PITTSBURG — Although excitement is high for the state wrestling tournament this weekend, for three of the six Purple Dragons heading to Wichita, it will also mark the end of a long journey.

The trio of seniors representing Pittsburg High School prepare for state with great anticipation and with heavy hearts.

“I’m excited to be going,” PHS senior wrestler A.J. Lair said. “I just have to make one last push for a state title and give it all I have. It will be a little bittersweet because I’ll be happy to be there, but sad that it’s the last time that I’ll wrestle as a Purple Dragon. I really made a strong bond with my teammates and it’s going to be tough to say goodbye.”

Despite the emotions heading into their final matches, PHS senior David Green said they can’t allow anything to distract them.

“I think I’ve prepared as much as I possibly can,” Green said. “So, I just want to go out there and perform to the best of my ability. If I do that, I can live with whatever the result is.”

Many years early mornings and late nights in the practice room has all led up to one final performance at state, so anything less their best is not an option, according to senior Hayden Still.

“It’s going to take a lot of heart and dedication,” Still said. “When it’s just you and another man on the mat, it comes down to whoever wants it the most.”

Regardless of the outcome, Pittsburg plans to leave with heads held high.

“I just want to see their best effort,” PHS head coach Scott Reick said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about the wins and losses. I want them to not fear losing, but to fear not wrestling their best. We all lose, but it’s how we lose that matters. Did we lose and know that we gave it everything we have, or did we lose because we were afraid to?”

For the Purple Dragons, it’s about the journey more than the result.

“I’ve had all of these seniors since they were in seventh grade and it has been a lot of fun,” Reick said. “The toughest part of my job is seeing kids leave after spending so much time with them. It’s fun to help raise them up through their senior year, but it’s tough when it’s time to say goodbye.”

 — Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at jbuckamneer@morningsun.net and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.