The No. 10 Baker University wrestling team had its first chance to perform in front of a home crowd since the opening tournament of the season and it did not disappoint Sunday by winning the third annual Kansas Cup.
The tournament featured the eight wrestling programs in the state of Kansas. Last season, BU took second place behind Labette Community College, but with the help of two weight class champions and seven wrestlers placing in the top three of their bracket, the Wildcats won their first tournament trophy in school history.
“It was a total team effort,” head coach Jimmy May said. "Our kids wrestled very hard today."
Sophomore Joel Olivas, juniors Brandon Gebhardt and Parker Owen and senior Jarell Price made it to the championship match in their respective brackets with Gebhardt and Owen winning their weight classes.
“It felt really good, but it felt even better for the team to actually win the Kansas Cup,” Price said.
Price easily won his match by pinning his opponent in the second period, but Gebhardt had to use all of regulation to claim his victory.
Gebhardt led No. 1-seeded Justin Glenn of Fort Hays State University 3-2 late in the third period and had a point he would get at the end of the period from riding time. However, with four seconds left in the period, Glenn got two points from a takedown and it appeared the match would go into overtime.
With the clock stopped with four seconds remaining, Gebhardt would have to escape Glenn's top position in order to win in regulation, but he did just that as he escaped from Glenn in the final second to win the match 5-4.
“That was a really good kid that I just wrestled,” Gebhardt said.
The victory for Gebhardt helped him earn the award for the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler and the Heart of America Athletic Conference Wrestler of the Week.
“I think I did really well and the team did really well,” Gebhardt said. "We've really hard in practice the past couple of weeks. It's nice to see some rewards from that."
After defeating Fort Hays State, which is ranked No. 15 in NCAA Division II, and Labette, which is ranked No. 2 in the NJCAA, to proclaim itself the best team in Kansas, BU will have another tough test Wednesday with a dual against No. 5 Oklahoma City University in Collins Center.
"We've got our hands full with (this) one," May said. "Every kid on their (varsity) team is ranked. It's kind of good because we are on a high right now, but we need to refocus. It's going to be a tough dual for us."