It had been 364 days since Lakin’s Hadley Panzer had last lost when he entered the 2019 Class 3-2-1A wrestling semifinals in Hays on Feb. 22.
Panzer had lost to Sabetha’s Elliot Strahm in a sudden victory period in the 2018 semifinals, before finishing in third place as a sophomore heavyweight. In 2019, he faced the exact situation and exact opponent once again in the semifinals.
The duo were locked in a battle that could not be decided in regulation periods and were forced into sudden victory. This time, Panzer was able to hold off Strahm and force the tiebreaker period.
There, Panzer got a 2-point takedown to stun Strahm and move on to the Class 3-2-1A state final, which he dominated to seal his perfect 39-0 season with a state championship.
For that effort, Panzer has been named The Telegam’s All-Area wrestler of the year.
“If you would have told me you’re going to go undefeated, I would have been like ‘Whoa, I don’t know. We’ve got a long way to go,” Panzer said Thursday. “But just reflecting back on that, it’s just pretty special for me.”
The most special win was the one over Strahm, even if it was the semifinal.
“I think Friday night was the state championship,” Lakin head coach Jim Christiansen said. “Everyone knew it should be, and it was just unfortunate we were on the same side.”
After the matchup, Panzer still had to prepare for the next day’s final vs. Republic County’s Eyann Zimmerman.
“We talked about it Friday night at the motel room, Christiansen said. “He probably didn’t get focused until he was warming up right before the match, but he got into it pretty quickly.”
Panzer won by a 15-0 technical fall with 22 seconds remaining in the third period.
“In that Strahm match, I used all my energy and excitement,” Panzer said. “You could tell which (match) I was more amped up for … I just kind of had to focus in and tell myself I had one more match and psych myself up a little bit, so I could go out there and wrestle my game.”
The win over Strahm was not the only redemptive effort of Panzer’s year, as the Lakin junior also upset Dodge City’s Evan Darville en route to the Rocky Welton Invitational title. Darville finished third in Class 6A.
In the Welton, Panzer also downed the eventual Class 6A champion, Garden City’s Refugio Chairez. Panzer also beat the Class 4A third-place finisher, Ulysses’ Ayston Perez five times this season, all by 1-0 wins.
“Going into the season, we knew we were going to be facing some of the best in the state at the end of the year and in the middle, and we just had to work for it,” Panzer said.
At state, Panzer, who came in ranked No. 2 at 285 behind Strahm, also beat the third- and fourth-ranked wrestlers to win the title.
“That’s where I have to thank my coach (Christiansen) because he put me in the best situation I could be to be successful at the end of the season,” Panzer said.
Panzer’s fun February just continued into March as the linemen in football added several scholarship offers from both two-year and four-year schools — FBS offers from Iowa State and Akron, an NCAA Division II offer from Fort Hays State University and NJCAA offers from Garden City, Butler, Fort Scott and Dodge City.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” Panzer said. “I’m very fortunate to get those offers.”