By CONOR NICHOLL
Special to The Telegram
HAYS — Coaches believed this year's field for the Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament was the most wide-open anyone had seen in years. Multiple teams, including Scott City, believed a state title was possible. After Day 1, the Beavers separated themselves from the pack with a solid performance.
Scott City put three wrestlers in the finals, senior 132-pounder Clay Mulligan, freshman 113-pounder James Jurgens and senior 285-pounder Luke Hayes, and collected 75.5 points. In addition, Scott City junior Alex Kough reached the semifinals before he lost 6-4 to Burlington sophomore Jake Elbrader.
The Beavers are 18.5 points ahead of second-place Hoisington after Thursday's competition at Fort Hays State University's Gross Memorial Coliseum.
"We made a good run," said Mulligan, last year's state champ at 112 pounds.
Action resumed today at 9 a.m. Scott City hasn't won a state title since its Class 4A crown in 2004.
"We only brought six down," Scott City coach Jon Lippelmann said. "We had four in the semis. If I could have put them all into the finals, those four, I would have been really happy, because I think my other boys are ready to score some points out the back."
Mulligan and Hayes, also a defending state champions, delivered solid days and avoided the unpredictable results and upsets that occurred throughout most of the weight classes.
"That's the state tournament," Lippelmann said. "They are high school kids. Sickness comes. This was another day earlier (because of a Fort Hays college wrestling tournament), that's everybody getting to weigh the day earlier right after regional. No time to rest or enjoy what you got done, because there is a lot of other young men that is going through the same goal and you've mentally got to be set for that thing, even if you are not on the top of your game or top of your health. Giving into that is what we call weak."
Mulligan won by fall in 3:28 and then followed up with 8-4 and 7-4 decisions.
"I knew I was on a real tough side of the bracket, minus the Humphrey kid," Mulligan said, referring to Fredonia sophomore Brogan Humphrey, a defending state champion. "... I was definitely on the deeper side of the bracket, had more depth on my side, but it was a good day. Made it to the finals, so I guess it's good that way."
Hayes, 35-0, continued his dominant run with two pins in 18 and 41 seconds in his first two matches.
"I think he has been a lot more aggressive," Lippelmann said. "Last year, he wrestled kind of lackadaisical. We out-finessed them with our genetics and we wanted him to be more on offense and he obligated us. There are a few other things we would like to have him do, but he didn't oblige us. But at least offense he has brought to the table."
In the semifinals, he met Beloit senior Jacob English, a University of Wyoming football signee who had just one loss this year. Hayes took an early lead and won 6-2 to advance to his second straight championship.
"They might not be back-to-back weight class, but when you bring two state champions back, I don't care if they are one weight class or four weight classes up, they are state champions and they wrestle like it," Lippelmann said.
At the league meet several weeks ago, Jurgens hurt his knee and had a muscle pull. The Beavers supported the knee with kinesio tape and Jurgens delivered a run to the finals. He won his first match, 4-3, his second match by default and picked up a 15-0 technical fall victory in the semifinals.
"Man, put the kid in the finals as a freshman, that's style," Lippelmann said. "That's the way we like to come."
Holcomb's Keegan Amos, another 113-pounder, advanced to the semifinals with a fall at 5:34 over Elvis Duran of Chaparral in the first round, then took a 12-8 decision over Randall Thomas of Rock Creek before losing a heartbreaking 7-6 decision to top-seeded and unbeaten Joey Defore of Dexter. Amos will have to win one match today to make the third-place bout. A loss and he will battle for the fifth-place medal.
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.