SALINA — Step by step Concordia’s Skyler Hittle has climbed his way to the top in Class 4A.
After qualifying for state as a freshman, and winning two matches, Hittle placed third in the state as a sophomore.
Taking the next big step, Hittle won state championship in the 195-pound class by beating Gavin Houser, Columbus, 7-3 Saturday night at the Bicentennial Center.
Hittle won his first two matches in the state tournament by fall. He defeated Julius Coats, Tonganoxie, in the semifinals and then got past Houser in the title match.
“Skyler is an amazing wrestler. To do what he has done so fast in an upper weight class is a testament to how hard he works and the determination he has,” Concordia coach Kevin Brown said of Hittle.
Hittle becomes Concordia’s first state champion since Dustin Dooley in 2007.
Concordia had four wrestlers qualify for state, but Hittle was the only one to place.
Drake Hake, 138 pounds, picked up two wins. Cameron Miller, 113 pounds, won one match, and Kyle Marks, 220, went 0-2.
The Panthers finished 18th as a team with 35 points.
“I am proud of all of these young men, and all they have accomplished throughout the year,” Brown said, “They create a great nucleus for our team for next year.”
Holton captured the team title with 104.5 points. Colby was second with 96 and Andale was third with 90.
Hittle needed just 1:20 to pin Chandler Carter, DeSoto, in the opening round of the tournament on Friday.
Matching up against Diego Maravilla, Ulysses, in the quarterfinals, Hittle won by fall in 1:17.
Hittle then won a 6-3 decision over Coats in the semifinals.
Coats had won each of his first two matches by pin.
Hittle knocked off Houser 7-3 in the title match, and finished his season 43-3.
“He controlled the tempo. He controlled the pace,” Brown said, “Once he got going you could kind of tell he had that match in control. That is how he has wrestled the past two weeks.”
Hake, a sophomore making a first appearance in the state tournament, beat Tanner Craig, Frontenac, 5-0 in the opening round.
Bryce Shoemaker, Baldwin, a former state champion, won a 16-1 decision over Hake in the second round.
Shoemaker went on to place first.
“Shoemaker is very good. He is a tremendous athlete. He has got a tremendous combination of speed and power,” Brown said.
In the consolation bracket, Hake pinned Cory White, Augusta, in 1:28.
Hake (34-6) was leading Kossivi Esse, Sumner Academy, before getting pinned.
“It was a tight match that could have gone either way. He got caught in an unfavorable situation and it didn’t turn out the way he hoped it would,” Brown said.
Miller, a freshman, pinned Hunter Miller, DeSoto, in the opening round.
Eventual state champion Cesar Regalado, Pratt, won a 7-1 decision over Miller in the quarterfinals.
Miller (16-7) lost 4-2 to Jeremiah Jones, Pittsburg, in the consolation bracket.
“This is going to be really good for Cameron and his career. He wasn’t pleased how he finished, but being there, being in tight matches at the state tournament is going to be good for him,” Brown said.
Marks, a junior, came in as a regional champion, and was matched up against Marcus Walker, El Dorado, who had beaten him twice this season.
Walker pulled out an 11-7 win over Marks.
“He wrestled a great first match. It was a tight match. He had some opportunities to win that match against a kid who had beaten him twice this season. It shows how much progress he has made and what belief can do for a person,” Brown said.
Marks (26-19) was then pinned by Tiler Garcia, Baldwin.