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Arkansas City’s Wyatt Villers joins father as state wrestling champion

Published Feb. 23 at 8:40 p.m. | Last updated Feb. 24 at 6:43 p.m.

When Arkansas City senior Wyatt Villers first started wrestling, it was his father’s decision.

“He didn’t have a choice but to get into wrestling,” Marty Villers said. “As we got into little league, it really is a lot of work. In middle school, I thought there would be times when he’d want to quit. But he didn’t.”

Saturday evening at Hartman Arena, Wyatt Villers recalled those hours practicing, hours lifting weights. He remembered all the time spent with his father during wrestling.

Winning one’s first Class 5A title tends to spur nostalgia, and Villers was no different after he beat Valley Center’s Josh Ortiz 4-1 at 152 pounds. The win helped Ark City win its second straight Class 5A title and 20th overall.

Wyatt and Marty Villers are also Ark City’s first father-son champions.

“Isn’t that amazing?” asked Ark City coach Greg Buckbee. “We’ve had all these team titles, individual titles and no father-son champions.”

Wyatt Villers, Ark City’s 93rd individual champ, badly wanted that distinction.

“My dad is my best friend, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him,” said Villers, who finished fourth the past two seasons. “All those times in the room, he’s been there for me.”

Marty Villers, who won at 138 in 1985 and was Ark City’s 31st champ, wanted his son to wrestle for Ark City, to be a part of the tradition of Bulldog wrestling. He was thrilled when he and his wife moved from Kansas City back to Arkansas City.

There’s a special atmosphere of success at Ark City, something the wrestlers call Bulldog Magic. Their alumni are eager return to spend time in the practice room with the current wrestlers just so they can push them to be better … and win titles.

Marty Villers wanted his son to be a part of that.

“This is like walking on a dream,” Wyatt Villers said. “I couldn’t ask for a better finish to my career.”

The team title Ark City won was special. Just talking about it resulted in an emotional moment for Buckbee, who bent over, hands on his knees as he tried to compose himself.

“Coming from Ark City, they have a lot of pressure, no matter what,” Buckbee said. “We say all the time, it’s a privilege. Not every program gets to have that kind of pressure put on you. You have it, so embrace it.

“They handle it well. We were two overtimes and a one-point match from having six guys in the finals.”

Ark City had 10 wrestlers place, including all seven seniors.

Unlike 2012 when Ark City failed to get an individual champ, two teammates joined Villers as champs — Logan Terrill won with a pin at 106, while Cody Eastman won 8-3 at 145.

Terrill and Eastman both finished second last season.

“This is great, honestly,” Eastman said. “Last year we didn’t have any state champs. It was bittersweet because we won as a team.”

Eastman made a late comeback to win, putting Humphrey on his back in the match’s final 10 seconds.

Terrill didn’t waste any time in pinning Rodd at the 1:15 mark.

“I just caught him. He wasn’t paying attention, I guess,” Terrill said. “Once I got him there (on his back), I knew he was done.”