Wrestling places 11th at state; Ilalio heavyweight state champion

Kris Long, Sports Editor

Wrestling took home 11th place at state on Saturday and medaled four out of the five state competitors at head coach Robert Gonzales’s last career wrestling tournament.

“It’s bittersweet,” Gonzales said. “I feel like I’m leaving the team in good shape… The kids that are coming back I’m excited about, we got a great freshman class and the juniors are very talented, so we’re going to be back.”

Juniors #113 Janzten Borge and #145 Blaisen Bammes placed sixth, junior Easton Taylor placed second and senior Damian Ilalio took home the state championship.

Ilalio was state runner-up as a junior, losing by fall in the third period, and sixth as a sophomore after forfeiting due to injury before taking the title this year. He beat Washburn Rural’s David Huckstep in the final by major decision 9-4. 

“I feel amazing,” Ilalio said after the match. “All my hard work throughout the season, for it to pay off here, where it really matters. I just feel so happy right now. It’s such a good feeling to win.”

Ilalio had been ranked first in 6A heavyweight for the majority of the season but slipped to third after losses to Washburn Rural’s David Huckstep and Garden City’s Sebastian Lopez at the regional and sub-state tournaments. He came back to beat Lopez in the state semi-final and Huckstep — his self-described rival — in the final.

“This year I went against [Huckstep] three times. At League I beat him, at regionals he beat me, and today I got the best of him,” Ilalio said. “I think it’s a perfect way to cap off my wrestling career. Wrestling isn’t my main sport but I love it so much. It teaches you so many good things and to come out here and end it on a high note, my very last match at my very last tournament to be number one at state, that’s all I could ever ask for.”

Taylor also made it to the finals but lost to his rival Damian Mendez from Dodge City by major decision, 3-1. He wrestled Mendez three times this season, all of which ended in a two-point loss. Taylor was the defending state champion from 2020 where he beat Dodge City’s Justin Triscornia by major decision.

“[The final] was a pretty good match,” Taylor said. “All I [have] to do is keep my head up and get better for next year.”

Both Bammes and Borge lost their first round, won their second, but went on to lose their third round and fifth-place match. Freshman Jameal Agnew was knocked out after his first two matches and did not place.

“Some of our kids didn’t perform as well as they wanted to,” Ilalio said. “I think that’s just motivation for next year. I’m the only senior so everyone is going to come back next year and I’m just trying to encourage them to do as much as they can to prepare.”

Gonzales, after coaching wrestling for 44 years, was happy with his last State team’s performance and for the individual wrestlers, most of whom placed at or above their ranking.

“The main thing is to come out to this gym and get up on the podium and get a medal, and they got medals,” Gonzales said. “So I got a lot to be happy for.”