Nex-Tech Wireless Western Kansas Athletes of the Month: The infrastructure, sacrifices, joy and records of Hoxie wrestling

Hoxie wrestling set or tied a bevy of state records, including most overall points by any team in any class at a state wrestling meet.


In 2020, the Class 3-2-1A state wrestling tournament was expected to be a close battle between longtime powers Norton and Hoxie. Norton scored 120 points, seven ahead of the Indians. At 132, Hoxie freshman Derek Johnson delivered a 1-0 state championship victory versus Silver Lake’s Kai Allen, a former state champion and the state favorite.

Allen’s coach for the bulk of his high school career was Colt Rogers, a 3-2-1A wrestling legend and former four-time state titlist at Smith Center. Early as a freshman, Johnson never had a thought about winning four state titles. His freshman goal was to make the state tournament and place. Then, he reached the finals after a fall, a 1-0 quarterfinal decision and a 5-3 semifinal win.

In the moments and days following after the Allen match, Johnson realized he could do something special with four titles.

That fall, Hoxie football enjoyed an excellent 9-2 season with primarily non-seniors. Quarterback Ashton Dowell, then a junior, had a huge year. More than 98 percent of the rushing yards were from non-seniors. On defense, Johnson finished with 104 tackles and forced a team-best six fumbles. Hoxie allowed 16.5 points a game. The Indians were expected to be an eight-man state contender in ’21.

Johnson, though, made a choice: go all-in on wrestling. He stopped playing football. Hoxie’s defense allowed 38.7 points a game the first season without Johnson.

A wrestling group that included Johnson, several Hoxie teammates and Ellis’ Mason Younger trained in the offseason. Johnson and multiple area boys and boys are part of Next Level Wrestling, run by Tristan Porsch, a former two-time state champion at Hoxie, and Mat Gilliland, a four-time Hoxie titlist. Porsch’s dad, Mike, is Hoxie’s longtime wrestling coach. Johnson spent thousands of hours in the NLA room.

Among many other national showings, Johnson and Hoxie’s Dayton Bell went to the national high school recruiting showcase last October. Bell finished fifth. Johnson went 4-0 and won. Last May at the state Junior Cadet in Hutchinson, Kash Schlitz finished fourth, Ian Giancola took second, Sam Watkins was second, Carson Ochs fifth, Dayton Bell third and Johnson second. Johnson’s loss came against Dodge City’s Luke Barker, a three-time high school titlist. All are current Hoxie wrestlers.

The work paid off for Johnson and Hoxie with its historic weekend at the 3-2-1A state wrestling championships at Fort Hays State University’s Gross Memorial Coliseum on Friday and Saturday. Johnson’s sacrifices yielded a moment of pure joy. He punctuated Hoxie’s team title when he captured the 157-pound state championship in a technical fall victory against Chaparral’s Joseph Ord.

Johnson, a Saint Cloud State signee, completed a 43-0 season and a 164-4 mark, one of the best careers in 3-2-1A history. Hoxie has three four-time state champions: Gilliland, Dayton Porsch and Johnson. Just after the match concluded, Johnson flashed four fingers and bowed to the crowd.

Hoxie was expected to challenge and break records – and most notably set the all-time, all-classes state scoring mark. The Indians tallied 260 points. Norton was second at 101.

From 1973-91, state wrestling had four placers. Beloit set the all-classes record with 193 points in 1984. From 1992-current, the state has placed six. Goddard had the top-three scores of 250.5 in 2018, 225 in 2019 and 223.5 in 2010, per

However, Hoxie broke the record with its 260. That also broke the 3-2-1A mark of 218.5 set by the Indians in 2003.

Hoxie finished with six state champions, two runner-ups and three third placers. Porsch earned 3-2-1A coach of the year. At Fort Hays’ Gross Coliseum, around 50 former Hoxie wrestlers took a picture on GMC’s steps.

