There’s been a thorough search of the record books by school officials and nowhere can it be found that McPherson High’s wrestling team has won a league championship.
Even in the salad days of the 1990s, those years of the domination of Temoer Terry and Travis Stites as they combined for seven state titles, did the Bullpups ever win a championship. Remember those were the years of Arkansas City’s domination, as it seemed like the Bulldogs annually won the league and state title.
MHS actually has clinched a share of the title this season. The Bullpups take a 4-0 record into their Division III finale on Thursday at El Dorado, which has one loss. From all indications, Winfield also has one loss, which came to McPherson.
But MHS coach Doug Kretzer has made it clear he wants to finish with a clean slate as it would legitimize the program in his eyes. The Bullpups, of course, have had numerous state champions over the years, but a team title signifies a program has developed some depth.
“The fact that I can't find any information to verify the last time we won league tells me it's been way too long and we need to win this thing outright,” Kretzer said. “I think it would be huge for our team. We've discussed weekly that this is our first goal. We want to be the best team in our league. Then we want to make that the norm, not the exception. We need to establish this mentality.”
Kretzer, who took over for his mentor Rich Settle, works tirelessly and positively in his efforts to make the program a major player in Class 4A.
“Our coaching staff has worked our tail off the last five years recruiting specifically at the middle school to get our numbers up,” Kretzer said.
The Bullpups have had a couple of league matches where opposing teams have had to give away some points due to forfeits. Kretzer says, though, having the ability to not give up points on forfeits is important.
“The league title is specific to filling 14 weight classes and then wrestling tough,” he said. “Once you've got the weight classes full, then you need quality reserves. We haven't wrestled a dual yet with all our No. 1s in the lineup. So, when these backups step in and step up in a dual, it reiterates how important the team/next wrestler up mentality is. These kids have bought in. All 32 kids on the team want this title and so does the coaching staff.”
The Bullpups are a team built for duals. They won’t be a contender for tournament titles simply because they don’t have the experience in the middle weights. This is an MHS team that is very good down low and up top, but it’s hard for wrestlers in the middle weights that are freshmen and sophomores to defeat the more-experienced juniors and seniors they mostly face.
Yet, MHS will still have a few individuals who should make an impact at state in Salina. Austin Eldredge, Kaleb Jost and Ty Goss have been consistent placers in big tourneys and there’s a couple of more wrestlers who have been close on occasions. MHS will be competing in a tough regional as many of the schools have strong individuals, but are not necessarily deep.
As for El Dorado on Thursday, the Wildcats started the year ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, but are just the opposite of the Bullpups in that they’re built for tournaments more than duals. Kretzer believes just like many of the duals this year, it could come down to the final match of the night where Goss has excelled at 285. This past weekend he broke the MHS record for pins in a season with 26.
Not only has Kretzer's team shined on the mat, but off it as well. It ended the first semester with an aggregate grade point average of 3.39, which he says should be a source of pride as they have put the "student" in the term "student-athlete."