Sometimes sports can provide a surprise performance, even for a coach who knows his team better than anyone.
Hillsboro High School freshman wrestler Levi Mendoza won the third-place match in the 182-pound class of the Hesston Invitational Tournament Saturday. It was only a field of five wrestlers but coach Scott O’Hare thought Mendoza was destined to struggle all year. He only expects Mendoza to improve from this point.
Mendoza began the day against the No. 1 seed in 182-pound bracket, Trevon Mitchell of Wichita West, and he was pinned. He responded by defeating Travis Venn of Central-Burden, 8-3, on the consolation side of the bracket.
Mendoza faced Luis Bermudez of Nickerson in the tournament final. After a 0-0 first round, Mendoza scored an escape and then quickly reversed a Bermudez shot and scored a near pin. He let Bermudez up but led 4-1 after two rounds. He won by pin in the third round to finish the match.
“Levi still has a lot to learn, but he just goes hard,” O’Hare said.
Mendoza’s strength on Saturday was wrestling defensively, waiting for his opponents to make mistakes and then capitalizing. O’Hare wants Mendoza to attack more. He added that Mendoza has relied on brawling to victories instead of using technique.
Another freshman wrestler who is a little ahead of schedule is Austin Cross at 145 pounds. Cross defeated Jonathan Trumpower of Flint Hills, Dax Stephens of Central Burden, and Dalton Anderson of Hesston all by pin.
Cross faced the No. 1 seed, Nic Johnson of Halstead, in the 145-pound final. Cross scored the first points of the match against Johnson by dragging Johnson’s head down to the mat and spinning his body around him. However, Johnson took over from that point, scoring two escapes and two takedowns, using his superior strength to reverse shots from Cross to win, 6-2.
O’Hare was not discouraged with the result in the final because Cross was defeated by a more athletically mature wrestler. Unlike Mendoza, Cross brings considerable youth wrestling experience to Hillsboro. O’Hare said he will just need to smooth out his technique to transition from middle school to varsity high school.
Seniors Tanner Jones and Tyrell Thiessen also wrestled in the finals of their brackets at 170 and 285 respectively. Jones defeated Zac Lewman of Marion and Nick Jacobs of West Elk by pin in his first two matches. He lost to Jesse Oliver of Wichita West in the final, 6-2.
Thiessen also won his first two matches by pin over Patrick Deegan of Hesston and Daniel Couch of Central-Burden. He lost to Jaden Helms of Chaparral in the final by pin. Thiessen and Helms were tied at 2-2 to start the second and Thiessen even had a near pin. However, Thiessen wore down in the third round and was pinned with 6 seconds remaining in the match.
O’Hare said Thiessen was sick three days this past week, which accounted for his fatigue.
Cross, Jones, and Thiessen were all involved in difficult matches and O’Hare hopes the team’s performance will improve in those types of bouts.
“All three of those guys, they’ll bounce back,” O’Hare said.
The Trojans placed fourth as a team in the Hesston Tournament with only seven wrestlers: Preston Nelson at 152, Jesse Meier at 160, and Zac Ghahremanzadeh were the other Hillsboro competitors. Nelson won his first two matches and Meier won matches on the consolation side of the bracket, improving team standing.
Cody Delk and Jon Carey were both out with injuries.