Hittle returns, wins regional title

COLBY —As a defending state champion, it should not seem surprising that Concordia’s Skyler Hittle won a Class 4A regional championship, unless you take in to account that he had not wrestled this season.
Hittle, the defending state champion in the 195-pound class, suffered a foot injury during football season and spent nearly the entire regular season cheering on his teammates. His only mat appearance prior to the regional was receiving a forfeit in the final dual against Clay Center.
Showing little signs of rust, Hittle won three straight matches to capture the regional title and earn a fourth straight trip to the state tournament.
“It is a testament to him. He isn’t 100 percent. The kid is just tough, he is a fighter. He really showed up for those matches,” Concordia coach Kevin Brown said of Hittle.
Concordia had four wrestlers place in the top four and qualify for the state tournament, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Bicentennial Center in Salina.
Cameron Miller, 126 pounds, earned a second straight trip to state by placing second.
Cole Larsen, 113 pounds, and Kyle Mark, 220 pounds, each finished fourth to advance to state.
Concordia finished ninth as a team with 76 points.
“I am very proud of the way our team competed at a very tough regional tournament. Our wrestlers wrestled very hard, and fought in every match,” Brown said.
Goodland claimed the team title with 160 points. Abilene was second with 149 points and Smoky Valley was third with 136.
Hittle, with his foot in a cast, spent most the regular season swimming, riding a bike and working on his upper body strength.
“We have been trying to be creative with what he can do,” Brown said.
Despite not having wrestled all season, Hittle received a bye in the first round of the regional.
Hittle, a senior, needed just 23 seconds to pin Blaise Lehman, Abilene.
In the semifinals, Hittle and Ethan Loder, Smoky Valley, were scoreless through three periods.
Getting a takedown late in the overtime period, Hittle was able to pull out a 2-0 victory.
Hittle (4-0) then battled past Diego Maraville, Ulysses, 3-1 in the championship match.
Miller (30-8) punched his ticket back to state with his second-place finish.
After receiving a bye in the first round, Miller pinned Tanner Gastineau, Goodland, in 1:02.
Miller, a sophomore, won a 4-0 decision over Luis Mendoza, Ulysses, in the semifinals.
Awaiting Miller in the championship match was Caysen Smith, Abilene.
Miller and Caysen had met three times during the regular season with Smith winning two.
The match was tied at 1-1 in the third period, and Smith was able to get a takedown, and hold on to win.
“It is kind of the way the matches have gone for them,” Brown said, “That was a loaded bracket.”
Marks, a senior, earned his second straight trip to state for the Panthers.
Pinning Luke Hertel, Nickerson, in 53 seconds and Alfredo Luna, Hugoton, 1:00, Marks moved into the semifinals.
Eventual champion Otto Orosco, Ulysses, pinned Marks.
Marks  (31-15) defeated Evan Standlea, Clay Center, 2-0 before losing by fall to Austin Hart, Colby, in the third-place match.
“It was a real tough bracket. It was good to see him get back as a senior,” Brown said.
Larsen, a freshman, received a bye in the first round. He was beaten 11-5 by eventual champion Hunter Kiser, Abilene.
In the consolation bracket, Larsen (19-17) won a major decision over Jordon Henderson, Chapman. He beat Marcus Nolde, Larned, and slipped past Jake Wynn, Clay Center, 4-3 in overtime before losing by fall to Chance Maynard, Buhler, in the consolation finals.
Concordia’s Gage Canfield got within one win of qualifying for state.
Canfield beat Payton Lott, Chapman, 6-0 in the opening round. He lost by fall to eventual champion Brandon Archuleta, Smoky Valley.
Dropping into the consolation bracket, Canfield pinned Dalton Barker, Larned, and TK Mukwindidza, McPherson, before losing 10-2 to Mario Rodriguez, Ulysses.
“Gage was one win away and had a tough match,” Brown said.
Concordia’s Zak Romo picked up two wins in the tournament.
Romo defeated Dakota Rein, Nickerson, in the opening round. He was pinned by Ethan Jay, Colby.
After pinning Cole Birney, Scott Community, Romo was dropped a narrow 4-3 decision to Michael McKinney, McPherson.
Blaze Payeur, 145 pounds, won one match for the Panthers.
Payeur lost by technical fall to first-place finisher Seth Strauss, Abilene. He pinned Ryan Reed, Nickerson, before losing by fall to Todd Graber, McPherson.

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