Pete Logan
Winning at wrestling means a lot to the GEHS team, and they are fighting even harder to help Ashley Gorney beat cancer.
Wednesday night, the Gardner-Edgerton High School wrestling team defeated visiting Lawrence, 51-25, in the first home dual of the season in GEHS Gymnasium. At the same time, of significantly more importance, 6000 dollars were raised to support the Gorney family in their fight against cancer, as the Gardner-Edgerton wrestling program presented the night as “The Clash for Ash” event — a fundraiser in support of their own assistant coach’s family’s fight.
Ashley and Jerad Gorney are both long-time teachers at Gardner-Edgerton High School. Ashley Gorney is one of the Foreign Language Department’s Spanish teachers, and Jerad Gorney teaches Science and is an assistant coach for both the Blazers’ wrestling and soccer programs. Two years ago, Ashley was declared in remission from a breast cancer diagnosis she had received the previous year. However, a routine checkup two months ago revealed new growths that needed to be treated aggressively. Since that time, Ashley has undergone treatments including chemotherapy as the family fights the insidious disease. So far, the results of the treatment have been positive, but the expenses, the time commitments, and emotional toll have been extensive. In order to help alleviate those struggles and to show the Gorneys how much they mean to the entire Gardner-Edgerton community, GEHS Wrestling head coach Tyler Cordts organized an event centered around their first home encounter against Lawrence.
“This was such a huge night for the wrestling community,” said Cordts immediately following the event, “for the Gardner community. Everybody came together for a great cause, and wrestling just happened to be there — for that cause.”
“I think we got a lot of people in the building tonight. They came to support the Gorney family. They’re such a great foundation of our school and our community, and they came in and saw wrestling, and we might have gained some new fans tonight. They saw a lot of great things from a lot of people, and I hope those people come back and help support the team.”
Cordts praised the Gorneys for their dedication to the Trailblazers.
“I feel they’re a cornerstone of this building,” Cordts said, struggling to hold in his emotions. “They’ve been here for a collective 24 to 30 years. Everybody who knows them, loves them. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about them. I truly feel our wrestling numbers are as large as they are because the kids want to be here because they love being around Jerad Gorney. He’s been so much to me. He’s been a mentor to me. He helps me out so much. This wrestling team and I wouldn’t be where we are without him.”
Fundraising efforts on the night included donation stations, concession and food sale proceeds, and a silent auction. The silent auction items included baskets that featured a variety of goods and services. Auction items included a “Chocolate Lovers” basket, a Royals basket, a Chiefs basket, a KU basket, and many more. The auction’s KU basket included two tickets to a Jayhawks’ men’s basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse. In addition, both teams wore pink wrestling singlets in honor of Ashley Gorney’s fight. Before the varsity boys’ wrestling began, the Gorneys and both teams gathered on the mat to pose for pictures and for the Gorneys to receive a long standing ovation from everyone there.
The wrestling began in historic fashion, with GEHS’s first ever girls wrestling matches. Seniors Alyssa Thomas and Michelle Jalabomy both lost their matches against their Lawrence counterparts, though both Trailblazer grapplers had to wrestle 15 pounds above their weight class, as the Lions only fielded two girl wrestlers.
After the girls’ matches, the boys varsity face-offs began. Gardner-Edgerton began the night down 6-0, as the Blazers did not have a 106-pound wrestler to face Lawrence’s Jack Elsten. The Lions took the next two matches — one by pin, the other by technical fall — to extend their lead to 16-0 before the 126-pound weight class. In that match, Trailblazer freshman Alonzo Borjas built up a 5-0 lead after the 1st round. Borjas then pinned Lawrence’s Zack Razak with 58.1 seconds remaining in the 2nd round to put the Blazers on the board and make the score 16-6.
