Cats hope meet can springboard team
It's not just a convenience, an advantage or an expected fun night.
It's an opportunity that the program can't afford to miss, De Soto wrestling coach Matt Jones said.
The Wildcats will wrestle their only home meet of the season Thursday just five days after grabbing four medals at the Tonganoxie Invitational. For a program that's struggled under the weight of its young and inexperienced competitors so far this season, the momentum that could be created by a strong showing at home is hard to ignore.
"Hopefully we'll get some kids back from sickness and injury and we'll be ready to go," Jones said. "We're hoping we can come out with some success. Just the fact that they got to take home a medal was huge."
The Wildcats will host Wellsville and Osawatomie at 5 p.m. in De Soto. The junior varsity will wrestle first, with the varsity following at 7 p.m.
It's a chance to match up with two area rivals and one, Osawatomie, which the Cats will see again at the regional tournament.
But even more important is the chance to capitalize on the success in Tonganoxie, Jones said. De Soto won just one match the weekend prior while wrestling at Burlington, so Saturday's medal haul was even sweeter, he said.
Todd Atchison, Hunter England, Eric Buffkin and Tom Beaver all earned their first varsity medals.
Atchison got his in the 103-pound bracket, a new realm for the former 112-pound wrestler. The freshman decided to cut weight after continually finding himself the smallest competitor in the 112-pound field, and Jones said it was the right move.
"He cut to 103 and I think that's better for him," Jones said. "He'll start getting more wins because he won't be the smallest kid in his bracket anymore."
England, a sophomore, placed third in the 130-pound division. Buffkin and Beaver, both juniors, were third and fourth, respectively, in the 152- and 189-pound classes.
"They all wrestled well," Jones said. "For all of them, it was a first varsity medal and they were pretty excited."
It was a good day for all, Jones said, but it was almost a great day for Buffkin. Working his way through his second year on the team, Buffkin has changed his strategy slightly and saw immediate results at Tonganoxie, Jones said.
He's tried to fight more standing up, trying to keep off of the mat where he'd be more prone to a more experienced wrestler's moves.
"He had the kid who placed first beat with about 15 seconds left, but he got in an awkward position," Jones said. "He outwrestled the No. 1 kid. He's come around and he's figuring some things out.
"He's close to really turning a corner."
If De Soto is able to capitalize on a week's worth of good fortune, it couldn't come at a better time as the team will first take a week off, then barrel toward the end of the season.
The Cats won't wrestle this weekend and don't return to the mats until Jan. 25. A big tournament in Baldwin then awaits on Jan. 27 and league looms Feb. 10. The team is already less than a month from the regional tournament, Feb. 16-17 at Baldwin.