By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas
Paola senior Jordyn Knecht accomplished all her individual goals during a nationally ranked career – including an extremely rare achievement for the state championship last Friday in Salina.
Knecht, a two-time state titlist, completed her second straight undefeated season. Plus, she pinned her three opponents in a combined 59 seconds, an almost unheard of combined time. Knecht, long known for her elite success and bubbly personality, wore her normal smile shortly after the award ceremony. She delivered a 66-0 mark the last two seasons, the most wins for a Kansas girl without a loss in that stretch.
“It ended really well,” Knecht said.
Knecht had missed her sophomore season with injury. Last winter, Knecht finished 30-0 and won the 123-pound state championship in the all-classes KSHSAA inaugural sanctioned state meet. Knecht had a first-round bye, then pinned Winfield’s Mikayla Konrade in 49 seconds.
She picked up an 8-2 win in the semifinals and defeated Marysville’s Elise Rose, 8-4, in the most anticipated finals match of 2020. Rose, then nationally ranked, went 17-1.
The group of non-senior state titlists included Lawrence Free State 130-pound sophomore Madyson Gray (34-0), K.C. Piper junior 136-pounder Sara Lake (27-0), Pratt 143-pound sophomore Livia Swift (33-3), Council Grove freshman Jolie Ziegler (27-0), and Washburn Rural junior Dajia Anderson (29-1 at 235).
Then, Knecht, like many athletes, missed the summer season because of the coronavirus. A national champion wakesurfer, Knecht was able to surf some last summer, notably an excellent showing at a tournament in August in Texas. The injury and then time away last summer impacted Knecht.
“When something that you don’t realize is so important is taken away from you, it gives you a real big kick in the butt and makes you realize it,” Knecht said. “I definitely missed it when I was hurt and … especially over COVID, that stuff, I really missed my summer wrestling.”
This winter, girls’ wrestling split into two classes. Division I had 5-6A, and Division II with 4-1A. Kansas had just under 1,000 girls wrestle this winter. Baldwin, Pratt, Mulvane and Dodge City were among those with highly successful growth that yielded state results.
“It’s definitely on its uphill climb,” Knecht said. “It’s grown big, and it’s going to keep going. I have like real big faith in the sport for here.”
Many of Knecht’s former Team Kansas teammates, including Nickerson’s Nikki Moore, Junction City’s Elisa Robinson and Onaga’s Morgan Mayginnes, graduated and are currently wrestling for Baker University. They have helped Baker become a top-10 NAIA program nationally. Those four were among the top trailblazers to help sanction girls’ wrestling.
Knecht was the consensus top girl wrestler in Kansas this winter. Rose, Gray, Council Grove’s Ziegler, McPherson’s Holli Giddings, Abilene’s Skyleigh Pflaster were among those that competed with Knecht, Robinson, Mayginnes and Moore for Team Kansas at the 2019 Junior Women National Duals.
“Definitely miss my girls,” Knecht said. “It’s different without them. Like growing up with wrestling with all of them, so having not as many of them was a big change but being at the top is cool.”
For her senior year, Knecht set goals to win top wrestler honors at each of the postseason competitions, which she accomplished. In the last national girls’ high school rankings, Knecht was ranked No. 16. At the Tony Pizza’s Events Center, Knecht opened as the significant favorite in the eight-girl bracket at 126 pounds.
Knecht finished her season 36-0. She pinned Phillipsburg freshman Isabella Keesee in 21 seconds in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Knecht faced Ellis junior Haley Cranwell. Like Knecht, Cranwell is highly talented in another non-KSHSAA sport.
Cranwell, who moved from Nebraska to Kansas several years ago because of her dad’s job, is a standout hockey player. After state wrestling, Cranwell went back to Nebraska and helped her team take second in the Nebraska high school hockey tournament. Cranwell played in 25 matches with the Tri-City Junior Storm from Nov. 1 to Feb. 28. The team lost just three matches and tied one.
Knecht again won by fall in 21 seconds. Cranwell finished fifth with a 24-6 mark. Knecht faced Konrade again in the championship.
Before the final, Knecht had received a text from a friend to try to pin all three opponents in collectively under a minute. Knecht set that as another goal. Knecht knew Konrade’s exact move. Konrade got her leg, Knecht locked the cradle and pinned her in 17 seconds. Total time for three matches – 59 seconds.
“I knew she was going to shoot right off the bat,” Knecht said.
