By HAROLD BECHARD
Special to The Telegram
SALINA — It was difficult to tell who was the most excited Saturday night after Colten Lissolo had made history for the Hugoton High School wrestling program — Lissolo or the Eagle fans who had made the 260-mile trip to the Salina Bicentennial Center.
Maybe it was a draw.
Lissolo's thrilling 3-1 victory over Taylor Kettler of Spring Hill at 215 pounds in the Class 4A State Tournament marked the first-ever state wrestling title by a Hugoton athlete. A junior, Lissolo used a reversal late in the match to break a 1-1 tie.
"It's just unbelievable," Lissolo said. "We've had three get to the finals, but never a champ. I think it's great. I just think more people now will say, 'Hey, we've got one. We can do more.' Standing right here and thinking about that is something else."
Lissolo (36-7) celebrated by bolting upstairs to the west end of the Bicentennial Center to join the sizeable crowd of joyous Hugoton fans. The next few minutes were filled with handshakes, hugs, countless photos and a few tears.
It was, to say the least, an emotional moment.
"The last time I wrestled him, I lost in quadruple overtime," Lissolo said. "He's a real good wrestler, and I was just trying to wrestle smart and hopefully catch something like I did. He shot, and I just did an easy go-behind and that was about it."
It was Lissolo's second appearance at the state tournament after failing to place as a sophomore. To go from not placing to winning a state title in one year is a story in itself.
"It's hard to believe, unbelievable, I'm so happy," Lissolo said. "My coach and I have been talking since the beginning that I have a chance to win it. I tell you, I'm pretty emotional right now."
Lissolo's title helped Hugoton to an eighth-place finish in the team race with 63 points, the highest in school history. Ulysses just missed the Top 10, finishing 11th with 50.5 points.
Jason Perez of Ulysses joined Lissolo as a state champion after a dominating performance in the 103-pound finals. The Tiger junior scored early and often in rolling to a 12-0 major decision over Tyler Mies of Andale.
And so, after going 2-2 in each of his first two appearances at the state tournament, Perez made the third time a charm.
"It's awesome," Perez said. "I hadn't placed here in my first two times, so it feels awesome to win it. I knew it would be a tough match, but I had wrestled him in regionals and was confident I could get it done."
Perez's title was the first for Ulysses since 2006.
"I was seeded first and knew I would have a pretty good chance," he said. "It means a lot, and it's my coach's (Joe Gonzales) first state championship."
Four other area wrestlers placed in the top six — senior Cody Hill of Hugoton was third at 145 pounds; senior Robbie Hines of Ulysses fourth at 125; sophomore Patrick Weaver of Hugoton fifth at 140 and Ulysses junior Razzy Morales sixth at 140. Hugoton senior Tyler McBride missed a medal by one match, reaching the final eight before losing.
Hill wrapped up his high school career in impressive fashion with a dominating 12-2 major decision over Gavin Grater of Clay Center in the third-place match at 145 pounds.
That is impressive enough, but the fact Hill suffered an injury to his left shoulder in the first period of his first match at the state tournament and worked his way through the pain and a third-place finish is special.
"They said I separated something in the AC joint and tore a ligament, as well," Hill said. "I really didn't think much about it at the time. I was behind and just wanted to come back. I wanted to finish the year on a good note. I just didn't want to have any regrets."
See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.