SALINA — The final score of Friday night’s wrestling dual at Mabee Arena was almost secondary in the total scheme of things for Kansas Wesleyan and Bethany.
Bethany won 27-21, taking advantage of KWU openings in three weight divisions that accounted for 18 points.
On the mat, the Coyotes won four of the six matches.
In the broader picture, both squads are working toward the future this season — Kansas Wesleyan’s program is in its first full season of competition under first-year coach Matt Oney and Bethany’s rebuilding under second-year coach Larry Nugent.
Bethany has had a program for six years, but Nugent is working to make it his.
“Both teams are in the developmental stage, and they’re both going to get better,” he said. “We’re a team this year, but next year we’ll be a real team.”
Wesleyan and Bethany are part of the growing college wrestling landscape in Kansas.
“There’ll be 17 college wrestling programs in Kansas next year,” Nugent said. “It’s not like the old days when the good wrestlers were divided among six or seven teams.
“The cream will come to the top, and I know Matt’s going to do a great job. He’s a good coach — I hate to give him that kind of credit in a rivalry situation, but we look forward to this rivalry for a long time to come.”
Both coaches know successful recruiting will tell the tale. Wesleyan has just eight wrestlers on its roster.
“It will help you build a program faster if you get more kids that get excited about your program,” Oney said. “They have to work synergistically, for sure. If you can get some good kids with high energy and good excitement to come in and do the right thing right away, it sends good, positive messages to the younger kids that are thinking about where they want to go to college.”
“(Recruiting) is the No. 1 job,” Nugent said. “It’s like Dane Pavlovich, our A.D. says, your first job as a head coach is to be a recruiter, before the X’s and the O’s and the tactics and the techniques. You’ve got to get the guys on the bench.”
On the mat, Bethany won the first two matches of the night. Quinton Harrison notched a 12-2 major decision over Zach Knox at 133 pounds and John Risewick scored a 17-0 technical fall over Troy Wilson at 149 pounds.
“John Risewick wrestled a tough Wilson kid, and everybody knows he’s tough,” Nugent said. “He’s spunky and John really just ignored all that. I really count that as important.”
KWU won the final four matches, three by pins. Ty Wilson pinned Brandon Lawson-Archuleta in the 157-pound match; Stefan Johnson decisioned Nicolas Desch 5-1 at 165 pounds; Caleb Wares pinned Carlos Martinez at 184 pounds and Salina South product Tanner O’Donnell pinned Joe Steve at 197 pounds.
KWU forfeited the 125-, 141- and 285-pound matches. Neither team had an entry at 174 pounds.