Lawrence’s Logan Farrell then scored a major decision at the 132-pound class to put the visitors up 20-6. That brought up Blazer freshman Zane Mayfield at 138 pounds, facing off against the Lions’ Andre Phommaseng. Mayfield immediately took control and dominated the match, going up 6-1, before pinning his opponent with 1:06 remaining in the opening round. With Mayfield’s win the score was now 20-12, Lawrence.
GEHS senior Jaden Moodaley quickly changed a Trailblazer 8-point deficit into a 2-point deficit when he pinned Lawrence’s Will Maas with 16.4 seconds left to go in the 1st round of their 145-pound match. With Moodaley’s win, the score was now 20-18 Lions heading into the 152-pound match.
The Lions took back some points at 152 pounds Lawrence’s Trey Medina scored a 5-point Technical Fall victory, making the score 25-18. However, GEHS 160-pound senior AJ Rodriguez gave the momentum right back to the home team. Rodriguez quickly scored a takedown on Lawrence freshman Corbin Tucker. Rodriguez then powered his way to a pin with 54 seconds left in the 1st round, and the Blazers were within one at 25-24.
GEHS took the lead when senior 170-pounder Trenton Bryan came up to wrestle, but Lawrence did not have a wrestler and that wait and left the class open. Bryan scored an automatic victory, and the Trailblazers went up 30-25. Blazer 180-pounder Caden Rodriguez faced the same situation — ready to wrestle but facing an open slot as Lawrence did not have a 180-pounder. After the two open-slot wins, Gardner-Edgerton held a 36-25 lead.
However, GEHS higher weights seemed to want to prove that the home team wasn’t just lucky in receiving open slots. Trailblazer 195-pounder, junior Gus Davis, pounced on his opponent from the outset — building a 5-2 lead late into the first round. Then, as the round seemed to be coming to a close, Davis took advantage of a mistake from his opponent, the Lions’ Dylan Gillespie, shot in and pinned his counterpart with 1.3 seconds left in the first round. Blazer senior Parker Cortner — wrestling up a weight class — took the mat against the Lions’ Gentry Dennison at 220 pounds. Cortner scored a 2-point takedown early in the first round, then wrestled tactically the rest of the way and ended the match with a 2-1 victory. After Davis and Cortner’s wins, the Blazers led 45-25. Lawrence left the last spot — 285 pounds — open against Trailblazer Gerald Picado. The final score showed a win for the Blazers, 51-25.
After the matches, Cordts spoke about his squad’s 2019-20 season debut and of the debut of the program’s first girls’ varsity matches.
“That was so exciting,” Cordts began, “to see all those girls behind us, and they’re all, ‘Coach I want to be the first one to do this!’ and I was so proud of them. I tell you what, the big wins we got — the crowd was pretty loud, but it was nowhere near as loud as when those girls were wrestling. We didn’t come out victorious, but we’re doing a lot of great things.”
“With the boys, we knew that we were going to be in trouble down low (lower weight classes). That’s where their tougher wrestlers were. Their 120 and their 132 are incredible. Our varsity 132 went out with the flu today. Our freshman 126-pounder (Therron Meade) — our backup 126-pounder — stepped up and said, ‘I want that match.’ and wrestled a kid that placed at State, I believe, and kept it close at a time where every single point counted. He didn’t give up a pin, he didn’t give up a tech. He did everything we could have asked for. It was amazing. Alonzo Borjas got a huge win that kind of lit the spark for the night, And then our upper weights — that’s where we’re strong. We knew we would do well up there.”
After almost everyone had left the gym and the mats were being rolled up and put away, GEHS assistant coach Jerad Gorney — whose family had been the focus of the evening’s events — reflected on the night and on his experiences with the people who were part of it.
“Just looking out and seeing everybody who came here tonight,” said Gorney, “it’s really an amazing thing to see all the support that you have and to know that — even though you go through things like this and there are a lot of good days and there are also bad days — just like the bracelets say, ‘No one fights alone.’ Just having that support is really the difference between being able to shoulder everything and not.”