Erisman still trumps ramped up competition
The story remains the same for Neil Erisman. He dominated the field en route to the 171-pound title at the weekend's Bobcat Classic wrestling tournament in Basehor.
Still, one thing is changing, Erisman said. Each successive tournament has brought improved competition, in turn making his championship match Saturday one of his best of the season.
"I wrestled a lot better this weekend than I have the weekends before," the De Soto senior said. "I was closer to my potential."
Close to Erisman's potential proved close enough. He breezed through day one of the two-day event, first beating Shelton Heilman of Lawrence Free State, then knocking off Derek Oswalk of Atchison County.
St. Thomas Aquinas' Jed Manie loomed in the tournament's semi-finals. Erisman beat Manie earlier this season in the Johnson County Classic, but the Class 6A state placer from a season ago gave Erisman the toughest test thus far.
Erisman fought for a narrow 8-5 victory in the first meeting. It wasn't even close in the rematch, however, Erisman winning with a pin.
"He was out to prove a point," De Soto coach Matt Jones said. "He was a little upset. He didn't feel he wrestled his best last time, so he was looking to prove who was the better wrestler."
Erisman then defeated Andale's Pete Eck in the finals, keeping his perfect season intact.
"He wrestled really well," Jones said. "He wrestled well in the finals. It was some good competitive matches and a good competitive tournament. Hopefully he can take those close matches when it comes time for the state tournament and use them when he has to be on his toes the whole time instead of just getting a pin."
Erisman and the Wildcats have a slow week, but a big tournament at Baldwin looms Jan. 28 and the Frontier League meet, signaling the start of the postseason, is less than a month away.
"I've still got some stuff I need to work on," Erisman said. "I need to stay in shape for Baldwin, league, regionals and state. I have to stay on top of my game and get in a little better shape."
Erisman represented De Soto well at the large Basehor meet, but he was the Cats' only representation. The rest of the squad competed in a junior varsity meet at Shawnee Mission Northwest.
It didn't have nearly the clout or star power of Erisman's meet, but Jones said the young Cats were able to accomplish a lot.
Shane Heffner, Mark England and Andrew Butler all placed first in their weight classes and Hunter England, Troy Phinney, Aaron Donnell, Ryan Hakes and Eric Buffkin all placed either second or third.
"They wrestled really well," Jones said. "You can tell what they've been working on, they're using kids closer to their ability and they're dominating. They're not just barely squeaking by."
The junior varsity experience was a welcome relief after weeks of varsity wrestling, Mark England said. Wrestling at 125 pounds, the freshman won all five of his matches.
"They were novice wrestlers, just with a couple of years of experience like me," England said. "It was good, but I want to keep wrestling on varsity because it will make me better."