The postseason for high-school wrestling is fast approaching, which means double-dual nights like the one Lee’s Summit West held Jan. 23 have become doubly important.
But if Titans coach Ethan Hauck was using those duals as a gauge to measure how prepared his teams is for districts and beyond, he didn’t seem entirely pleased with what he was seeing.
“This was not indicative of the way we’ve been wrestling,” Hauck said. “I don’t want to sound like sour grapes because we won a couple of tough matches, but we just weren’t wrestling with the crispness and focus that we need to.”
True, West won both duals – whipping Winnetonka 42-14 and Fort Osage 42-12 – but the victories didn’t come as easy as the scores might indicate. Both duals featured closer-than-expected matches, and in neither one did Hauck think that his team looked that sharp.
Part of the problem, Hauck figured, might have been carryover from the weekend before, when West won the prestigious Big Red Wrestling Tournament in Centerville, Iowa. The Titans had three individual champions as they became the first Missouri school in 20 years to win the event in the wrestling-mad state.
“That was a tough tournament in Iowa,” said Titans senior Austin Eveler, who was one of the Titans’ champions in Iowa. “We got beat up a little bit up there.”
Still, Hauck thought his team had had enough recuperation time from its Iowa trip.
“I don’t know if we have an inflated opinion of ourselves (after winning in Iowa) but they need to realize that the better you are the bigger the target that gets put on you,” Hauck said. “And we have to elevate our game as we get better.”
Eveler’s performance at 132 pounds was typical for the Titans. He scored a 17-2 technical fall over Winnetonka’s Ian Benoit (after nearly pinning him in the first period) and then had his hands full with Fort Osage’s Elias Vaoifi before pulling away for an 11-6 decision. Eveler, who placed second at 120 pounds in last year’s Missouri Class 4 state tournament, improved to 37-2 on the season.
“He allowed the kid to get into his head a little bit,” Hauck said. “There were some tactics that I didn’t think were real sporting, let’s just put it that way. That’s bad, but that’s also good for us to understand that’s the focus we need to maintain. We can’t worry about a call we should’ve had.”
Hauck also thought it was good to see the Titans tough out the close matches. Against Winnetonka, Levi Schmoll scored a pin after trailing 6-5 in the second period of his 120-pound match. It was Schmoll’s first action since getting injured in the Lee’s Summit Christmas Tournament.
Against Fort Osage, Tyler Waits won 4-3 on a late takedown at 126; Steffon Fassett scored a takedown with 7 seconds left for a 7-5 win at 145 and D.J. Thogerson held on for a 1-0 decision at 152.
“There were some intense matches,” Hauck said. “The one thing I will say about our kids on a big positive note is that we wrestled with a lot of heart and there was no give-up in them. And without that heart and competitiveness we would have lost a couple of matches.”
Hauck hopes to see more of that in the coming weeks as the season enters the home stretch. District meets begin Feb. 14, and the state meet comes the following weekend in Columbia.
Eveler isn’t worried about his team, which is shooting for a top-four finish at state, being prepared.
“We’re about to turn things up the next couple of weeks,” he said. “Once districts come around, we should be a different team.”