By RICK PETERSON
EMPORIA -- A year ago, Washburn Rural's Dajia Anderson became Topeka's first girls state wrestling champion while the Junior Blues won the team championship in the first official Kansas State High School Activities Association girls state tournament.
Anderson and Washburn Rural began defense of those titles in Saturday's Division I Regional girls tournament, with both coming through with victories.
Anderson, a senior who moved to the 191-pound division this season after winning at 235 a year ago, won the regional title in dramatic fashion over Shawnee Heights junior standout Maranda Bell and was joined on the top of the victory stand by sophomore 120-pounder Addison Broxterman and senior 155-pounder Rebekah Smith as Washburn Rural qualified all 12 wrestlers for Friday's sub-state at Wichita Heights while capturing the team championship by a 211-168 margin over host Emporia.
"Man, we got 12 in, I'm happy as a clam,'' said Washburn Rural coach Damon Parker, who was named the regional coach of the year. "It's awesome. We get to bring everybody back and do it again next week and we'll have the exact same goal next week and that's get 12 through and set ourselves up for state and win subs.''
Anderson went into the regional ranked No. 3 at 191 pounds by the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association, but was able to knock off No. 2 Trinity Ervin of Emporia (24-4) by 4-0 decision in the semifinals before rallying to take a 4-2 win over top-ranked Bell (26-3) in the championship match with a takedown as time ran out.
"It was fun," said Anderson, who improved to 24-4. "You're sitting on the bleachers worrying and over-thinking it and then when you actually get on the mat and actually wrestle, even though you win or lose, it's still ends up being fun, so I had fun.''
Broxterman, who is ranked No. 2 at 120, improved to 18-5 on the season with a pin in 1:39 over Shawnee Heights sophomore Riley Thompson (19-9) in the finals while Smith, top-ranked at 155, needed just 1:21 to pin Bonner Springs freshman Chloie Knapp in the championship match.
Broxterman and Smith both won all of their matches by pin, combining for five on the day.
In addition to the three champions, Washburn Rural got second-place finishes from junior Shayne Miles (115 pounds) and freshman Laiken Clark (143) while freshman Kristin Rezac (101), sophomore Alexis Fredrickson (126), senior Eliise Romine (132) and junior Jaliah Johnson (170) all finished third and sophomore Kaitlyn Morris (109), sophomore Carmen Alston (138) and freshman Sophia Ross (235) posted fourth-place finishes.
Shawnee Heights also had a productive day, putting seven wrestlers in the finals and getting a regional championship from sophomore Molly Busenitz at 115 pounds.
"On the day I feel phenomenal,'' Parks said. "We have three girls that had ever wrestled in their life and we just put seven girls in the finals of probably the toughest regional in the state so I'm so excited about that.
Busenitz, who improved to 21-5, claimed her title when she pinned Rural's Miles in the championship match.
"It was a good confidence boost," Busenitz said. "I had a good start to the season, but then have taken some losses recently. In my head it was maybe I just had easy people (early). But it felt good to get out here, and I had a couple people who had beaten me before, so to beat them this time was big."
Parks wasn't happy with a late stalling and takedown calls that went against Bell against Anderson, but is happy that she is likely to get another chance over the next two weeks.
"Maranda and (Anderson) are always going to battle,'' Parks said. "I didn't agree with some of the calls, but you know what, we're going to wrestle each other three straight weeks and it's a chess game. Now we're going to go back and I'll figure out some things and I love it.
"I love that part of the sport and Maranda showed a lot of heart and now we get to see what her and the other girls are made of.''
In addition to Bell, Shawnee Heights also got runner-up finishes from junior Alexandria Buce (101), freshman Odessa Schmidt (109), sophomore Riley Thompson (120), senior Katelynn Thomas (126) and junior Haley Haltom (132).
Seaman qualified three wrestlers for sub-state, with junior Rylee Murray (115), freshman Jenna Best (120) and junior Madison Murray (126) all posting fourth-place finishes.
Free State junior Madyson Gray, a returning state champion, was named the regional's outstanding wrestler.
DIVISION I REGIONAL GIRLS WRESTLING AT EMPORIA
Washburn Rural 211, Emporia 168, Shawnee Heights 151, Basehor-Linwood 88, Seaman 78, Bonner Springs 50, Shawnee Mission West 50, Lansing 45, Free State 35, Piper 24, Turner 22, Leavenworth 18, Kansas City-Washington 11, Shawnee Mission Northwest 8.
101 -- 1. Ortiz, Turner; 2. Buce, Shawnee Heights; 3. Rezac, Washburn Rural; 4. Geronimo, Emporia.
109 -- 1. O’Donnell, Basehor-Linwood; 2. Schmidt, Shawnee Heights; 3. Keosybounheuang, Emporia; 4. Morris, Washburn Rural.
115 -- 1. Busenitz, Shawnee Heights; 2. Miles, Washburn Rural; 3. Johnston, Shawnee Mission West; 4. R. Murray, Seaman.
120 -- 1. Broxterman, Washburn Rural; 2. Thompson, Shawnee Heights; 3. Shah-Luster, Shawnee Mission West; 4. Best, Seaman.
126 -- 1. Griffin, Emporia; 2. Thomas, Shawnee Heights; 3. Fredrickson, Washburn Rural; 4. M. Murray, Seaman.
132 -- 1. Gray, Free State; 2. Haltom, Shawnee Heights; 3. Romine, Washburn Rural; 4. Bolton, Emporia.
138 -- 1. Lake, Piper; 2. Munoz, Emporia; 3. Wallace, Basehor-Linwood; 4. Alston, Washburn Rural.
143 -- 1. Christenson, Basehor-Linwood; 2. Clark, Washburn Rural; 3. Boa, Emporia; 4. Busch, Lansing.
155 -- 1. Smith, Washburn Rural; 2. Knapp, Bonner Springs; 3. Hernandez, Emporia; 4. Hooser, Lansing.
170 -- 1. Stean, Bonner Springs; 2. Jackson, Leavenworth; 3. Johnson, Washburn Rural; 4. Flores-Delgado, Emporia.
191 -- 1. Anderson, Washburn Rural; 2. Bell, Shawnee Heights; 3. Ervin, Emporia; 4. Neal, KC-Washington.
235 -- 1. Olson, Emporia; 2. Aseyo, Lansing; 3. Banks, Shawnee Mission West; 4. Ross, Washburn Rural.