the future looks very bright for Sabetha wrestling.”
Senior 285-pound Elliott Strahm entered the tournament as last year’s reigning state champion at 285 pounds and had an impressive 29-0 record.
In his first bout, Strahm pinned Jesse Hermosillo of Leoti, who had a 23-6 record.
Up next for Strahm was Riley Philbern of Hoisington, who had a 27-11 record, and Strahm once again pinned his opponent in the first period.
This set up a bout in the championship semifinals against Hadley Panzer of Lakin, who had a 37-0 record. Strahm and Panzer had been the top two ranked wrestlers in all classes in the state the entire year. The great mystery of the tournament is how the top two wrestlers in the state of Kansas could end up on the same side of the bracket. Living up to the billing, the two undefeated wrestlers took their bout into overtime with Panzer scoring two on a takedown in the third overtime period to come away with the win.
Strahm moved to the backside of the bracket, where he met Norman Miller of Doniphan West in the consolation semifinals — who had a 28-12 record. Strahm pinned Miller in the opening seconds of the first period to move into the consolation championship bout against Parker Opat of Wakeeney, who had a 36-8 record.
Once again, Strahm wasted little time and pinned Opat in the opening period.
“I was really focused this weekend and wanted that second title,” Strahm said. “It was disappointing to lose that match against Panzer, but I knew I had to bounce back and not feel sorry for myself. I wanted to end my career strong, and I got up Saturday morning ready to make a statement.”
Strahm ended the season with a 33-1 record and a third place finish at the state tournament, the second of his career.
Senior 220-pound Cauy Rokey, a state placer two years ago, began his bid to get on the podium with a quick pin in the opening seconds of his bout against Dillon Dunn of Wakeeney, who had a 28-8 record.
Rokey then met Creighton Johnson of Beloit who had a 32-8 record, and Rokey pinned him in the first period — guaranteeing him a state placing.
This set up a match in the championship semifinals against Hayden Wiltfong of Norton, who had a 30-2 record. Wiltfong turned the tables on Rokey and pinned him in the first period to put Rokey to the backside of the bracket.
Rokey then met Dane Whalen of Osage City, who had a 31-5 record in the consolation semifinals. Rokey fell behind Whalen 9-3 in the second period but threw Whalen to his back and pinned him to move into the consolation finals against Johnson, who he had pinned earlier in the tournament.
In a wild back-and-forth bout that saw 35 points scored, Rokey was decisioned 17-15 in overtime. Rokey finished the season with a 25-3 record and a fourth-place finish at the state tournament, his second state placing.
“It was a great weekend for all of us,” Rokey said. “I am really proud of my teammates for wrestling the way they did. We all have put in a lot of years to get to this point, and it paid off this weekend.”
Junior 160-pound Walker Lowdermilk began his quest for a state medal at 160 pounds by earning a forfeit in his opening bout against Logan Doshier of Cheney.
Lowdermilk then met Dayton Porsch of Hoxie. Porsch pinned Lowdermilk in the second period to put him on the backside of the bracket. Porsch, who has a career record of 149-6, went on to earn his fourth state championship and is headed to Northern Iowa on a Division I wrestling scholarship.
Lowdermilk then matched up against Dylan Stewart of Sterling, who had a 27-12 record. Lowdermilk totally dominated the match by scoring a technical fall 16-0 to move into the consolation quarterfinals.
He would be matched up against Kinstin Juhl of Riverside, who had a 31-7 record and had finished ahead of Lowdermilk at the regional tournament the previous weekend. Lowdermilk once again totally dominated the bout and pinned Juhl in the second period to set off a well-deserved celebration for being guaranteed a state placing.
“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Lowdermilk said. “I was feeling very confident all weekend and that win against Juhl took all the pressure off of me, and I could just go out and have fun wrestling. This makes me very hungry for next year.”
Lowdermilk met Gavin Uehlin of Oberlin, who had a 19-6 record and had defeated a wrestler who had beaten Lowdermilk at the regionals the previous weekend. Lowdermilk pinned Uehlin in the third period after two scoreless periods to move into the consolation championship bout against Rudy Rodriguez of Southeast Saline, who had a 33-3 record.
In a match that went back and forth, Lowdermilk fell just short and was decisioned 9-7.
Lowdermilk ended the season with a 33-7 record and a fourth place state medal.
Brownlee ended the tournament with a sixth-place finish.
“It is the greatest feeling to come away with a state medal,” Brownlee said. “It was an amazing experience to end my career by being a state placer, which I have wanted since I started wrestling 14 years ago. I knew if I wrestled like I was capable that I could get on the podium and I am just so happy right now.”
Brownlee dropped his first bout on a last-second takedown to Brandon Rohr of Plainville, who had a 30-5 record and was the eventual state runner-up.
This loss put Brownlee on the backside of the bracket, where he met Tristan Rathbone of Hillsboro, who had a 24-17 record. Brownlee won the bout 4-1 to stay alive in the tournament and to move into Saturday’s competition.
Brownlee met Dayne Yott of Hoisington who had a 16-8 record and once again Brownlee won by a 4-1 decision. This win put Brownlee into the consolation quarterfinals. If you win in this round, you are guaranteed a state placing, but if you lose you are out of the tournament. It is often referred to as the most exciting round in a wrestling tournament.
Brownlee met Mason Gottschalk of Ellis, who had a 21-15 record and after two periods, Brownlee clung to a 4-2 lead. In the third period, Brownlee pinned Gottschalk to earn a state placing.
Brownlee then met Matt Weilert of Fredonia, who had a 30-7 record. Weilert decisioned Brownlee 11-7 to move Brownlee into the bout for fifth place.
In the bout for fifth, Brownlee met Luke Horn of Riverside who had a 34-7 record, and Horn decisioned Brownlee 5-1.
Brownlee ended his wrestling season with a 30-10 record and a sixth-place finish at the state tournament.
Sophomore 126-pound Kaden Dillon wrestled three matches at the tournament. He lost to Alec Segarra of Hill City, the eventual third-place finisher with a 36-5 record, in his opening bout 13-3.
In his first bout on the backside of the bracket, Dillon defeated Zacharias Lough of Douglas 15-7.
In his second bout on the backside of the bracket, Dillon was defeated by Camdyn Unterseher of Norton by a fall, to Dillon’s tournament.
Dillon, a state qualifier from last year, finished the season with a 21-5 record.
Junior 152-pound Colby Tinklin wrestled two matches at the tournament.
In his opening bout, Tinklin lost to Dylan Helten of Cheney by a fall.
On the backside of the bracket, Tinklin lost to Andrew Hubert of Belleville by a fall — ending the tournament for Tinklin.
Tinklin finished his junior campaign with a 20-8 record.