McPherson High sophomore Austin Eldredge has been the No. 2-ranked wrestler at 106 pounds in Class 4A for much of the season.
This weekend he wants to prove he should be No. 1.
Eldredge and Kaleb Jost are the two Bullpups who will be competing in the state tournament Friday and Saturday at Salina’s Bicentennial Center.
Eldredge has only one blemish on his record entering the tournament as he’s 35-1. His loss came in the semifinals of the prestigious Newton Tournament of Champions to Norton’s Ryan Johnson — a match he had led 7-4 before losing late, 8-7.
Eldredge’s biggest competition may come from top-ranked Cody Phippen of Basehor-Linwood, who is 34-2. However, that matchup would take place in the semifinals as they are on the same side of the bracket.
On the other side of the bracket, Pratt’s Dylan Pelland is 28-0 and Independence’s Arthur Jesse is 32-3. Even though Pollard is undefeated, he is only No. 4 in the KWCA rankings.
MHS coach Doug Kretzer has seen enough of Eldredge to believe he can be the Bullpups’ first state champion since Taylor Krier back in 2012.
“I think Austin can win it,” Kretzer said. “He’s got the skills to pull it off. He’s wrestling tremendous right now. He’s got to take it one match at a time and not make the tournament too big. He can’t look past each matchup. Right now all he can think about is the Tonganoxie boy (Aldan McClellan in the first round). What make Austin good is he is really good on his feet and even better on top. So if he gets the takedown, he can go right to work with his top game.”
Kretzer believes Jost, a junior, can surprise some people at 182 since he’s 25-20.
“For Kaleb, it’s the same as Austin without the pressure,” Kretzer said. “One match at a time. I really like Kaleb’s draw. People are going to look at all the losses Kaleb has, not realizing that a bunch of those losses are to three kids. He’s really wrestled a very difficult schedule. Kaleb is really a dark horse at 182, I hope he makes a mess out of this bracket for all those ranked kids. He’s had an excellent year, but I don’t think he’s done. He’s not satisfied with a state berth. I think Kaleb really wants a medal.”
Jost goes up against Wellington’s Joey Haydon (24-16) in the first round. He’s on the opposite side of Smoky Valley’s undefeated (39-0) Austin Cook. Most observers believe Cook will make the finals against Hays’ Ethan Deterding in a rematch of last week’s regional championship match when Cook won by a fall. Deterding is ranked No. 2 behind Cook by the KWCA.
Friday’s action gets under way at 10 a.m. and goes clear through the championship semifinals as all the championship matches will be determined.
Consolation action Saturday starts at 9 a.m., with the consolation finals at 3:00. The Parade of Champions begins 40 minutes after the consolation finals, then the championship finals wrap up the tourney.