The Hillsboro High School wrestling team just missed a second straight regional championship this past weekend, taking second place at the Garden Plain 3-2-1A wrestling regional.
The roller-coaster ride of a tournament didn’t allow Hillsboro to secure second place until after the medal round.
Despite not being able to repeat as regional champions from a year ago, six Trojans still clinched tickets to this weekend’s state wrestling tournament at Fort Hays State University.
John Hein, Nick Mueller, Matt Yoder, Tyler Jones, Robby McClelland, and Aaron Bina all earned opportunities for state supremacy this weekend.
The top-seeded, 189-pound Hein was the lone Trojan to capture a gold-medal while Mueller (130), Yoder (135), and Jones (152) secured runner-up finishes.
Bina (140) took third and senior McClelland (119) came in fourth.
“Although I was disappointed that we were not leading in the team race after Friday’s competition, I was pleased with the opening rounds of the tournament,” said Trojan coach Scott O’Hare. “I felt that for the most part, we had competed hard and wrestled fairly well.
“Garden Plain just had an amazing semifinal round, advancing six wrestlers into the championship finals. However, it was exciting for us to have four guys advance into the championship finals, especially considering we only had two wrestlers seeded in the top two.”
Hein steamrolled his way to the finals, winning his first two matches Friday via pinfall to advance to the title match against Rosalia’s Ty Kemp.
Hein picked up his fifth tournament championship of the year, pinning Kemp, as well.
The 35-3 Hein will face TMP’s Preston Werth in the first round at Hays.
The second-seeded Mueller opened the tournament with a first-period pin, setting up a semifinal meeting with familiar foe Cody Wildin of Marion.
With the series evened-up at one on the year, Mueller took control early, jumping to a 7-0 lead and beating Wildin by an 11-7 decision to move on to his third consecutive regional title match.
Unfortunately for Mueller as O’Hare had projected, Central Burden’s top-seeded Tyler McMichael again was all that stood between Mueller and a gold medal.
McMichael earned his third straight win against Mueller — the second in as many weeks — making it a 3-2 series on the year in McMichael’s favor.
The third-ranked Mueller will open the state tournament facing another familiar opponent in a marquee match-up against Ellsworth’s fourth-ranked Levi Schneider.
Mueller was able to top Schneider at the Hoisington tournament earlier this month.
If the Trojans have a Cinderella story on the team, perhaps it’s the junior Yoder.
As the seventh seed, Yoder kicked things off winning his first match with a first-period pin.
Yoder then went on to knock off Halstead’s second-seeded Peyton Wingert in the quarterfinals, 5-3.
Yoder kept rolling, taking down Marion’s third-seeded Adam Regnier, 8-7, to advance to the title match against the Owls’ eventual champion, Kyle Scheer.
A controversial call, which could have sent the match to overtime, thwarted Yoder’s bid for a regional title and ended with Scheer coming up on the upside of an 8-7 decision.
In his first year wrestling, the 24-11 Yoder meets Marysville’s Ricky Creek in the first round.
The third-seeded Jones was able to avenge a loss a few weeks earlier to Lyons’ Braxton Stonebreaker in the semifinal round, dominating him for a 13-6 decision.
Through three matches, though, one thing Jones didn’t have an answer for is the Owls’ fifth-ranked Sage Thimmesch.
While Jones is 33-9 on the year, three of his losses have come at the hands of Thimmesch.
Despite wrestling a solid match, Jones didn’t have enough to avoid a fourth loss to his Owl adversary.
Jones’ third and final state meet begins against St. Mary’s Derek Tyler.
The sophomore Bina will join Yoder in making a first appearance in Hays.
Bina was able to upend Douglass’ Connor Daus for third place with a pinfall, battling through the consolation bracket.
Bina’s state meet opens against Minneapolis’ Adam Klein.
McClelland qualified for state a year ago, wrestling at 125 pounds.
Like Bina, McClelland, too, had to work his way through the consolation bracket, opening with a 13-7 decision.
Stafford’s Collin Dixon spoiled McClelland’s bid for third place with a 9-2 decision.
The 28-11 senior McClelland’s second and final state meet starts with a tough draw against Wellsville’s fifth-ranked Zack Hoehn.
Saturday marked the end of a career for Gabe Anderson (171), who had his season cut short with a loss in the consolation semifinals.
“Although these guys came up just short of their goal of winning a second consecutive regional championship, they have nothing to be ashamed of,” O’Hare said. “The entire team showed a lot of heart and passion this past weekend in the way they wrestled.
“The goal this week in practice for those that qualified will be to continue to improve on some technique and to mentally focus on what they have to do at state. These six guys need to be sure they are not content with just ‘getting there’, but understand they have a great opportunity in front of them.”
The state tournament begins Friday at 10 a.m. at Gross Memorial Coliseum.