Young Cats learn lessons the hard way
The final team results were flat out ugly as far as De Soto was concerned.
The Wildcats, a team that qualified four wrestlers to the state tournament a year ago, finished eighth out of eight Saturday in the Wamego Dual Tournament.
But De Soto coach Matt Jones wasn't disappointed when asked of his team's performance. Featuring a mostly novice squad of wrestlers, he said De Soto accomplished what it wanted to in the season's first meet.
"I was happy overall with it," Jones said. "The moves they did know, they were trying them, and the more they wrestled, the more aggressive they became."
Neil Erisman was the only Cat to avoid a loss. The senior swept his five matches at 171 pounds in dominating fashion and was De Soto's only consistent point scorer all day.
Shane Heffner, wrestling at 103 pounds, was the youngest, brightest performer among the rest of the team.
The freshman won two matches by pins, notching the first two wrestling victories of his life.
"Getting a pin and winning for a freshman in his first meet, it's pretty exciting," Heffner said. "I just love wrestling. It's pretty fun."
Filling only nine of the 14 weight classes, De Soto found itself 30 points down before every match. It was a deficit that would haunt the Cats all day. De Soto lost to Wamego 66-6 and Silver Lake 66-17, but fell to Herington by just the 30 points, 48-18.
De Soto then lost in the consolation round, 60-22 to Topeka Hayden.
Had Jones' young team been strictly concerned about winning, those numbers would have been devastating, he said. As is, he found the positives in the experience.
"The kids, in every match from the first to the last, got better," Jones said. "They were trying things. They were trying to be aggressive."
Aaron Donnell won one match by pin, as did Tom Beaver.
De Soto now heads down Kansas Highway 10 for the Eudora Tournament of Champions.
Kicking off at 2 p.m. Friday, then wrapping up starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jones said he will be hoping for better results in his team's second meet.
While he said he didn't expect to suddenly leap to the top of the class, he'd be more than happy to see his young Cats mesh the lessons of Wamego with his daily coaching.
"Maybe instead of just trying something this time, they can be successful with a takedown or not get caught on the bottom," Jones said. "They have plenty to work on. I just want to see that they're doing what we're teaching."
Jones said the team still won't be able to fill the varsity roster, but it shouldn't prove as dilapidating of a weakness as it did in Wamego. The wrestlers will be divided up into pools, and then each competitor will have a chance to qualify for a finals round.
"It's nice because they have more chances to wrestle," Jones said. "They won't just go out and face the top kids."
For Heffner and the other Cats still so new to the sport, more chances are all they're looking for.
"There's lots more to learn," Heffner said. "I want to improve a lot on knowing what to do. I need to get my strength up and get some new moves."