March 3, 2015
St. James Academy has established its wrestling program as a powerhouse over the last several years, and that trend continued over the weekend at the KSHSAA Class 5A state championships in Park City.
The Thunder, led by coach Mike Medina, posted a second-place finish after taking home the team title last season. It was a feat particularly impressive considering St. James lost five state placers from a year ago.
“We talked about it a lot during the year, and we had a goal to finish in the top two in the state,” Medina said. “We knew it would be kind of difficult, but I was proud of how the boys stepped up.”
The Thunder was led by its three state champions: seniors Zak Hensley and Matt Pratt and sophomore Clay Lautt, who combined for a 120-14 record this season. Hensley and Pratt were repeat champions and concluded their impressive prep careers at the top of the mountain.
Stephen Tujague and Sammy Cokeley captured bronze medals in their respective weight divisions, and Tyler Harris and Tyler Hensley both placed to score points for the Thunder as well.
“Like any tournament, there were plenty of ups and downs, but I was proud of how the whole team stepped up this year,” Medina said. “I think our program is built from the kids that we’ve had in the past. The boys are seeing that if they dedicate themselves, they can be successful.”
Medina gives a lot of credit to the team’s schedule for preparing his kids to compete at a high level. Going up against some of the best wrestlers — not only in Kansas, but also in the country, according to Medina — allowed the Thunder to take strides in their abilities that may not have come against lesser competition.
As for his two senior champions, Medina said he couldn’t be more proud of the way they fought — not only on Saturday, but throughout their careers — to get to the top of the podium two years straight.
“To see them go out on top, it was great,” Medina said. “Matt and Zak work very hard, and they got what they deserved. They’re not just part-timers — they’re working year-round. It was a great experience for them to win those titles two years in a row.”
Jon Poorman is the sports editor at The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @JonPoorman for all of the latest community sports news.
Originally published at: http://www.shawneedispatch.com/news/2015/mar/03/st-james-wrestlers-standing-tall-after-another-suc/