First year Southeast Lancer, but veteran wrestler Tyler Kester finished his junior season with 32 wins, 2 losses, and a 4th place medal from the State Tournament.
“Overall Tyler had a great year for our program,” Southeast Coach Jason Wilderman said. “He put us on the map as far as wrestling goes. Fourth place obviously wasn’t what he came here for and it’s a disappointment for him, but most kids would love a chance to go to State, let alone place at State.”
Kester’s final bout of the 2015-16 season was a matchup many thought could be the KSHSAA 321A 120 pound State Wrestling Championship hosted in Hays. Alex Cavanaugh of Rossville, the #1 ranked 120 pound wrestler in the state of Kansas for all classes, versus the 29-0 Tyler Kester of Southeast-Cherokee. Instead, both wrestlers were upset in Friday’s semifinals. But the two were destined to meet in the 3rd place consolation round, where Cavanaugh won a 7-1 decision.
On Friday night, Cavanaugh flew through the first two rounds by pinning Ethan Hamel of Hill City, then beating Kevin Herbstritt of Jayhawk-Linn in an 8-0 Major Decision. Then, in the semifinals, with the lead Cavanaugh was caught off-guard by an acrobatic, gravity defying move by Dayton Porsch of Hoxie, who had 36 wins and only 1 loss for the season going into the match. Porsch won by a 3-1 decision.
Kester also started fast, winning in the 3rd period with a 21-4 technical fall over Oscar Jamie of Lyons. He then outlasted Ryan Johnson of Norton with a 1-0 decision to get into the semifinals. Kester then lost 6-5 in overtime of the semifinals to Bryce Younger in a controversial finish.
Younger, from nearby Ellis, was last year’s state runner up in the 120 pound class and would go on to lose to Porsch in the state championship on Saturday for second place in a 6-0 decision.
Late in the bout, referees officiating the match warned Kester for stalling, and then on two separate occasions awarded Younger two points for stalling by Kester, four points total, making it 5-5 and sending it to overtime. Each time referees stopped the match, Coach Wilderman told officials Kester was actually working his hands and using his foot to trip Younger down, not stalling.
“Tyler was in control of a tough match and was on top riding his opponent when a referee warned him for stalling,” Coach Wilderman said. “I felt Tyler was working to bring the opponent back onto the mat, but obviously the referee didn’t. The opponent kept using the same tactic and was eventually awarded points for it, eventually giving him the lead. Tyler was then forced to cut him (let him loose) and then score a takedown in order to tie it with 18 seconds to take it into overtime.”
Kester, his own biggest critic, was disappointed in missing out on the state championship round.
“It’s obviously frustrating to lose in any situation when you’ve been working so hard all your life to be a champion, but losing to what’s considered questionable calls by an official makes it that much harder. I feel he lost a match he was in total control of the whole time. He scored on two takedowns and an escape while the other kid was given four points by the officials judgement call and then Tyler had to let him loose in order to tie it up.”
Following their losses in the semifinals, Cavanaugh and Kester would each have to beat one other wrestler before finally going head-to-head for third place.
Despite Friday’s frustrating conclusion, Kester returned Saturday morning to defeat Justin Skerce of Council Grove with a 10 to 2 decision. Cavanaugh then won a 3-2 decision over Ryan Johnson of Norton, the same young man who had lost to Kester the night before.
“One thing that makes Cavanaugh so tough is that he’s a seasoned veteran, has a great coach, has seen great competition all year,” Coach Wilderman continued. “Cavanaugh also more than likely outweighed Tyler by 8 to 10 pounds by the time of the match, which makes a huge difference in the 120 pound class.”
“It was great to see all of the support from back home and the young wrestlers that were supporting him on Facebook since they couldn’t be here,” Wilderman said. “He’s somebody that they look up to as a veteran wrestler and hopefully he continues to realize that.”
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