In a field that featured four nationally ranked teams among the sixteen in the event, it was No. 14 Southeast Polk (Iowa) using their proven formula of depth augmented by high end talent to win the season-opening Gardner Edgerton Invitational in Kansas on Saturday. The three best wrestlers on the Rams' roster all won titles, No. 11 (at 160) Lance Runyon at 152 pounds, No. 14 (at 152) Cade Devos at 160, and two-time state placer Gabe Christenson at 195. Of particular note was the finals win over Devos, coming via 5-2 decision over Junior folkstyle All-American Bubba Wilson (Manhattan, Kansas).
Eight other Rams wrestlers won preliminary pool titles to enusre a top four finish. Earning runner-up honors were Cameron Baarda (132), Ryan Strickland (145), and Connor Brown (285); freshman Joel Jesuroga (120) finished third; while Devin Harmison (113), Nathan Marchand (138), Deveyon Montgomery (170), and Kaleb Runyon (220) placed fourth.
The other three wrestlers all had "odd" finishes, two placed fifth, while the other finished seventh; all in all, Southeast Polk amassed 250 points for the tournament.
Runners-up in the tournament were No. 20 Allen (Texas), who had nine wrestlers finish in the top four. The Eagles were led by a pair of weight class champions in No. 4 Braxton Brown (106) and Preseason Nationals champion Trent Dooley (138). Finishing as runners-up were Gabe Martinez (126), freshman Mario Danzi (152), and Nate Dooley (182); Noah Yeamans (132) and Alejandro Cavazos (145) finished third; while Elise Brown Ton (160) and Zane Davis (195) were fourth.
The four other Eagles wrestlers that competed on Saturday were in the second bracket, one in fifth, two in sixth, and the other in seventh. Missing from the lineup was their 285 pound starter, state runner-up Johnny Green, who is part of their playoff football team. Allen scored 230 points, which was 20 behind Southeast Polk; it would have been very close in the standings if Green was available.
Significantly short-handed due to their state playoff football run was No. 12 Broken Arrow (Okla.), who was without five starters, including a pair of nationally ranked wrestlers in No. 15 Gavin Potter (195) and No. 9 Zach Marcheselli (220); the pair are linebackers, and will be playing for Big XII colleges next year.
The Tigers had a tournament-high four weight class champions in Jackson Cockrell (113), Jared Hill (120), No. 15 Reece Witcraft (132), and Emmanuel Skillings (182); Bryce Cockrell (113) finished as runner-up; while Blazik Perez (126), Diego Maturino (170), and Marlin Welty (285) finished third. It should be noted that Maturino and Welty were in the lineup instead of football players.
Broken Arrow finished the tournament with 227 points. Along with the eight top three placers, they had three others in the second bracket, two in fifth and one in sixth place.
The tournament's fourth nationally ranked team was No. 47 Goddard (Kansas), who finished with 191 points, placing six in the top four. They were led by a pair of champions in Cayleb Atkins (145) and No. 6 Troy Fisher (170). The lone runner-up was Jason Henschel (126), Trevor Dopps (160) and Cayden Atkins (182) finished third, while Lucas Glover (120) placed fourth. Four wrestlers finished in fifth place.
Rounding out the weight class champions were Keegan Slyter (Olathe North, Kansas) at 126 pounds, Cade Lautt (St. James Academy, Kansas) at 220, and Evan Darville (Dodge City, Kansas) at 285.