Heading into the 2010-11 season, Trojan wrestling coach Scott O’Hare wasn’t sure what to expect from his team.
Despite being able to fill almost every weight class, graduation had taken two of Hillsboro’s three 2009-10 state qualifiers and O’Hare’s numbers weren’t as plentiful as recent years.
The Trojans still had an experienced senior class, spearheaded by tenacity and grittiness.
That paid dividends Friday and Saturday at the Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament at Hays, helping Hillsboro to a 36th-place finish.
The senior quartet of Darren Mueller, Justin King, Aaron Bina, and Dylan Delk’s 12 points throughout the tournament left the Trojans and Marion tied for 36th.
Both facing and falling to eventual medalists, the quartet capped stellar careers by going 5-8 on the grandest stage of them all.
Norton ran away with first place overall, putting a 34.5-point spread between it and runner-up Hoxie, 131.50-97.
Barely missing his ticket to Hays a year ago, the 125-pound Mueller secured one his final attempt.
With a 30-18 record heading in, Mueller wrestled runner-up Indians’ Calvin Ochs Friday in his first match.
Ochs would finish as state runner-up, defeating Mueller by an 11-1 decision to advance.
Mueller bounced back Friday to top Central Heights’ Dustin Asbury 6-2 in the first round of the consolation bracket and keep his medal hopes alive Saturday.
Mueller’s strong career came to a close in the second round with Brent Juenemann scoring a pin in 2:40.
Juenemann went on to win his next two matches before falling in the third-place match.
Closing out his career with a 33-15 mark and wrestling the most matches at state, King finished 2-2 at 145 pounds.
King secured a pin on Onaga’s Cody Schwant 33 seconds into the second period, avenging an earlier loss suffered at the hands of Schwant at the Herington Invitational.
King’s chances at a medal lessened the second round after dropping a 10-5 decision to Scott City’s fourth-place finisher, Dalton Paul.
King rebounded in the second round of the consolation, pinning Atwood’s Cody Green in 1:44 of the second period, setting up a match that would’ve guaranteed a medal pending a win over Goodland’s Nathan Deeds.
With less than 30 seconds left in the match, King tied the score and had Deeds on his back the rest of the way.
But King couldn’t put his adversary down for pivotal near-fall points, which would’ve secured the win.
Instead, the match went to overtime where Deeds prevailed by a heartbreaking 6-4 score en route to taking fifth.
Of the four Trojans competing, only Bina had previous experience at state, as he qualified the two previous years.
Needing a win to set the pace for a good tournament, Bina drew Hill City’s Nathan Hanna Friday in the 152-pound class. Despite having many good attempts at takedowns, Bina wasn’t able to finish. Instead, Bina was left fighting an uphill battle which Hanna won, 5-2, to put a damper on his medal chances. Hanna would go on to finish sixth, falling 6-4 in overtime in the medal match to Bina’s future opponent, Derek Tyler of St. Marys.
Bina charged back in the consolation match, pinning Leavenworth-Immaculata’s Matt Harrington in the third period, leaving only Tyler standing between Bina and no less than sixth place. With the match lasting deep into the third period, Bina trimmed the lead to 6-4. In a surge to either tie or take the lead, Bina had to resort to a risky strategy, and by doing so, he sadly surrendered a takedown to his back. With 18 seconds left in the match, Bina’s solid career ended at 36-11 on a pinfall.
Delk entered Friday competition posting a 28-11 record on the year in the 171-pound class.
Facing a well-known opponent in Caney Valley’s Riley Denny, Delk fell behind 8-0 before dropping a 9-4 score.
In a thrilling match in the first round of the consolation, Delk battled Rock Creek’s Trevor Suttons.
After a scoreless first period, Suttons struck first before the two battled to a 6-6 tie, heading into the third period.
With Delk starting on the bottom, he struggled to mount any type of offense until he broke free with 10 seconds remaining.
Thwarting an attempt at Suttons retaking the lead, Delk came out on top in a scramble, earning a takedown and a pair of near pinfall points to prevail, 11-6.
Delk’s season came to an end in the next match, as he stumbled 11-5 to Horton’s fifth-place medalist Kyle White.
Despite missing another chance of having any medalists, O’Hare had nothing but high praise of his team.
“I am very pleased with the seasons these four had for us at Hillsboro High School,” O’Hare said. “They showed good senior leadership, each of them improved throughout the season, and they will be greatly missed.
“Although no one is pleased leaving Hays in February without bringing home a state medal, hopefully these guys can look back on being a wrestler and state qualifier for Hillsboro High School and be proud of it. I hope they also take with them many life lessons learned through the hard work, commitment, and discipline it takes to be a part of this sport.”