PITTSBURG — A late push in the final three matches of the night propelled Pittsburg wrestling to a 34-35 home win over Prairie View Thursday in a dual with the Buffalos.
The No. 4-ranked Purple Dragons found themselves trailing 30-22 with Dylan Prince, Tyler Watson and Zach Kunkler still on the docket as the last chance for a team win. Prince made quick work of his opponent with an early fall before Watson fought back in the final period to get the win, giving the Purple Dragons a 34-30 lead. In the heavyweight match, Kunkler held off his opponent to avoid pin fall, securing the team win with an 8-5 loss by decision.
“I was very proud of them. We had a handful of them who really had to step it up, and they did step it up,” Pittsburg head coach Scott Rieck said. “We were very pleased with the way they manned up tonight.”
Prince, wrestling at 195 pounds, sank in an early takedown in the first round against the Buffalos’ Joey Weers. He finished the match off moments later with a win by fall with 1:14 remaining in the first period to cut the Prairie View advantage to 30-28.
In the 220-pound matchup with Watson and Prairie View’s Blake Miller, Watson found himself in a bit of a hole, trailing 6-3 heading into the final period. He turned his fortune around late, earning the fall by pin with 15.2 seconds remaining for a comeback victory which brought the PHS crowd to their feet. His win gave Pittsburg a 34-30 lead with the heavyweight match remaining.
“That win was everything because it took a little bit of the pressure off Zach Kunkler’s shoulders as the heavyweight,” Rieck said. “He knew he couldn’t give up bonus points, but he didn’t have to win the match. Tyler came up big for us to give Zach that cushion.”
Kunkler and Dylan Frederick battled over all three rounds in the heavyweight clash. Kunkler scored the first takedown in the opening period before Frederick quickly took the advantage, scoring a near fall in the second period. Kunkler managed to hold out, however, before putting a late charge in the third period. Kunkler ultimately fell 8-5 in a decision, losing his battle but winning the war for Pittsburg.
Pittsburg’s Caleb Blansett won by fall with 1:20 to go in the opening period of his 120-pound match with Levi Morse, while A.J. lair earned an 11-1 major-decision win at 126 pounds over the Buffalos’ Shane Sullivan.
Lair earned takedowns in all three periods as well as a near fall in the third.
Joseph Tallie earned a win by ball in the third period, putting PHS up 22-12 in the process. Tallie defeated Prairie View’s Tre Kline at 152 pounds. He scored a takedown and near fall in the first period to give himself an early advantage moving forward before the final-period fall.
The Purple Dragons were short handed in their dual against the Buffalos. Wes Jameson, Kayne Hutchison and Deveron Duncan were all inactive while recovering from injuries. Being able to pull out a win without three of the top kids in the program is huge for Pittsburg wrestling, according to Coach Rieck, especially for the boys filling in at those spots.
“It’s confidence. Anything you do [successfully] in life, not just wrestling, is based on confidence,” Rieck said. “You get it through success and you get it through practice. Those guys have gotten that practice because we have had to utilize those second-string kids, who have come in and performed very well. They’ve done it because they’ve prepared themselves.”
Getting Started Early
While the varsity high school wrestling teams were battling it out on the mat, the youth wrestling clubs for Pittsburg and Prairie View also had their own dual happening on the other side.
Having the younger group of kids wrestling in a dual-style environment was a good way to break them into the team aspect of wrestling, according to Rieck, something you don't get the chance to do often in club wrestling.
“You’ve got to have a strong kids club to have a strong high school team. Dan Gable (legendary University of Iowa wrestling coach) said that. It’s a fact,” Rieck said. “When the younger kids are wrestling, they are by themselves with their mom and dad when they go to these tournaments.
“In order for them to understand the true team concept to this sports, I want to get them in these dual settings. So, when they’re 7, 8 and 9 years old, they learn not to give up bonus points, to cheer on your teammates and start to gel when they’re young to build that chemistry.”
Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter at @LDsportswriter.