Six girls achieved three pins at Division II state. WaKeeney-Trego senior Sydney Boyle, who finished third at 143, did it in a combined 3:59, the second-best collective time to Knecht. No other champion had three pins in under eight minutes of total time.
The entire field had six falls in 21 seconds or less. Knecht achieved half of those.
“It was a good last one to end my senior year,” she said with a smile.
For the second straight year, Paola took third in a close race, this time to Baldwin and Pratt. At 120, junior Kailyn Younger (26-2) earned her second straight runner-up. Senior Americus Harris (14-11) qualified at 191 and finished 0-2, including an ultimate tiebreaker loss. Knecht is uncertain about her future plans. She is looking at out-of-state colleges and possibly major in dental hygiene/nursing.
“It’s a good feeling,” Knecht said. “Not as high of a feeling as last year with the unexpected of it. We were definitely shooting higher this year, now that we knew that we had the chance to place higher, so a little downfall for what we are getting, but I am very proud of us as a team.”
Swift and Ziegler both matched Knecht with two state titles. Swift finished 32-2 and beat Ellis freshman Kaydawn Haag, 4-2, in the final. Both of Swift’s losses came to Haag.
Knecht’s dad, Joe, has played a hugely influential role in his daughter’s career. Joe and Livia’s dad, Geno, each has served as youth wrestling coaches in Paola and Pratt, respectively. Swift was ranked No. 25 nationally in January. Ziegler (14-1) captured the title at 170.
“My dad is kind of the same way I am,” Swift said. “We just get really excited for things. Kind of feel like we think the same. I love having both my parents, how all my needs and stuff – sometimes during COVID, it’s been hard this year for them not to be able to be there, and it drives them insane. I know it does, but they take advantage of when they can be here, and they love it. They love watching all my teammates and me.”
Team Kansas’ members Rose, Pflaster and Giddings all finished top-3 in 2021. Rose went 15-1 against girls this season and lost in an upset to Mission Valley freshman Hope Blake, 2-1, in the 132-pound final. In arguably the best championship match, Wellington sophomore Anna Cullens beat Pflaster, 6-4, in sudden victory at 109.
Giddings took third at 155. Knecht and Mulvane 138-pound sophomore Kammie Schanz (19-0) were the lone undefeated wrestlers in Division II. At 101, Oakley sophomore Citori Bosserman (27-1) became the first Northwest Kansas girls’ champion, per SIK research.
As SIK profiled last week, Washburn Rural had the opportunity to become the first team to win boys’ and girls’ wrestling titles in the same year. WR accomplished the feat with a 6A boys’ crown and Division I girls’ title. It marked the second straight girls’ wrestling championship for the Junior Blues and the first one in school history for the boys.
For the girls, WR’s Anderson (30-4 at 191) and Rebekah Smith (20-1 at 170) won championships. Gray and Lake matched Knecht’s achievement of back-to-back perfect seasons. Gray, a junior, finished 17-0 at 132. Lake, a senior, capped her career with a 25-0 mark.
“I keep my eye on them and watch them succeed,” Knecht said.
Additionally, Great Bend junior Breanna Ridgeway (36-0) completed an undefeated season with a Division I title at 126. Olathe West sophomore Makayla Rivera (27-0) took first at 235.
Two neat family moments occurred. In Division I, Bonner Springs freshman Olivia Stean went 24-3 and won the 170-pound title. Stean’s father, Jeff, was a 1992 titlist for Bonner Springs.
At Division II 155, Ottawa’s Darby Weidl won, 13-5. Darby’s coach is her brother, Dalton. They are the only two Ottawa wrestling champions in school history. They are the first brother-sister combination to win state titles. Darby delivered a celebratory takedown on her brother on the mat. Dalton won his title in ’14 at the same venue.
Weidl, like many other top girl wrestlers, has enjoyed multi-sport success. She led Ottawa to a surprise final four state appearance in volleyball and cleared 1,000 career kills. Ridgeway, Rivera, Stean and Weidl were the first girls’ champions in program history.
Top Highlights from other classes
Hoxie dominated in 3-2-1A with 154 points, 70 ahead of Hill City. The Indians had taken second last year in a close loss to Norton. A longtime power, Hoxie won its first title since 2003 – and first for Mike Porsch as a head coach. The highly respected Porsch, a Hoxie graduate, has coached for more than 25 years in the Indian system. Hoxie won three titles: Drew Bell (44-0, 132), Drew Bretz (43-3, 138) and Derek Johnson (43-0, 145).
