by Brian Turrel
Six Wyandotte County schools took part in the KSHSAA 5A regional wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday at Blue Valley Southwest High School.
Twelve wrestlers from four of those schools finished eighth or better to earn a spot in the 5A state tournament next weekend in Park City.
Bonner Springs senior Tony Caballero, top-ranked in the 285-pound class all year, pinned all four of his opponents, including Blue Valley Southwest’s Andrew Farrell in the tournament’s final match. Caballero placed second in last year’s state tournament and heads to this year’s tournament with a season record of 24-1.
Braves’ senior Jace Tapia won the 138-pound weight class, winning two matches by fall and another by decision. He pinned Ty Lewis, from wrestling powerhouse Shawnee Heights, in the championship match.
Caballero and Tapia will be joined at the state tournament by Bonner’s Shane Daniels, who took third in the 152-pound class, and Ethan Cook, who placed sixth at 120 pounds.
The Piper Pirates are sending five wrestlers to the state tournament. Piper’s top finisher was Ja’Diz Simmons, who placed third in the 106-pound class. He pinned three opponents, but was bested by Basehor-Linwood’s Brody Ballard in the semi-finals.
Heading to Park City with Simmons are Piper’s Sawyer Vas, who placed fifth at 170 pounds, and Payton Mills, who placed sixth at 126 pounds. Makao Groneman and Nick Hoover placed eighth in the 113- and 132-pound classes to earn their places at state.
Sumner’s B.J. Keith earned his tournament berth in dramatic fashion. He faced Cruz Lopez of Pittsburg in his third match with a trip to state riding on the outcome. The back-and-forth match was tied at 3 points, with neither wrestler having a clear advantage.
With only six seconds remaining, Keith scooped up Lopez and dropped him to the mat, earning a takedown, a match win, and an opportunity in Park City.
After the close-fought contest, Keith recounted his thoughts in those final seconds.
“I was just thinking to myself, ‘I’ve got to go,'” the Sabres’ senior said. “I’m going to state. I’m going to state. I don’t care what happens or what it takes.”
Turner’s Connor Scott and Mechia Marks placed eighth in the 170- and 195-pound brackets to earn two places at the state tournament for the Golden Bears.
Washington and Schlagle high schools had wrestlers participate in the regional tournament, but didn’t have any qualifiers to the state tournament.
In other regional wrestling action, Harmon and Wyandotte high schools participated in the 6A tournament held at Shawnee Mission South.
Harmon’s Juma Ibrahim and nDoma Gazadikwe placed fifth in the 120- and 138-pound weight classes to qualify for the state tournament. Wyandotte’s C.J. Anderson (113) and Franklyn VanBebber (285) both placed sixth and will represent the Bulldogs in Park City.