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3-2-1A preview -- State tourney a family affair

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Hoxie freshman Tristan Porsch was always told "he came out wrestling" at birth. The oldest of longtime Indian assistant and current Hoxie wrestling coach Mike Porsch's four kids, Tristan went to high school wrestling practices when he was little and hung around tournaments. At four years old, he started to practice in the wrestling room.

Mike coached Tristan from a young age and helped him become one of Kansas' top young wrestlers. Porsch learned from Mat Gilliland, the lone four-time state champion at tradition-rich Hoxie, and Calvin Ochs, a two-time state champ. Porsch has competed at national tournaments in Indianapolis and Fargo, S.D. the last two summers.

This winter, Porsch is 35-0 and ranked No. 1 at 120 pounds entering this weekend's Class 3-2-1A state championships at Gross Memorial Coliseum. He is the area's lone undefeated wrestler.

"I have been working hard for this for a long time, and it's been one of my goals to go like this season has been," Porsch said. "I wanted it to end up like this -- I didn't know if it would be like this. It's been pretty phenomenal. It's been a real surprise how well I have done against some of the opponents I have wrestled."

Porsch is one of the area's four father-son combinations. Oberlin senior Dayton Dreher is 35-3 and one of the favorites at 145 pounds. His dad is longtime Oberlin coach Joe Dreher.

"It has a lot of ups and downs," said coach Dreher, a former state champion at Plainville. "It's tough at times, but it also has its rewards. Just knowing that he has placed every year at state, that's something I never did, I never wrestled as a freshman. He hopefully gets a medal this year."

Norton sophomore Skylar Johnson stands 23-2 at 106 pounds; his older brother is former Bluejay standout and state champion Eric Johnson and their dad is Norton coach Bill Johnson. Norton assistant Shane Miller's son, junior 160-pounder Kendall Miller (30-7) is also in the mix for a state title. Johnson and Porsch are ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes, Dreher is third and Miller fifth.

The Johnson family has photos of Eric wrestling in high and college with Skylar and his brother, Ryan, now an eighth grader, watching.

"They have grown up with head gear on them ever since they were born," coach Johnson said. "It's something that they have been around and coach's kids are thrown into it."

Bill Johnson, the only four-time All-American in Fort Hays State University wrestling history, graduated from Rosalia-Flint Hills High School. He first laid out of college for a year, went to Oklahoma State University and then laid out of college another year, had Eric and then decided to go back to college. Eric was around 18 months old when Johnson entered FHSU. Bill and Joy Johnson had their lone daughter, Kelli, in 1987 when he was wrestling at Fort Hays. Eric is 29, while Skylar and Ryan are 16 and 14, respectively.

Coach Johnson, about to turn 50 and in his 25th season with the Bluejays. Johnson has "mellowed greatly" during the years and doesn't talk wrestling or teach technique as frequently with his two younger sons. This winter marks Skylar's first state qualification.

"We just turn everything off when we get home," Skylar Johnson said. "...During practices and competitions, he focuses more on everyone and at home, it's more his family."

Skylar Johnson said he resembles his mother's personality and labeled her "outgoing and fun to be around."

"She has been a supporter for me," Skylar said. "Just providing food and just talking after a loss or a win, just telling me that I did my best."

Dayton Dreher is similar.  Dayton's only sibling is Jordan, his older sister and a former Class 2A volleyball Player of the Year. Dayton said Jordan and himself resemble their mother, Melissa.

"He doesn't get too fired up really and he doesn't say much, I guess," Dayton said of their dad. "... I am kind of like my mom, I get a little fired up. She is a little bit more talkative than my dad is. I am more like her."

His dad is in his 19th season with the Red Devil wrestling squad and has coached Dayton, Oberlin's quarterback, in football, too.

"Wrestling is obviously a little more individual and everything," coach Dreher said. "On the field, you obviously don't hear everything that goes on out there, but it's pretty close to the same thing."

Dayton started around wrestling around six. His dad has coached him throughout his career, except in junior high. At times, Joe will wrestle his son in some drills.

"I look up to him a lot about winning those state championships," Dayton said. "I would like to win one of my own."

Tristan Porsch wants to win his first crown Saturday, too - a title he has worked toward for years. His only brother, Dayton, is a seventh grader. The two have practiced often and even broken some furniture at home.  

Two years ago, he went to Indianapolis for Schoolboy National Duals and last summer, he headed to Fargo. Porsch didn't place at either tournament, but the competitions feature the nation's elite. The summer has pushed Porsch to a "whole nother level."

"There is so many kids out there that are so much more a higher level than I am," he said.

His dad has helped. The family watches video at home and works on areas that Tristan could improve. Tristan has worked out with Colby Community College coaches and credited multiple training partners for helping him.

"He is just a great dad and a great coach at the same time," Tristan said.

Porsch watched some of the top father-son combinations in the past, including Hoxie's Kirk Baker and his sons, Tyler, Travis and Trent; St. Francis' Bill and Larry Gabel, and Bill Johnson with his kids. Porsch has learned coaches have to keep a distinction between being a coach on the mat and being a father at home.

"Sometimes if you get a off-day in practice and the coach is kind of hard on you or whatever, you go home and you get away from it," Porsch said. "You've got to go home with him. I am sure it is tough for him too, and I am proud of the way that he has handled it. I think he has handled it very well."

This season, Porsch scored some big victories against wrestlers from Silver Lake, Norton, Abilene and defeated Ellis freshman Dalton Hensley, ranked No. 3, in the regional final. Porsch knows the zero losses "puts a big target" on his back and forces him to wrestle better. The perfect record is secondary to another goal, an accomplishment several fathers and sons could enjoy.

"I just want to win state -- and have fun while I am at it," he said.