From Day One, Brook Medrano called the Emporia High girls wrestling team “trailblazers.”
Throughout this season, the Spartans’ first official female squad has done just that.
And on Saturday, the Spartans raised the bar even further — not only for themselves but for the league, perhaps even the sport.
E-High earned the Centennial League Title, narrowly eclipsing Washburn Rural, 157-156.
“It’s a great feeling,” Medrano said. “Going into it, I told them they’re trailblazers. That’s what they showed today. They showed a lot of passion. It’s definitely a team effort. It came down to the last match, but everything — us getting pins (and) not getting pinned — way before that, all day long, is what led to that.”
Freshman Azia Obregon won the deciding match, unbeknownst to her at the time. She was simply in a tie-break battle with Washburn Rural’s Kaitlyn Morris in search of first place. The two were the sole representatives in the lightest weight class and had each won a match earlier in their round-robin battle.
That required a third meeting, which as it turned out, meant everything.
“I had a lot of pressure on me, but I knew that I had to make my team happy, so I tried the best that I could,” Obregon said.
It was one of four league individual championships for the E-High girls, as Obregon was joined by Tehya Osage, Gloria Peroza and Tinity Ervin as first-place winners on the day.
Peroza is the only senior for the girls in their debut season and earned both of her victories by pin.
“I really just did what my coaches have been telling me this entire time and (was) more offensive (minded),” she said.
The aggression worked well for Peroza and the Spartans, who also got six second-place finishers and one third.
The Spartan boys placed third as a team, including a pair of individual champions: Ethan Garate at 170 and Xerarch Tungjaroenkul at 132.
“I was coming in here thinking it was going to be tough and it ended up being pretty challenging, but I came out with the win,” said the Spartan freshman.
Tungjaroenkul added a 14-1 major decision against Junction City’s Zane Thornton and then took town Washburn Rural’s Bowan Murray by fall, slamming the pin home early in the second period.
“Lifting him all the way in the air, I was kind of worried about it being called an illegal slam,” he said.
The victory was legitimate and yet another feather in the cap in his first varsity season.
Garate had a more taxing journey to the top, but finished his day with a 4-0 decision.
“I’ve got to put on a show for the home crowd at league,” he said. “it felt good. I felt good about it, getting three more wins on my record going into regionals and state.”
EHS also battled to a pair of runners up, three third-place finishes and two fourth place efforts.
Senior Whitney Hall and freshman Lukas Hainline both were second, getting pinned in the championship round.
Freshman Bobby Trujillo, junior Alex Redick and senior Tanner Tibbetts all won their final match to clinch a third-place berth.
Johnny Castanon and David Schaefer both finished fourth.
“We’re on the right path, just chipping away,” Medrano said. “I have two unseedable guys who got drawn into the bracket today take third (in) Tanner Tibbetts and Alex Redick. That just shows to our competition what we have. We don’t have a cake walk. You want to be the best, you’ve got to see the best. That’s what we’re doing. Xerarch wrestled tough, Lukas Hainline wrestled tough, all of them (collectively) wrestled tough. We’ve got some things to work on, but we’ve got two weeks to get there, heal up on some injuries. We’re on the right path, but ... (still have) unfinished business.
“I’m definitely a very, very proud coach.”
Medrano was a proud coach and also a well-recognized one, being named Co-Centennial League Coach of the Year after the tournament had wrapped up. He didn’t get the memo until it was announced while he was helping his team roll the mats up and put away equipment.
“I told the guys that’s a reflection (of) you,” Medrano said. “If you’re not performing, there’s no way for me to get that. I gave the award to them. I’m excited, I’m nervous and excited at the same time. We’re doing good things.”
Medrano wanted his wrestlers to enjoy their moments and celebrate their successes on Saturday.
But he reminded them that there is still work to be done as regional wrestling is rapidly approaching, with state soon to follow.
“I (told them) we’ve got unfinished business,” he said. “Be happy with what you’ve done but trust the process now.”