By GAVIN LAPAILLE
Gold Standard Sports Editor
Two wrestlers will represent Fort Knox High School in the state wrestling competition this weekend at Lexington Horse Park.
Seniors Jesus Fuentes and Ryan Gibson will head to state in the 145-pound and 220-pound weight classes respectively, with Fuentes finishing second and Gibson third in the Region Two meet Saturday at LaRue County High School. The top four finishers in the region automatically qualify for the state meet.
Two other Eagles, sophomore 126-pounder Joseph Murrillo and eighth-grade 106-pounder Kaden Harris, finished in fifth at the region meet, which means they will serve as alternates should another wrestler be unable to compete. As a team, the Eagles finished in seventh place at region, scoring 93 points.
“They put a good performance on,” Eagles head coach Jarvis Cullen said. “I was pleased with them all.”
Seeded second coming in, Fuentes pinned Barren County’s Jonathan Franco in the opening round, then defeated John Hardin’s Derek Armer to clinch his first state berth. Fuentes fell to North Hardin’s Jonathan Little in the 145-pound championship.
Fuentes has aspired to make state all year, and said he feels accomplished to reach his goal.
“It was exciting,” Fuentes said. “This is my first time going to state, so I can’t wait to see what it’s like.”
Cullen said Fuentes has been extremely focused all year.
“He concentrated on those guys that he knew would give him a tough match,” Cullen said. “He studied their weakness and their strengths and concentrated on one match at a time.”
Gibson will also be making his first appearance at state after finishing three spots higher than he was seeded. Gibson lost his opening match to Apollo’s Taylor Widmer, but won his last three bouts against Central Hardin’s Markel Willis, North Hardin’s Lacory Roberson and Nelson County’s Le’Ander Beckley.
Gibson said he felt confident heading into the region despite his seeding, remarking on the toughness of opponents he faced out of the region.
“The coaches have given me the knowledge to go against my opponents,” Gibson said. “I knew what my opponents like to do. To get third place at region and go to state is pretty cool.”
Cullen said he wasn’t surprised Gibson performed well enough to make state, despite this being his first year wrestling.
“Ryan has come along well,” Cullen said. “I’ve seen him change from mid-season all the way into the end. His progress has climbed every time he has hit the mat.”
Gibson, Fuentes and the alternates will work this week at improving their conditioning and technique in anticipation of what lies ahead. The state tournament begins Friday, and continues through Saturday.
The guys will be matched up against other wrestlers based on their place at region, with Fuentes taking on a fourth-place finisher and Gibson a region champion. The tournament is double-elimination, and Cullen puts lots of emphasis on a strong start.
“The worst thing you can do going into state is lose the first match,” Cullen said. “Then you have an uphill battle from that point on. After that, you’re loose, your head is in the game, and from that point on you have to concentrate on every other match that you have coming towards you.”
With this being the last tournament for both Fuentes and Gibson, the guys want to end on a high note.
“I knew the end was going to come eventually,” Fuentes said. “I’m sad to see my sports ending, but I’m happy with how I performed.”
7. Fort Knox (93)
106: 5. Kaden Harris, 3-2
Def. Muhon Nard (Owensboro) and Brandon Powers (Apollo) (twice). Lost to Jake Burroughs (North Hardin) and Jared Ray (Meade Co.).
120: 6. Clinton Burkhalter, 3-3
Def. Latasha Smith (Owensboro), Christopher Atkinson (Taylor Co.) and Spencer York (Barren Co.). Lost to Cody Thomas (Central Hardin) (twice), and Roger Young (Meade Co.)
126: 5. Joseph Murillo, 2-2
Def. Jacob Guess (Central Hardin) (twice). Lost to Chris Beeler (Meade Co.) and Garrett Haggerty (Taylor Co.).
145: 2. Jesus Fuentes, 2-1
Def. Jonathan Franco (Barren Co.) and Derek Armer (John Hardin). Lost to Jonathon Little (North Hardin).
152: 6. Christopher Gagne, 2-3
Def. Andrew Ebelhar (Apollo) and William Hall (Taylor Co.). Lost to Christian Gray (Owensboro), Raymond Williams (North Hardin) and Anthony Fairman (Meade Co.).
170: 6. Alonzo Turner, 1-3
Def. Dakota Santiago (Taylor Co.). Lost to Conner Judd (Daviess Co.), Louis Hollings (John Hardin) and Santiago.
220: 3. Ryan Gibson, 3-1
Def. Markel Willis (Central Hardin), Lacory Roberson (North Hardin) and Le’Ander Beckley (Nelson Co.). Lost to Taylor Widmer (Apollo).