By Blake Spurney
Hesston Record State
A half dozen Hesston wrestlers made it within a razor's width of advancing to the state tournament this Friday and Saturday, but only Austin Hacker and Juan Guzman will be making the trip.
Hacker, a senior, advanced to state in 120-pound bracket by winning in the conference semifinals Saturday at Russell. He had to work his way back up the losers' side of the bracket after losing a 9-6 decision in the first round.
Guzman, a junior, placed second in the 220-pound bracket and qualified for state for the second year in a row. He and Hacker will hit the mat Friday at Hays with hopes of sticking around for the medal rounds Saturday.
Austin Cheatham, Zach Anderson and Zack Ledford were all one win away from extending their season another weekend. Jake Wingfield fell in the consolation round three, also known as “heartbreak round,” on Friday.
"If we had wrestled it tomorrow, we could have taken four others," said assistant coach Rich Wingfield. "That's how close it was."
Cheatham fell in the biggest heartbreaker in the 285-pound consolation semifinals. He was leading 1-0 with less than 20 seconds left in the third period when Beloit's Elliott Kimmineau recorded a takedown. Cheatham was close to pulling off a reversal in the final seconds, but he lost a 2-1 decision.
Zack Ledford, a 195-pounder, was tied 4-4 with his opponent in the waning seconds of the second period when he made a decisive error.
"I tried to roll him and him on his back, and he hipped me and pinned me," Ledford said.
"When you're this close to getting guys in, it's kind of disappointing," said head coach Doug Broadfoot. "Then you remember how far these guys have come."
For example, Cheatham won only four matches last season. He finished this season with a 17-12 record.
Hacker was on the other side of a squeaker in his decisive match. He capitalized on his opponent's mistake and earned two near-fall points in the second period. He survived the final period for a 6-4 win against an opponent he'd never previously beaten.
"I was kind of expecting to make it this year, but after losing my first match at regionals, it was kind of a surprise," he said.
Guzman said he felt like he had a good chance at medaling at state this year. He is focused on winning his first match so he can get a shot against Marion's Kyle Palic, last year's state runner-up. He also would like to get another shot at Abel Alvarez, who beat him 5-2 in the regional finals.
"The fact that I've never beaten him is kind of personal," he said.
Hacker faces Smith Center's Colton Hutchinson in the first match Friday.
"My goal is to go out there and wrestle as hard as I can. If I don't medal, I'll be satisfied because I'll have met my goal for the year. If I do medal, it'll just be icing on the cake," he said.