McPherson High senior Bailey Yarborough will never forget his first two years of wrestling on the varsity, often giving away a year or two of experience.
Yarborough definitely took his lumps. Lesser wrestlers might have become discouraged by losing far more than winning and possibly given up the sport.
So he did something about it.
Dedicating himself to being the best he can be, Yarborough was easily the surprise story for the Bullpups last year, going 26-12 and placing sixth in the state at 182 pounds. He also led the Bullpups in falls with 19, a byproduct of his all-out style.
His hard work has paid off with an offer from Bethany College, for which he will wrestle next year.
“It’s very close to home, so it’s always good to be close to my family,” said Yarborough, who will go into this season ranked among the top 182-pounders in Class 4A. “I think it will be fun to be a part of a young Bethany team like they have.”
Yarborough also is taking advantage of Bethany’s policy of free tuition for McPherson and Saline county students.
“The tuition is a very good decision for me. It’s going to help my family out a lot,” he said.
Yarborough admits it was tough his first two years, but the more and more experience he has gained, the more success he has enjoyed.
“I was really motivated (last year),” he said. “Wrestling has been a big part of my life. My junior year I decided I wanted to make a commitment that I was going to work my hardest and wrestle my heart out. It was very discouraging at some points those first two years, it was hard because guys were big and strong and were seniors. You have to basically work hard and know it’s going to be your turn.”
With state champion Austin Eldredge having graduated, Yarborough is accepting the leadership role for this year’s team.
“I’m not going to take any breaks. I want to place really high at state and lead our team,” he said.
“Tremendous season last year,” MHS coach Doug Kretzer said. “Bailey is not your traditional style of wrestler. He has a funky style that really causes problems for his opponents. He is a fantastic scrambler and he's always looking for the home run. He is a lanky wrestler and he uses his length to create a lot of leverage. He is a finisher, if he gets you to your back he is going to get the fall.”
Kretzer believes Yarborough is just starting to fulfill his immense potential.
“I think Bailey has a very high ceiling as a college wrestler,” Kretzer said. “Just last season he started to tap into his potential. College sports are tough and he'll need to ride the highs and lows of the growth process as a college wrestler. With Bethany so close to McPherson, I'm looking forward to watching him compete at home.”
Yarborough also plays for the MHS football team and said that sport has helped him with his wrestling.
Bethany coach Larry Nugent is excited about having an area wrestler join his team.
“He’s accomplished on the mat,” Nugent said. “He’s upset the No. 1 seed last year and he was a junior. He has a lot of upside. Coaches are always looking for that diamond in the rough. If you believe wrestling is a spectator sport, which I do, it (the signing) is very important.”
Nugent said two Smoky Valley Vikings, Austin Lustfield and Brandon Archuleta, are now Swedes and will be important cogs.
“I hope some of those fans who watched these guys in high school will watch them in college,” he said. “We want to build our fan base.”