McPHERSON — Girls from across the state were crowned regional champions and punched their tickets to state on Saturday in McPherson.
Along with Paola, McPherson was the host site of the first ever Kansas State High School Activities Association Regional Girls Wrestling Tournament.
Before KSHSAA sanctioned girls wrestling as a sport, McPherson hosted three "unofficial" state championships in the Roundhouse. McPherson head coach Doug Kretzer called Saturday’s regional "Girls postseason wrestling 2.0"
"The unofficial state championships were a great start," Kretzer said. "But today, you could tell there was high-level wrestling. These girls could really wrestle well."
"In years past, we may have had some girls who were wrestling for the first time and maybe just trying to get their foot in the door," Kretzer added. "This year, I was really impressed with the quality of the matches."
McPherson is sending three to state. Kaleigh Marbut finished third at 123, Holli Giddings took fourth at 155 and Madison Skytte was fourth at 191.
The top six wrestlers from each weight class and each regional advance to state.
Kretzer said he was pleased with his team results, although he expressed sorrow for senior Hayley Schafer - who opened the season ranked second at 136, but was not able to participate at regionals due to a season-ending injury.
"I think she would have scored us mid-20 points, which would have put us as a team where we think we belong. She’s wrestled since she was a little girl, and she was one of the girls we were fighting for to give her the opportunity to wrestle at a state tournament," Kretzer said. "Other than that, we’ll celebrate these three girls that are going to the state tournament, but it’s right back to practice on Monday."
Nickerson senior Nichole Moore showed why she is the top-ranked wrestler at 116 in the state, winning regionals in dominant fashion. Moore defeated Rose Hill’s Anayka Besco by pin late in the third period to earn the first girls wrestling regional championship in school history.
Nickerson’s Nichole Moore is a regional champion @AD_Nickerson pic.twitter.com/WTXbctOsJ6— Gallagher Martin (@gmartinsentinel) February 15, 2020
Besco is ranked second behind Moore in the state at 116, meaning the two could face off in a rematch for a state championship on Feb. 27 in Salina.
Moore was named the KWCA Regional Wrestler of the Year.
"The whole energy of this room was amazing. All of the girls came together, and it was awesome," Moore said. "From being here today, I can already tell the level of competition has grown since last year."
Moore will be headed to state with freshman teammate Maddi Miller, who fell to sixth-ranked Rebekah Franklin, of Salina Central, in the finals at 235 by fall midway through he second period.
Miller is currently ranked second in the state behind Washburn Rural’s Dajia Anderson.
"Everybody better get ready, because they’re coming at you," Nickerson head coach Nick Flowers said about his two state qualifiers.
Hutchinson High School is also taking two wrestlers to state.
Junior Maritza Jimenez finished as regional runner-up at 123, losing a hard-fought match to second-ranked Elise Rose of Marysville by a 7-4 decision in the championship.
Sophomore Kylar Smith, ranked fifth in the state at 116, finished fifth at regionals, winning by fall in the third period over Esmerelda Corado of Garden City.
"The girls know they have some work to do for state," Hutchinson head coach Jose Garcia said. "They didn’t finish where they thought, and I thought, they should have finished, but overall they had a great weekend, and we’ll go back to practice on Monday."
Day one of regionals was held at McPherson College, due to McPherson High School basketball hosting Winfield High School on Friday. Garcia and Flowers both admitted day one had its rocky moments, but they were in agreement that day two was second to none.
"The college was way too cramped, but being here at the high is awesome," Flowers said.
Garcia was impressed, but not surprised, by the atmosphere and turnout on Saturday.
"McPherson always does a great job," Garcia said. "They were instrumental at getting it sanctioned for the ladies in high school, so it was no surprise that we were having regionals here."
"The fan support was fantastic. We had a great crowd from everybody," Garcia added.
Great Bend won the inaugural team championship with 123 points, barely edging second-place Garden City with 122 points. Great Bend’s Kyeal Mogbo won by pin in the third-place match at 235 over Chapman’s Chelsey Armbruster, which was the difference between first and second place for Great Bend as a team.
Host McPherson finished third, while Nickerson scored 60.5 points for eighth, and Hutchinson finished with 43 points for 16th.
Regionals was a good indicator that girls wrestling is growing in the state of Kansas.
"Girls wrestling in Kansas is about to explode," Flowers said. "Everybody in the state better get ready. If you don’t have girls, get ready to have them on your team."