Down to the final match in the Kansas State Wrestling tournament Saturday in Salina the Columbus Titans were in sixth place as team. The Titans were trailing the SEK League rival and Regional champion Chanute by 1.5 points and a long time tournament foe, Andover, by three points for fourth place.
Finishing sixth or fourth, the Titans having a good or a great year, all rested on the broad shoulders of Columbus heavyweight Taylor “Tank” Burns.
He didn’t let the team, his school, or himself down. Tank’s 3-1 decision gave the Titans’ 99 team point score, leap-frogging them over both the long time opponents into the fourth place state finals finish.
For Burns it was a state championship gold medal, for the team it was an almost unbelievable finish to an unforgettable year.
Despite Tank’s dramatic finish, the Titans say good-bye on a happy note. C.J. Napier, claimed his third state championship medal. The team leader and Coach Todd Napier’s son, C.J. has been the team’s “rock” and most solid performer the last four years.
It was a Cinderella year for the Titans as they opened the season struggling against Missouri and Oklahoma opponents. Then as they went into SEK competition the team points began to roll up. In the final home match of the season the Titans were crushed as they suffered a two point loss to Chanute, giving up four open slots to the Blue Comets.
“I could not be more proud of this year’s team,” said Napier. ”We had very high expectations going into the season but a lot of people around the state were very surprised by the overall strength of this year’s team. We finished our dual season with a 9-1 record and finished second in the SEK with a two point loss to Chanute in the league championship dual. We also brought home a second place team trophy from the Regional, losing by a few points again to Chanute”
“We finally beat Chanute by 2.5 points in the state tournament,” continued Napier. “We scored 99 points at the state this year and finished fourth as a team. Ninety-nine points in most years would usually earn a top three finish but this year Colby, Clay Center and Abilene all scored over 100 points leaving us one spot short of bringing home a team trophy.”
Eight Columbus grapplers made it though the Caney Valley Regional to the state championships. But once again Chanute out pointed the Titans for the Regional championship.
Friday afternoon the Titans were able to get four wrestlers through the opening rounds into the championships on Saturday.
At 125 pounds sophomore Kyle Johnson took a second place medal in a championship match that could easily have gone his way. He lost the 9-7 championship match to Zake Peters of Augusta after beating Symon Seaton of Basehor Linwood in a 3-1 decision. Kyle made it into the finals with a 9-7 overtime victory over Brandon Charbonneau of Clay Center Kyle ended the season with a 29-11 record.
“Kyle had an incredible run at a state title this year,” said Coach Napier. “he had a big overtime win in the quarter finals over Charbenneau and Seaton had both been ranked ahead of Kyle throughout this season. He had lost two close matches to Seaton earlier this year.”
“Kyle is the type of wrestlers who pushes the pace of his matches. He wrestled with a lot of intensity and won all three of his matches on Friday putting him into the championship finals against Peters of Augusta. Peters had beaten Kyle in the semifinals of the Rose Hill tournament and in the finals of the regional tournament last week.”
“In the finals Kyle gave up a costly takedown at the end of the first period putting him behind 0-2. He fought his way back and scored three takedowns in the final period but came up a little short in a 7-9 final score,” said Napier. “I know Kyle was a little disappointed at coming so close to winning a state title, but I was very proud of his efforts both in the practice room and during his matches. He has worked himself into incredibly great shape and always pushes his opponents throughout the whole match. I am just glad that we have him on the team for two more years and I know he will do what it takes to put himself in a position to win a state title in the future.”
At 135 pounds the only surprise would have been that C. J. Napier not three-peated as the state champion. C.J. opened the tournament against Bronson Moylan of Prairie View, getting a pin at 3:29, then took a 9-3 decision over James Medlin. He followed with a pin at 2:55 over Bryce Hood of Louisburg and in the championship C.J. took Tyler Anderson of Clay Center with an 8-4 decision. Though some of the matches appear close, these were the top competition in the state, on which C.J. built his record to 36-0 for the season. Next year he will be wrestling for the University of Nebraska on a wrestling scholarship.
“C.J. finished out his senior season with a perfect 36-0 season and his third state championship. C.J. defeated Tyler Anderson of Clay Center, who was also undefeated going into the finals, by a score of 8-4. C.J. has had an incredible career as a Titan wrestler. He joins three other Columbus wrestlers as three-time state champions. Matt Roark, Randy Roark and Austin Devoe were also three time state champions,” said Coach Napier.
“C.J. was totally dominant this year. He did not give up a single takedown or set of back points to any of his opponents this season,” continued Coach Napier. “C.J. will be impossible to replace next year. He is a gifted wrestler who has worked year round for many years now to get to the level of skill that he has reached. He is still planning to attend several national level competitions this spring and summer before leaving at the end of this summer to join the University of Nebraska wrestling team in Lincoln. C.J. also excels in the classroom and has a 4.0 grade point average. I have totally enjoyed coaching C.J. for many years now. I am really looking forward to sitting in the stands next year and watching him wrestle at the collegiate level. I feel Nebraska is a very good fit for him and hopefully he will continue to develop into a great college wrestler.”
At 140 pounds B.T. O'Hara garnered a third place medal for the Titans winning four out of five matches. The sophomore B.T.’s only loss came to Cody Hill of Hugoton, the eventual second place tournament finisher. B.T. pinned Garret Kahle of Basehor-Linwood in 2:55, then took an 8-3 decision over Matt Brock of Tonganoxie. He beat Chris Atlakson of Hiawatha with a 6-2 decision and won his third place with a 4-3 decision over Zach Reeb of Meriden-Jefferson West. He finished the season with a 32-12 record.
