Almost an upset
Improved team performance lifts two Wildcats within a whisker of state
It came as no surprise that Saturday was the last day of the season for the De Soto wrestling team. Every Wildcat entered the weekend's regional wrestling tournament at Eudora a long shot - their weak season records sending them against the tournament's best early in the bracket, and that predictable loss condemning every wrestler to the arduous task of working through the backside.
Oh were the Cats close, though.
A pair of De Soto's field of freshman fought within one victory of a ticket to the state tournament, Demitris Hall falling just short at 130 pounds and Cameron Magdaleno losing 10-6 one round short at 145.
"That's all we can do, put kids in a position to have success," De Soto coach Shannon Sawner said. "We did that this week."
The two-day tournament boiled down to just a few hours of excitement for the Cats. Friday offered little, either in the way of success - De Soto didn't win a match - or excitement - most of the team wrestled just once.
Saturday's early action didn't offer much either, the first four Wildcats falling from the tournament via pin.
Magdaleno was the first to offer a highlight, and his consolation round match against Elias Parenti of Ottawa helped jump start the team.
The freshman 145-pounder was third the week prior at the Frontier League championship meet. He wasn't initially able to follow up on that success, losing Friday via a first-round pin. He wasn't quick to exploit it against Parenti either, coming out slow against the sophomore.
Slow starts have nearly become Magdaleno's trademark, however - as have the quick turnarounds he used to great advantage late in the season. He trailed early, but flopped on top of Parenti and started racking up points. Eventually, he picked up De Soto's first win of the tournament, a 19-2 technical fall.
Magdaleno followed a similar formula to victory in the consolation quarterfinals as well. He trailed Eudora junior Derek Scrimsher after a quick takedown, but wrapped around his opponent and moments later drove Scrimsher into the mat, earning a pin in the second period.
"I went 110 percent," Magdaleno said of his strategy in the first two matches. "If you get on your back, you have to get off it and come back. If you're on your feet, you have a chance.
"The match just always starts out slow. I need to get into some kind of routine. When the match is getting strong and tough is when I step it up."
Magdaleno, 6-14 when the tournament started, finally ran into a wall he couldn't slip around and flip on top of in the consolation semi-finals, wrestling for a bid to the state tournament.
He was in it throughout and was scrambling at the end for enough points, but came up short. He lost to Allen Ramussen of Santa Fe Trail, a senior who entered the tournament with a 19-10 record.
"I was just thinking about it, just thinking about going out, 'this is my first year but I feel like I know everything. I feel like I've been out wrestling for a long time,'" Magdaleno said. "I went out there pretty confident since I won the two previous matches. I thought if I went out there and tried what I had done in the previous matches, I might come out on top."
Hall's path to the semi-finals didn't come with quite as many hurdles - the De Soto freshman had a bye through the first two rounds of the consolation bracket while Magdaleno only had a bye through one. Still, Hall earned his chance at state with a big win, however.
Hall lost his opening round match, but pinned Clint Hampton of Osawatomie 30 seconds in the first round. Hampton, a junior, came into the tournament with a 16-17 record, well ahead of Hall's 8-13 mark.
"Coach always says fear nobody but God, so I went out there and wrestled like that," Hall said.
He lost to Bronson Moylan, a Prairie View junior, in the next round via a third round pin.
"I could have had it," Hall said. "I found out I'm much better than I thought. This is the best I've ever wrestled."
It wasn't just Hall and Magdaleno who came away from the tournament with more confidence, either. Sawner said the regional wrestling tournament didn't make for his ideal wrestling weekend - it's the first time in his career he hasn't had a kid qualify for state.
Still, he said after a disappointing team showing the week prior at the league meet, his team's attitude and action on the mat offered a promising finish to the season.
"I don't measure success in wins and losses. It's more about effort and whether we exceeded what we thought we could do," Sawner said. "I feel pretty good about this weekend, but I'm not satisfied because we didn't get anyone through."