When it comes to Class 5A wrestling, two-time defending state champion Goddard sits firmly on top.
But a glance at the latest Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association rankings shows fellow AV-CTL school Maize ranked second, with six wrestlers ranked in the top five statewide in the 14 weight classes.
Granted, Goddard placed 10 in those same rankings have 10 Goddard wrestlers listed, but for the Eagles – 14th at state last year – to have so many ranked is an accomplishment.
Maize actually has seven in the rankings, but senior Cameron Hughbanks is out for the year after surgery.
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“Losing him hurt a lot,” coach Mike Schauer said. “He’s a great kid. He dislocated his shoulder in our very first practice.”
The Eagles will look to flex their muscles again Thursday in a dual at Campus, which was third in Class 6A a year ago. They follow that dual up with the Winter Classic in Emporia this Saturday.
For veteran coach Schauer, rankings don’t tell the entire story of how good a team is.
“I don’t follow the rankings a lot, because they don’t mean anything when you step out onto the mat,” Schauer said. “I don’t put a lot of weight into that.”
The Eagles are coming off a sixth-place finish in the Mid-American Nationals tournament last weekend in Enid, Okla.
Maize was led by freshman Kyle Haas, who ran his record to 13-0 with eight pinfalls at 182. Close behind are sophomore DuWayne Villalpando (12-2, eight pins) at 152 and junior Aidan Campbell (11-1, seven pins) at 132.
Campbell, whose father serves as an assistant coach, followed up a 33-14 freshman season with a 43-8 mark last year, taking fourth at state both years. He’s looking for more this season, and the team rankings add more incentive, he said.
“I think more than anything, it just makes us want to prove that’s where we should be,” Campbell said. “I think we looked really good as a team (at the Oklahoma tournament); we did better than we’ve ever done before.”
The youth of the team is also a plus, Campbell said.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys that are already good,” he said. “Really, they’re only going to keep getting better. I think we’ll be good for years down the road.”
Maize getting into the top 15 at state did surprise some people, Campbell said.
“I think a lot of it had to do with kids (who hadn’t) been ranked before kind of stepping up and making the decision that this is what they want to do and they want to get better at it,” he said.
Senior Talon Fitzmier is 13-1 at 170 with six pins and is ranked fourth, and Cameron Hughbanks’ brother, Cayden, is another freshman with an 8-5 mark and six pins at 126.
Add to that senior Devin Onwugbufor, who overcame injuries as a sophomore to post a 21-1 record at Northwest and a third-place finish at state at 126. He’s currently ranked second at 138.
“I’ve got a nice mix of young kids with the upperclassmen,” Schauer said. “I’m really pretty even (in classes), so I’m blessed.”
Looking toward state, Schauer said this talent has the ability to put together a good tournament.
“I think we can place five or six in the top four,” he said. “Devin, Kyle, Aidan, DuWayne, then you added (junior) Jacob Quiggle, who was fifth at state last year (and third in the 220 rankings this season).
“If all the planets are in alignment and we can keep everybody healthy for the rest of this season, we’ve got a chance.”