Kansas high school wrestling teams will compete in regional tournaments at various sites. Here are some of the more notable storylines.
1. Perfect returning state champs
Two returning Kansas Class 6A state champion wrestlers have yet to taste defeat this season. With state in sight, Leavenworth senior Nathan Butler, a heavyweight with a 39-0 record, won 6A titles at 215 pounds and 220 the last two seasons. He’s closing in on a Class 5A title at 285 and will try to stay perfect at the Topeka-Seaman regional. Gardner Edgerton junior Dustin Williams, a 160-pounder who is 37-0, claimed state gold at 145 last season and is the favorite at the Blue Valley Northwest regional.
2. Also vying for perfection
Bonner Springs senior Aaron Puckett and St. Thomas Aquinas junior Tyler Dickman also are undefeated entering regional competition. Fresh off a Kaw Valley League championship, Puckett, 34-0, hopes to keep rolling toward a Class 4A title at 160 with a title at the Tonganoxie regional. Meanwhile, Dickman, 20-0, who won the East Kansas League title at 132 last Saturday, hopes to keep chugging toward a Class 5A crown today at the Mill Valley regional.
3. Aquinas hopes for team breakthrough
It’s been six years since any team from the Kansas City metropolitan area has won a Kansas state wrestling team title. St. Thomas Aquinas, which won Class 5A in 2007, would love to change that. Overtaking the reigning champion, Arkansas City, won’t be easy, but the first step is qualifying as many wrestlers as possible from the Mill Valley regional. Sophomore Isaac Dulgarian, who is the reigning state champion at 120, is ranked first at 138 this season, while fellow sophomore Ben Ewing (220) also is ranked first in the state. The Saints will need strong performance from senior Johnny Perz (160) and juniors Gabe Gooch (113), Jake Elbrader (120), Luke Henes (126) and Zack Hoskins (152) to set themselves up for a title run.
4. Top-ranked Bonner also vying for title
Bonner Springs is ranked No. 1 as a team in Class 4A. Of course, to have a shot at improving on last season’s third-place finish it’s imperative to qualify as many wrestlers as possible from the regional meet. Junior Josiah Seaton, who is ranked No. 2 at 106, senior Justus Seaton (3rd at 113), senior Jonathan Blackwell (1st at 152) and senior Aaron Puckett (1st at 160) would seem like locks to reach state. But that quartet alone will need help to claim a team title.
5. The St. James factor in Class 5A
In its first year as a Class 5A school, St. James Academy is ranked No. 3 by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association – and hopes to have a say in the team title race or at the very least vie for a place on the team podium. The Thunder is led by junior Reese Cokeley, who is the reigning Class 4A champion at 106. He’s moved up to Class 5A and 120 pounds now, where he’s ranked No. 2 in the state. St. James boasts seven more ranked wrestlers.