By CONOR NICHOLL
Marissa Porsch has been ensconced in wrestling her entire life. Her dad, Mike, was a former state placer for Hoxie High School. Mike has coached for Hoxie wrestling for more than 25 years, including an assistant on four championship teams and the long current stint as Indian head coach.
Mike’s wife, Tami, has run the Hoxie wrestling Facebook page, among many other duties. Hoxie rolled to a 3-2-1A state boys’ championship last winter and has potentially a historically great team this winter.
Marissa’s older brother, Tristan, had four top-three state appearances, including a pair of titles, at high school state wrestling. Tristan and Hoxie graduate Mat Gilliland, a four-time champion, run Next Level, a wrestling program in Hoxie.
The second brother, Dayton, captured four state championships for Hoxie and delivered a 145-2 career record. He became the first 3-2-1A wrestler in Kansas annals to complete his career with fewer than three losses and win four titles. He was a national runner-up at Pratt Community College last winter.
As a youth, Marissa extensively competed in gymnastics, though had no interest in wrestling.
“I always swore I would never wrestle growing up,” Marissa said. “It’s not something that I have dreamed of since I was a little.”
However, KSHSAA sanctioned wrestling in April 2019, late in Marissa’s freshman year. Marissa would only compete against girls. She started with wrestling and her feelings changed.
“Since the first practice I went to, I fell in love with wrestling,’” Marissa said. “I was like, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
In April and May 2019, Marissa worked with the Hoxie boys doing “mostly stance and motion.” That summer, Marissa continued her work ethic.
“All the work I put in that summer before my first year of wrestling really paid off,” Marissa said.
Three years later, Marissa has emerged as one of the elite girls’ wrestlers in Kansas. She is 104-14 in her career and one of eight girl wrestlers to reach 100 career victories, per research from SIK, historian David Heidrick and other sources. Last season, Marissa went 43-2, which is the state record for most single season girl victories, confirmed by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association. The only wrestler who could break the mark this season is Emporia’s Maddie Griffin (40-2).
Porsch finished fourth at 130 pounds in the inaugural all-classes state championship as a sophomore. Last winter, she took third at 132 pounds in 4-1A. This season, Porsch, Hoxie’s lone girl wrestler, is 33-1 and ranked first at 138 pounds, per the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association.
“Certainly have one of the better wrestlers in any class,” Hoisington coach Dan Schmidt said.
Next Wednesday and Thursday, Porsch will compete at the Class 4-1A state tournament in Salina. In addition to her first state title, Marissa looks to join the Weidl family (Darby and Dalton) from Ottawa as the only families to have brothers and sisters capture state crowns.
“I have enjoyed every time I have had with her ever since a couple years ago when she first started, and just watching her figure things out more and more in the sport of wrestling, she is still pretty fresh,” coach Porsch said. “It’s like her third year. The work she puts in, I feel like about like I do all my boys, watching them improve and grow.”
Porsch defeated Hoisington junior Tally Wikum, 9-4, in the Colby regional championship match. Both wrestlers had the lead. In addition to her parents, Tristan and his family, among other Porsch relatives were in attendance at Colby. Plus, multiple Hoxie boys made the 33-mile drive to Colby to support her. (More on the Hoxie boys this week on SIK).
“Getting to train with my brother in the summer at Next Level, I know lots of the other guys do, and I do, too, credit lots of our success in season,” Marissa said.
Porsch and Lakin senior Isabell Ortiz shared regional wrestler of the meet honors. Porsch called wrestling “definitely been a lot of fun,” especially the all girl competitions with her and her dad. Porsch and Wikum (20-1) are ranked 1-2 again and are favored to meet up in the state final.
“I have to keep putting in the work to stay up there and keep improving,” she said.
Her only loss came against Lawrence Free State senior Madyson Gray, who is ranked first in 5-6A at 138. Porsch, Ortiz and Gray were all part of Team Kansas in the national duals last summer. Porsch and Gray trained and roomed together with Team Kansas.
Two years ago, Porsch lost to Gray in an early fall.
Gray has never lost to a Kansas wrestler and is currently ranked fourth nationally by FloWrestling, an industry leader in girls’ rankings. This time, Gray held off Porsch, 4-0, at the Washburn Rural tournament on Feb. 1. Her dad believed the Gray match possibly helped his daughter versus Wikum.
“That was one that we were hoping to get and see how you are progressing,” coach Porsch said. “It was a good match. We had opportunities to score, and she scored on her opportunities, and we didn’t on Marissa’s. That what’s you go for – those experiences and to be in tight matches.”
Marissa also enjoyed the match, too.
“It was nice to really get some really, really tough competition, and obviously like the whole match I was down,” Marissa said. “Knowing that, ‘Yeah, I am down, but I can’t give up now, I have to keep going.’ Just like fighting on bottom, I fought a lot on bottom to not get pinned, which is something you have to do sometimes to give yourself the chance.”
The match was arguably the highlighted bout of the largest ever girls’ wrestling competition in state history. Thiry-two teams competed in the tournament. Gray/Porsch was one of two matchups of undefeated wrestlers.
The only other final of perfect wrestlers came at 170 with Bonner Springs’ Olivia Stean and Chapman’s Grace Johns. Stean won by first-period fall. Stean is 38-0 this season, while Johns, a national level wrestler, has just the one loss.
“To look out and say, ‘This is all for girls wrestling,’” Washburn Rural coach Damon Parker told SIK. “It gives me chills thinking about it right now, like just thinking about where we have come over the last couple of years, and how fast the sport has built up. We are going to get to the point here where a Porsch vs. Gray match isn’t the exception to the rule.”
“We are going to get to the point where when we talk about the most technical wrestlers in the state, girls are in that conversation,” he added. “It’s not just about boys anymore. And to have that happen on our mats and our gym was pretty cool.”
The Hoxie boy wrestlers have helped Marissa improve, too. The Porsch farm is in Selden, which is 21 miles northwest of Hoxie on KS-23. Marissa is normally up at 5:30 a.m. Marissa does all the work the boys do. Twice a week, Hoxie does early morning runs, which Marissa said “improves our conditioning so much.” Hoxie has recovery workouts on Sundays.
“It’s just important to give your body a chance to recover,” Marissa said.
Marissa’s primary training partner is Hoxie junior Tate Weimer, who is ranked second at 113 pounds in 3-2-1A. Plus, all the boys assist Marissa work through certain moves. Her dad noted Marissa is “starting to get a few more attacks” and can attack both sides of the body.
“We have got a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm in the room, and that bleeds into her, too. Just kids willing to try new things, and to help each other out,” coach Porsch said. “It’s made my job as a coach pretty easy this year, because if they catch one of their partners not doing quite something right… they will start correcting them before I even get a chance to sometimes. She does all the extra workouts and conditioning that they do, so I think that’s generated a lot of respect from the boys.”