Mercer takes friendly path to gold
For both Alex Mercer and Joe Beck, their matchup at Saturday's Baldwin Invitational Wrestling Tournament was a monumental moment. It marked the first time that the two best friends had to compete against each other on a wrestling mat.
"We always wondered 'what if?'" Mercer said after winning the 215-pound weight class for De Soto. "We always talked and joked 'I hope I get you.' Then it actually happened."
Mercer, who is ranked sixth in 4A by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association, wasn't thrilled about wrestling against his Mill Valley chum.
In fact, he thought long and hard about the best way to get the pool play match over quickly. So he pinned him within the first minute of the match.
"I didn't want to hurt him in any way," Mercer said.
Mercer went on to win the championship after he finished pool play with a perfect 4-0 record. His championship match pitted the De Soto senior against the No. 1 seed, Lansing's Logan Ryan, who made the championship match despite a three-way tie for first in his pool.
Mercer won the match with an escape in the final 20 seconds after Ryan tied the match seconds earlier on a reversal. The championship was the second Baldwin win in a row for the two-year Wildcat wrestler.
Saturday's gold medal performance was the second of the season for Mercer. But because of the format used in the first meet of the year, Mercer considered this win a bigger deal.
The senior also wanted to make up for the way he won last year's Baldwin championship.
"I wrestled against another Lansing kid last year," Mercer said. "He nearly had me pinned in the first period last year. But I kicked out of it and landed on him and pinned him. I wanted to win it this year fair and square. I didn't want people to think last year was a fluke."
Mercer wasn't the only Wildcat to take home the championship hardware. Neil Erisman kept his undefeated record intact with five wins in the tournament.
After finishing pool play with a 4-0 mark, Erisman was matched up with Santa Fe Trail's Chad Schmale, the third-ranked at 152 pounds in 4A. The Wildcat junior routed Schmale 18-10 in his final match of the day.
Leif Goleman finished fourth at 171 pounds with a 3-2 record on the day.
Both of his losses came against stiff competition.
The senior lost to Santa Fe Trail's Justin Wiscombe, last year's state champion at 152 pounds, and Shawnee Mission East High School's Ryan Sonderegger.
The loss to Wiscombe, 4A's top ranked grappler at 171 pounds, marked the first time Goleman lost to someone other than Sonderegger this season.
In compiling a 25-5 mark so far, Goleman has lost to Sonderegger, the top ranked 171 pounder in 6A, four times. The latest loss was by a 9-4 decision in the third-place match Saturday.
Five other Wildcats competed at the meet that featured six state champions, 19 state placers, three national champions and seven All-Americans.
The field also included 31 ranked wrestlers and the nation's No. 1 ranked wrestler at 135 pounds, Zach Bailey of Oak Park, Mo.
Bryan Roddy battled his way to a fifth-place finish in the heavyweight division. He secured the No. 5 spot by pinning unattached Lansing wrestler Mycol Bowen in 33 seconds.
Wildcat 140-pounder Adam Faircloth finished third in his pool and fell in the fifth-place match to Mill Valley's Matt Westin by a 7-5 count.
Jacob Rupe (125), Aaron Hansen (145) and Matt Below (189) finished ninth, eighth and eighth, respectively, as the Wildcats went on to finish seventh out of 11 teams with 130.5 points.
Oak Park High School, which is ranked in the top 20 nationally by several polls, won the tournament with 333 points and six individual champions. Abilene, 4A's top-ranked team in Kansas, was 79 points behind in second place with two champions. Santa Fe Trail finished third with 248.5 points and a solo champion.
The Wildcats are next in action at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday when they travel to Basehor for a makeup triangular against Basehor-Linwood, Tonganoxie and