HAYS — Holcomb 182-pound senior Tanner Johnson and Lakin 285-pound junior Hadley Panzer were the only state qualifying wrestlers from their respective schools. Each one was ranked second in their respective weight classes entering the Class 3-2-1A wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday.
The duo faced a top-ranked and undefeated senior wrestler in the championship semifinals Friday.
Both won those matches. Johnson defeated Minneapolis’ Tyson Villalpando, and Panzer held off Sabetha senior Elliott Strahm.
The parallels continued Saturday as each one captured a state title by a significant margin at Fort Hays State University’s Gross Memorial Coliseum.
At 182, Johnson dominated Colby senior Kory Finley, 9-4. Johnson ended the season 31-1 and had also beat Finley for the regional title last week at WaKeeney-Trego.
“It’s what I have been waiting for for a long time,” Johnson said. “Getting older, getting more seasons in the sport — I had great competition. It was so tough.”
Johnson became the first Holcomb wrestling champion since Terri Smith in 1985 and 1986, when Smith won back-to-back titles at 98 pounds. Johnson won his match by technical fall, then a win by fall in 3 minutes, 38 seconds and an 8-3 decision against Villalpando, the eventual third place finisher at 33-1.
“I am just so happy to be a state champion from Holcomb, especially the first one,” Johnson said.
Johnson had been a 4A qualifier last year but didn’t place at state. Holcomb bumped down a class this winter. Johnson used his pace and power early in both of his last two matches. His only loss came at the prestigious Garden City Rocky Welton tournament in January, a competition that helped give him confidence for state.
“I really try to keep the wrestling on the mat as much as possible, because those guys are great on their feet,” Johnson said. “Oh yeah, I’ve got to put in my work on top and bottom. That’s how I beat those guys.”
Panzer went 39-0 and became the first Lakin state champion in more than a decade. He won his matches in four different ways. Panzer opened with a fall in 1:59, then a 12-2 major decision. Last year in the semifinals, he lost to Strahm in double overtime and took third. Strahm won the title.
This year, Panzer defeated Strahm in double overtime, 4-2. Strahm eventually took third at 33-1.
“He was in deep on that lock, and I just had to get my hips back and try to get an underhook in there, and luckily, it’s kind of hard with big guys, we are all sweaty, so we kind of tend to slip off,” Panzer said Friday. “I thank God. It’s so amazing.”
“Last year, it went into overtime, but I took a dumb shot at the end, and it kind of cost me because I lost,” he added. “So I had to just come back and wrestle my game.”
Then, in the finals, Panzer regrouped and beat Republic County junior Eyann Zimmerman by technical fall. Panzer took control early with his tilt and back points.
“I just tried to focus in,” Panzer said Saturday. “I just told myself, ‘It isn’t over yet. I still have one more.’”
Panzer had not faced Zimmerman this season, but had talked to him at different tournaments. Zimmerman had been a .500 wrestler prior to this season before a huge improvement to 39-5.
While Panzer was No. 2 all year, Zimmerman moved into No.3 in the rankings last week. The two did talk at some of the same tournaments. At the beginning of the season, Panzer said he would have considered Zimmerman a surprise to make the final.
“It was a little hard to get up for that finals, because of all that energy from last night,” Panzer said. “That felt like the finals match.”
As well, Cimarron sophomore Tate Seabolt (33-4) took second at 160. He fell to Hoxie senior Dayton Porsch, who ended his career 145-2 with four state titles. Seabolt lost by fall in 1:48 after he fell by pin in the regional final to Porsch. Dylan Newton was fourth at 182 and completed his season 31-4.
“You could tell all the hard work and stuff that he has put in,” Seabolt said of Porsch, a University of Northern Iowa signee. “You can tell throughout his family, they are all good. … I knew it was going to be a tough match. I feel happy about my placement.”
For Leoti, Jesse Gardner went 28-4 at 152, and Jesse Hermosillo was 23-8 at 285 this season. Gardner, who was ranked fifth, lost his first match and won two on the backside.
UPDATE: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Johnson was the first Holcomb state individual champion. Terri Smith won back-to-back titles in 1985 and 1986.