By CONOR NICHOLL
Hoxie coach Mike Porsch and Dodge City coach Tate Lowe spent the last two days coaching their girls’ wrestling teams. For Porsch, that meant one girl, his daughter, senior 138-pounder Marissa Porsch, the top-ranked wrestler in 4-1A throughout the season. For DC, Lowe had 10 wrestlers qualify for the 5-6A meet. Each squad made school and state history.
Now, Porsch and Lowe look to accomplish similar achievements on the boys’ side Friday and Saturday.
Marissa Porsch finished 37-1, won her third straight medal and first state championship. She defeated Hoisington junior Tally Wikum, 10-1, in the title Thursday at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center in Salina. Wikum lost two matches all winter, both to Porsch.
Additionally, the Porsch siblings became the second family in state annals to have both genders win state titles. Marissa’s older brothers, Tristan and Dayton, combined for six crowns. She became the first Hoxie girl champion in school history.
On Thursday night, Mike posted a tweet that read “1 Down, 10 more to go!!”
On Friday and Saturday, Mike will coach the Hoxie boys’ team at the 3-2-1A state meet at Gross Memorial Coliseum. Hoxie, with 10 qualifiers, is the overwhelming favorite to win its second consecutive title. The Indians might conclude Saturday as statistically the most dominant 3-2-1A team in Kansas annals.
“We have really good families and good parent support,” Porsch, a Hoxie graduate and coach with the program for more than 25 years. “They take a good approach to everything. The culture is kind of beyond the room, the parents, I think they have good expectations for their kids and holding them accountable and their work.”
Lowe has had similar culture and infrastructure with Dodge City. On Thursday, the Red Demons’ depth yielded a remarkable run to the 5-6A wrestling crown at Park City’s Hartman Arena. In a back-and-forth race, DC held off Washburn Rural, 118.5-111. WR had won back-to-back state championships, including the inaugural all-classes title in 2020. Dodge City has zero seniors and didn’t win a state title, though had seven state placers.
It marked the first state title in Dodge City wrestling annals.
“Hats off to Washburn Rural,” Lowe told SIK on Thursday night. “What those girls and our girls did this weekend was great for women’s wrestling. It was an exciting team race, and I think it not only made both programs better but brought attention to girls’ wrestling.”
DC held a slight lead after Day 1. However, Dodge City performed better on the backside on Day 2. Freshman Jessica Rivera (27-11) took sixth at 101. Freshman Ashley Alonso (32-11) was third at 109. Sophomore Ariana De La Rosa (33-4) finished third at 126. Freshman Hailey Ramos (32-7) took second at 132.
Sophomore Dayanara Garcia (26-11) took fourth at 138. Junior Ashley Arroyo (33-6) was second at 155. Junior Jolette Almaraz lost her first match and then won four in a row, including a key 6-5 decision. She finished 29-5 at 170. DC and WR split four matches against each other, and Rural held a 21-11 lead in pins. The Junior Blues had five state placers, including a second straight runner-up from Addison Broxterman.
“Toughness,” Lowe said. “The girls won a ton of hard-fought close matches on the second day. We preach backside wins championships, and our girls fought to earn this.”
Last season, Washburn Rural won both girls’ and boys’ state titles, including the 6A boys. Dodge City has a chance to sweep both titles this winter. However, the toughest competition comes from the Rural boys, ranked No. 1 in 6A. DC is second, followed by Derby, Manhattan and Garden City.
While the Dodge City girls are known for depth, the Red Demon boys are much more senior-laden and have a pair of No. 1 ranked wrestlers in senior 132-pounder Damian Mendez and junior 170-pounder Luke Barker. A two-time state titlist, Mendez has committed with North Dakota State and broke the Kansas record for career takedowns this winter. Mendez is 41-0, Barker 37-1.
“How much they love wrestling,” Lowe said. “You have to kick them out of the room. When we are doing conditioning, our sprints, they are the two fastest. They are the ones that are pushing themselves. They are the ones that will exert all their energy. We are going through drills, they are very, very coachable. So often times when you get really good kids, they are like ‘Do whatever, I don’t have to work hard.’ … But because their goals are so much higher than high school wrestling, they are very, very just self-driven.”
Plus, 138-pound senior Rudy Hernandez, sophomore 145-pound Ismael Ramirez, senior 152-pounder Miguel Aguilera, senior 160-pound Josh Gonzales and junior 195-pounder Roman Loya are all ranked. Lowe, a former collegiate wrestler, runs his practices in the same way as college practices.
“We are a high drill team, so we go through lots and lots of drills and situations,” Lowe said. “So everything is real high speed, high intense. Like obviously we do our technique some, but a majority of our practices are high speed, high intense drilling. We just drill, drill, drill, drill, drill.”
In 5A, Goddard is in position for its eighth straight title. Class 4A is wide-open, though top-ranked Augusta, first featured on SIK in December, is in position for its first-ever state crown.
For Hoxie, the Indians won the state tournament by 70 points, the classification’s biggest margin of victory since 2010. Hoxie returned nearly everyone this winter, including 113-pound junior Tate Weimer (33-7), junior 120-pounder Wayne Shepard (26-13), sophomore 126-pounder Carson Ochs (33-4) and 152-pound junior Drew Bretz (38-2).
Plus, Hoxie has the well-known Bell brothers at 132, 138 and 145: sophomore Dayton (30-9), senior Drew (36-1) and freshman Duncan (32-10). Plus, junior Derek Johnson, a two-time state champion, is 36-1 at 160. Freshman Sam Watkins is 37-3 at 170.
During duals, Porsch sometimes doesn’t sit on the coaches’ bench.
“I am up and moving, but it’s fun to sit besides these guys,” Porsch said. “A lot of times you sit beside guys and talk to them about what’s going on in a match. These guys will talk to me. … The whole team, they start seeing things and understanding things, so that’s really, really neat to me.”
Watkins is a rare freshman wrestler who could win an upper-weight title. He enjoyed a lot of success growing up. Both Hoxie and Watkins had high expectations.
Last season, Weimer was second, Shepard fourth, Ochs sixth and Dayton Bell second. Drew Bell, Bretz and Johnson all won titles.
“I have been on both sides of it,” Porsch said. “And we have had other good teams before. You learn to enjoy those moments more and stay a little humble, because it will come back around and you don’t have such good teams. Yeah, just enjoying it, and watching. You don’t have to work real hard to motivate them sometimes for the most part. They hold each other accountable.”