Hoxie 2023 and Hoxie 2003 had 11 state placers, which is the 3-2-1A record. 2018 Goddard has the all-time mark with 12. This winter, Hoxie had 16 on the roster, 12 who qualified for state and 11 who placed. All 16 wrestled varsity at some point this season. Hoxie now has 96 state champions, fourth most in state annals behind Arkansas City (109), Norton (107) and St. Francis (101).

Johnson’s choice to leave football was one of several sacrifices from the Hoxie wrestlers and coaching staff in SIK interviews with coach Porsch, Johnson and other Indian wrestlers during the last couple years.

Hoxie was ranked No. 1 for all classes by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association and defeated multiple 5-6A schools.

Hoxie’s celebration of wrestling is unparalleled. The entrance of Hoxie’s gym has a huge banner with all the state placers. Each of the champions has a photograph. Hoxie has 13 team championships.

Porsch is a former Hoxie placer and longtime Hoxie assistant before he took over as head coach. Porsch is known not only for his wrestling acumen but for caring about every wrestler personally from JV to varsity.

From 2013-20, Hoxie’s finishes included second, seventh, sixth, third, third and second in 2020.

In addition to Johnson’s title, 2020 also included a state qualification from Wayne Shepard at 106 and Drew Bretz at 120. Shepard went 1-2 at state, and Bretz finished sixth. Dayton Bell narrowly lost out on a state berth. Tate Weimer was on the team, too. All were freshmen.

Those now seniors led the way this winter.

Plus, Hoxie wrestlers made choices about weights, which allowed sophomore Easton Nickelson to qualify at 150 and win a state match. Nickelson was a JV wrestler for Hoxie last season, though won a District 4 kids’ championship last March. This tournament is held at Fort Hays a week after 3-2-1A state.

Porsch wanted to try to work him into the varsity lineup this season. However, that involved several of Hoxie’s more seasoned wrestlers to drop more weight or wrestle up some.

Hoxie’s state lineup went: sophomore Schlitz at 106, freshman Giancola at 113, Weimer at 120, Shepard at 126, junior Carson Ochs at 132, senior Dayton Bell at 138, sophomore Duncan Bell at 144, Nickelson at 150, Johnson at 157, Bretz at 165, Watkins at 175 and junior Gavin Schippers at 285. Schippers made a huge climb this year.

That group scored 270 points at the Feb. 18 Larned regional, more than twice any other team. Larned is 143 miles southeast of Hoxie. That night, Porsch made a choice as a coach and father. His daughter, Marissa, won the first girls’ state championship in Hoxie history last winter. She had a strong freshman season at Chadron State (Neb.).

On Feb. 19, the women’s collegiate regional tournament occurred in Grand Junction, Colorado, which is a 510-mile one-way drive. Coach Porsch took a friend and left at 3 a.m. for Grand Junction. Marissa narrowly missed qualifying for nationals. On Feb. 20, Marissa posted on Twitter that read in part: “My high school coach (aka my dad) always told us that the ‘the sun will come up tomorrow’ if we don’t make it out of regionals or finish how we wanted to at state. Well I guess he was right.” Mike Porsch returned to Hoxie at 1 a.m. In 22 hours, he drove more than 1,000 miles. In 48 hours, he exceeded 1,300.

It’s similar wording coach Porsch has instilled in his Hoxie boys. Porsch remembers a message he gave to Dayton Bell when he missed state as a freshman about bouncing back from tough losses. The words were similar when a couple of Hoxie wrestlers took a loss at state this weekend.

Those wrestlers bounced back Saturday and completed the historical point total. Overall, Hoxie had champions from Giancola (37-3 at 113), Carson Ochs (38-0 at 132), Dayton Bell (41-2 at 138), Johnson, Drew Bretz (40-0 at 165), and Schippers (31-14 at 285). Giancola and Schippers entered state ranked third and fifth, respectively.

Schlitz also outperformed his ranking with a second-place showing at 106. He was ranked fifth. Shepard was second to Ellis’ Mason Younger at 126. Weimer was third at 120. Duncan Bell took third at 144. Watkins came back to take third at 175. Nickelson won a match, too. Then, Johnson completed the greatest team season in 3-2-1A history with a fourth state title.

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