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Augusta’s dozen hopes to be in 4A team mix

Published Feb. 27 at 12:53 p.m. | Last updated Feb. 27 at 12:54 p.m.

Simple math is as good as any reason for Augusta’s wrestlers to be excited about the Class 4A tournament in Salina this weekend.

The Orioles qualified 12 for the two-day competition, which begins Friday at the Bicentennial Center. Reigning champion Holton was the only 4A team to produce as many state participants during last week’s regional tournaments.

“This is the most our school has ever taken, so yeah, we’re pretty excited about it,” said Augusta junior Jake Goldenstein, the defending 113-pound 4A champion. “I think we can do some real damage.”

The intrigue certainly blossomed for the Orioles with their performance at the Winfield regional. Augusta won the 15-team tournament with 229 points, 90 more than runner-up Andover Central. Goldenstein, senior Colton Clayborn (160 pounds) and junior Ian O’Laughlin (220) won their respective weight classes to help Augusta claim its first regional title.

“We had a great tournament,” Augusta coach Brandon Terry said. “It’s a lot of fun when you do that. We got on a roll and the kids kept feeding off that.”

The Orioles found satisfaction on many levels. Goldenstein, 39-0 last season and 102-5 in his high school career, avenged December losses to Pratt’s Trae Foreman and Andale’s Zach Eck on his way to a regional championship. Clayborn, a state qualifier last season, pinned Clearwater’s Curtis Rylant, a sophomore who defeated him twice during the regular season, in the finals.

While Clayborn relished his achievement, he was also pleased for eight teammates who posted top-four finishes to earn their first trips to state. The group included 152-pound sophomore Rob Winzer, Clayborn’s understudy a year ago.

“Guys like Connor Spellman, Rob and Cody Thompson, they really pushed for it this year and they got it,” Clayborn said. “We had a lot of summer practices and took guys to a couple camps. … They pretty much stayed at it, and it made a big difference.”

Goldenstein, Clayborn, 120-pound junior Nathan Moore and 170-pound senior Wright Bosley are the only returnees from a group of nine Augusta took to state a year ago. With Goldenstein (No. 3 at 113) and Clayborn (No. 5 at 160) as the only Orioles listed in the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association rankings, Terry sees the state tournament as a proving ground for his team.

“All these first-year qualifiers, I don’t want them to just be happy with getting there,” Terry said. Other Augusta wrestlers making their first state appearances include senior Tyler Hildibrand (106 pounds), sophomore Josh Moore (126), junior Blake Watkins (195), O’Laughlin and senior Blake Aitchison (285).

“That’s something we stress with all these young kids. It’s an all new season, and what you’ve done is behind you.”

Augusta’s state rookies have a good role model in Goldenstein, who finished second in 4A at 106 pounds as a freshman before winning at 113 last season. His advice to each is the same as Terry’s: Leave everything you’ve got on the mat each match.

“They don’t know what it’s like and maybe are afraid it’s going to be a whole lot different,” Goldenstein said. “I just want them to look at it like there’s only 16 kids (in a weight class) and somebody’s got to win it. Why not you? We’re trying to keep that mentality going.”

Goldenstein, 28-3 this season, is on the same side of the 113-pound bracket as Bonner Springs senior Josiah Seaton (35-0). Goldenstein defeated Seaton 2-0 in last year’s title match. Foreman and Eck are on the other side of the bracket in the talented weight class.

“Jake lost to good kids and he made some mistakes in those matches,” Terry said. “In the long run, it was probably good for him. From there, you continue to fix this, fix that and improve.

“I think maybe it showed him you don’t just win because you were good last year. You’ve got to put it out there every time. I feel like he’s wrestling as well as he has all year.”