What does it say about the future of McPherson High wrestling that the Bullpups had a chance to win the league title here Thursday with half their lineup consisting of freshmen, joined by three sophomores?
MHS hosted Winfield with the AVCTL Division III title on the line at the Auxiliary Gym as both teams were 4-0 in league matches. The place was packed and ear-splitting with noise.
The Bullpups, as expected, dominated the lower half of the weight classes by rocketing to a 26-11 lead.
But Winfield was backloaded with veteran studs in the upper weights as the Vikings won the final six matches, all by falls, for the 47-26 victory.
After I had watched both teams go up against Wellington — with Winfield suffocating the Crusaders 72-0 — I had a feeling the Bullpups would be hard-pressed to win the championship.
But they were incredibly game. Brynton Crews, at 126, won by a fall in an especially exciting match and MHS won the next three matches as well. Landon Frantz, one of the many freshmen for the Bullpups, stepped right in as he moved up from the JV to score a 9-4 victory at 145.
It was just too much to expect the Bullpups’ upper-weight Kiddie Korps to hold off the Vikings. There were four matches in a row where MHS sent out a freshman and in those last six, the Bullpups had a senior, junior and four freshmen. You could tell when the wrestlers were on the mat the difference simply by body maturation. The strength of the Vikes’ upperclassmen was evident as age does matter.
McPherson coach Doug Kretzer, though, was prideful after the match. While it’s hard to imagine the Bullpups without Austin Eldredge next year, Alex Grennan was the only other senior starter. MHS had 10 freshmen or sophomores in its starting lineup. Can you imagine how good those wrestlers are going to be when they’re seniors?
Eldredge has a chance at winning the 138-pound state title as he's ranked No. 1 in the class, with Andale's Zach Eck perhaps his top challenger. Eldredge defeated Eck 5-4 in an earlier matchup this season and on Thursday broke the state record for technical falls.
Kretzer really has the Bullpup program moving in the right direction. He’s also a champion for girls wrestling as he has worked tirelessly to promote the sport and bring it to McPherson this weekend for the first Kansas State Girls Wrestling Tournament. Every school with a girl wrestler was eligible to send them to the Roundhouse for Saturday’s event, which gets under way at 9 a.m.
The Bullpups will have the most entrants as Kretzer gave his girls a tuneup on Thursday by having them compete against the boys in the JV matches with Winfield and Wellington.