“B.T. had a great state tournament this year. He won four matches and only lost one match in the semi-finals to Cody Hill of Hugoton. B.T. went into the state tournament unranked and beat Matt Brock of Tonganoxie and Reeb of Jefferson West who had both been in the ranking the whole season. B.T. picked a perfect time to wrestle his best tournament of the year. Placing third in that bracket was quite an accomplishment for B.T. He has a lot of natural talent and has the ability to become a state champion in the next two years as he continues to work and mature as a wrestler.
Taylor “Tank” Burns
At 285 pounds Tank Burns never had an easy match in the tournament. In his opener he went 5:30 before getting a pin on B.J. Higgins of Meriden-Jefferson West. He went 4:56 before pinning Adam Weber of Colby. In the finals Tank pulled out a 4-3 decision over Dennis Devader of Holton and in the championship match Saturday night, the final match of the tourney,
Tank took a 3-1 decision over B.J. Finney of Andale. He finished the season with a 36-4 record and a state gold medal.
“The highlight of the tournament this year was Tank’s upset victory over the number one ranked heavyweight wrestler in Kansas, B.J. Finney of Clearwater in the Championship finals,” said Napier. “We knew Tank could beat him if he wrestled a perfect match. He had lost two close matches to Finney at the Basehor and Rose Hill tournaments earlier this year. Coach Eric Napier has been working out with Tank in practice and working on a few things that we thought he needed to do to beat Finney. Tank went out and wrestled an incredible match to win the title. He is extremely strong and powerful on the mat. He has great athletic ability for a big guy and is a top notch heavyweight wrestler.”
At 103 pounds sophomore Jacob York lost his first two matches in the state tournament. The first to Alex Wolf of Lindsborg-Smoky Valley in a fall at 1:32 and the second match to Jacob Boxberger of Russell in a fall at 3:32. Jacob finished with a record of 11-16 on the season.
“Jacob has been our starting 103 pounder for two years now,” said Napier. “He has continued to work hard and improve. Since he got into our program. He is just now beginning to get the size and strength he needs to compete against the good 103 pound wrestlers at the state level. Making it to state was a good accomplishment for Jacob this year. I know he will continue to do what it takes to get back to state next year and make a run at a state medal.”
At 130 pounds Nick Thomas has one win and two losses in the state tourney. Opening with a loss on an 8-3 decision to Josh Hanson of Baldwin, Nick came back to get a 4-2 decision over Anthony Negrette of Buhler then was eliminated with an 11-0 decision by Colton Duhr of Andale. Nick finished his senior year with a record of 25-16.
“Nick has been a starter on our regional team all four years he was in high school. He came very close to qualifying for state the past two years but always seemed to be in a stacked weight class and came up just a little short. This year he put together a solid year as our starter at 130 pounds and easily qualified for the state tournament by placing third at regionals. At state he lost a close match in the first round to Henson of Baldwin. Nick was in position to score the winning takedown at the end of the third period but did not quite finish his single leg attempt that would have given him the lead near the end of the match. We felt if Nick could have won that first round match he would have been in a good position to get a win in the second round that would have locked him in for a state medal,” said Napier. “He did come back in the consolation bracket and beat Anthony Negrette of Buhler 4-2. Negrette had been ranked most of the year in the 130 pound weight class. Nick then lost out of the tournament by losing to Duhr of Andale, the number four ranked wrestler in the state by a score of 0-11. “I was very proud of all that Nick has accomplished as a Titan wrestler. He has always been a team leader. He is a great kid and represents our program well. He is one of the top students in the senior class academically and has a great work ethic. He has a bright future ahead of him and I know he is going to be very successful in whatever he chooses to do,” said Coach Napier.
At 189 pounds Nathan Morris had two wins and two defeats in the tournament, losing his opening match to Steven Skaggs of Meriden-Jefferson West the eventual sixth place winner in the tourney. Nathan came back with two quick pins; the first over Devon Minckley of Prairie View in 1:17 and Dylan Bowman of Wellington in 1:18. The tournament fifth place finisher Dylon Walker of El Dorado pinned Nathan in 1:56.
“Nathan in winning two and losing two matches came up one match short of placing at the state tournament this year. Nathan lost his first match but came back in the consolation rounds to get two pins. Scoring six valuable team points that helped us get the fourth place team finish. This was Nathan’s second trip to the state tournament. Last year he qualified for state but went 0-2. He had a good season, this year. He finished the year with a 27-13 record. I know Nathan will continue to improve next year and hopefully he will be able to bring home a medal from next year’s state tournament.”
At 215 pounds David Lloyd also won two matches and lost two in the state tournament. Losing his first match to the eventual state champion Tanner Kriss of Colby, David came back to pin Spencer Trumbly of Paola in 1:44 and take a 3-1 decision over Adam Waymaster of Russell before losing to Chase Kreutzer of Pratt, the sixth place finisher, on a 7-0 decision. David finished the season with a record of 22-14.
“David also won two matches and lost two, leaving him one win short from bringing home a medal from the state tournament,” said Napier. “that is really quite an accomplishment for David considering that he was a JV wrestler on the team last year. He finished the season with a 22-14 record. David won a lot of matches for us this season. With the varsity experience he gained this year, David will be one of our top returning wrestlers next season,” said Coach Napier, “He has a good opportunity to bring home a medal from next year’s state tournament if he continues to work hard and improve.
“We lost some very close matches early in the tournament that could have made a difference in how some of the guys finished but, overall we were very happy with the tournament and the season,” said Coach Todd Napier, after the tourney.
“We will really miss our two seniors (Nick Thomas and C.J. Napier) but we have a good number of experienced wrestlers returning that will allow us to be a top contender in the SEK, and in class 4A wrestling next year,” said Coach Napier.
Those wishing to see the championship matches of Burns and Napier can see them at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPuRrTruNoc&feature=channel page and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDf5qYRiuaU&feature=channel.