Bell is a junior, Bretz and Johnson are both sophomores. It marked the second crown for Bell and Johnson. Bretz went 4-3 against Oakley’s Eric Cain, including a 6-4 final wins.
Osage City’s Dane Whalen won his second straight crown in dominating fashion and finished 33-0. He is the only OC wrestling champion in school history. Whalen won at 220 as a junior and 285 this season.
At 170, Hoisington senior Joshua Ball (37-0) became the fourth Ball brother to win a title. They have combined for nine crowns. At 195, Cimarron senior Tate Seabolt (18-0) joined his brother, Josh, as the lone Bluejay wrestling titlists.
At 106, Mound City-Jayhawk Linn junior Corbin White went 31-1 with a championship. White is the first-ever winner for Jayhawk-Linn.
In 3-2-1A 120, Wyatt Wright (36-1) became the first ever champion from Whitewater-Remington.
At 3-2-1A 152, Bryce Eck finished 37-2 and became the first champion – and state placer – ever in the seven-year Uniontown wrestling history.
Andale won Class 4A on the final match and beat Chanute, 115.5-113. At 126, Andale’s top wrestler, senior Hector Serratos, beat Pratt’s Devon Weber, 3-1. Serratos finished 31-2. Additionally, freshman Owen Eck (30-2) earned a surprising 4-0 win against Chanute’s Trent Clements at 120.
In a matchup of two undefeated wrestlers at 220, Andale senior Cayden Winter beat Louisburg’s Alec Younggren, 9-5. Winter finished 22-0, and Younggren went 37-1. Andale also won 3A state football and will be a top favorite in track this spring.
In 4A, Fort Scott had three titlists for the first time in program history: Coby Burchett (132), Jacob Stinnett (152) and Malachi Vann (170). Fort Scott took fourth with coach Alvin Metcalf. Vann went 25-2 and cleared 100 career victories. Overall, 11 SEK wrestlers reached a 4A final.
At 4A 106, Abilene freshman Tucker Cell finished 38-0.
Washburn Rural’s championships featured freshman 106-pounder Jonathan Morrison (29-3), 113-pound junior Jacob Tangpricha (33-2) and 120-pound senior Bishop Murray (29-1). Tangpricha has won two state titles, Murray three.
Dodge City’s Damian Mendez, a 2019 champion, went 35-0 at 132. Haysville Campus senior Nathan Bowen finished 39-1 with the 145 title. Mendez is one of two DC wrestlers in school history to win more than one title.
Olathe South junior Blake Jouret finished 35-0 at 170. Wichita West junior Quentin Saunders won his third straight title with an 18-0 mark at 182. Gardner-Edgerton senior Gus Davis finished 29-0 at 195. Davis was G-E’s first titlist in three years.
In 5A, Goddard rolled to its seventh straight state title with 179 points. Maize was second with 124.5 points. For Goddard, freshman Zachary Wessley went 22-2 for the 132 championship.
At 145 and 152, junior Jerrdon and senior Jace Fisher both captured titles with 23-1 and 30-3 marks. Nolan Craine went 33-0 at 170.
At 138, Great Bend’s Wyatt Weber won by fall in 1:20 in the championship against Bonner Springs’ Cruz Lara. Weber went 32-3. Lara, a former state titlist, was 28-0 entering the match. GB coach Nathan Broeckelman has done an excellent job with the Panther wrestling programs – including second place for the girls in 2020. Ridgeway and Weber were his first two individual titlists. They are the first GB individual champions since 2013.
Also in 5A, Newton sophomore Nick Treaster (36-1) won at 106. Nick and his brothers have combined for five state crowns. Their dad, Matt Treaster, was a four-time titlist for Beloit from ’81-84.
In 5A, Valley Center senior Alyeus Craig finished 41-0 at 126. Arkansas City junior Trig Tennant, a highly decorated wrestler, delivered a 36-0 mark at 160. St. Thomas Aquinas’ Jared Simma finished 37-0 at 182.
Mill Valley senior Brodie Scott completed a 22-0 season at 195. Mill Valley senior Ethan Kremer completed his career with three state championships. Kremer, the two-time 5A defensive player of the year, captured three team titles in football and wrestling. Kremer won by fall in 4:41 in the final for a 20-1 mark.
Thanks to the kansashswrestling.com database for historical research.
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